Frugal Foreigner: Skin Lightening Creams – India’s Un-Tanning Bed?

Neutrogena's Fine Fairness skin care line

On a recent trip down the aisle at my supermarket, I noted the extensive array of skin lightening products for sale.  These are heavily advertised and promoted in , so I wasn’t surprised to see them.  But I was surprised by some of the brands.  Some I noted were Fair & LovelyPond’s, Garnier (which also offers fairness products for men),  Vaseline, Himalaya Herbals, and Neutrogena, as well as several Indian and ayurvedic/herbal brands.  For some reason, Vaseline was the one that really surprised me.

60% of beauty products sold in India are skin lightening creams, and products containing sunscreen are marketed as protecting you from the sun’s “darkening effect”  There are also more intense skin bleaching treatments offered at salons.

In a recent discussion on the Mommysavers forums, Cookie2 pointed out that skin lightening products aren’t to lighten your overall complexion, but to lighten liver and age spots.  That may be in the fine print, but that is definitely NOT how they’re marketed in India.

Take this quote from the description of Pond’s White Beauty Spotless Lightening Cream: “Your radiant, new pinkish-white complexion is here.”  Seriously?  The 25 year old women in the advertisements have no age spots (or any spots at all).  The only discernible difference is an overall lightening of skin tone.

Fair & Lovely (above right) recently had to withdraw a television ad that portrayed a women as receiving job offers and boyfriends only after lightening her skin.    Fair & Lovely is marketed by Unilever, the same company responsible for the Real Beauty Campaign to “celebrate the natural physical variation embodied by all women.”

Now, compare the skin lightening products to self-tanning products sold in countries like the US.  Or, the salon skin bleaching to tanning beds.  Is there any difference?  In ethics or skin health considerations?

Here’s a quote from mommamia, from the discussion I mentioned earlier.  I totally agree with her.

As for the skin lightening products. There might be a social stigma attached to even offering a product like that but does that mean the consumer doesn’t even have it available should they want it? They also make tanning products. They’re a skin care company, it’s what they do.

What do you think?

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