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Beauty Byte: Skin-Lightening Market Booms in India

I don't know how I missed this yesterday, but The New York Times just ran a pretty unsettling article about the Indian beauty market — specifically, the proliferation of skin-lightening products. A Unilever brand called Fair & Lovely has been selling skin lighteners for decades, but now an increasing number of cosmetics companies — including Avon, L’Oréal, Ponds, Garnier, the Body Shop, and Jolen — are marketing their own products designed to alter dark skin.

Though this sounds offensive to those of us who believe that diversity is an inherent party of beauty, the makers of these products say that reaction is just the result of cultural differences and bias, so

Writes the NYT:

Global cosmetics companies — which also sell skin-lightening products throughout Asia and in the United States, where they are marketed as spot or blemish removers — argue that they are just giving Indian women what they want.

Taking offense at the products is “a very Western way of looking at the world,” said Ashok Venkatramani, who is in charge of the skin care category at Unilever’s Indian unit, Hindustan Lever. “The definition of beauty in the Western world is linked to anti-aging,” he said. “In Asia, it’s all about being two shades lighter.”

So-called "fairness creams" are one of the most booming categories in India's fast-growing beauty market. The products are also sold in Asia and the U.S., so this may just be a case of Western journalists discovering something that's already very ingrained overseas. What do you guys think?


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