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Lightening Creams Are Popular Among Indians, Even For Kids

The last time we discussed skin-whitening creams, a lot of you had something to say. But after reading this article, I want to revisit this complex topic. In India, skin-lightening products flood the market; many contain harmful chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic. Despite the health issues, the belief that "white is right" keeps many people buying the creams. This isn't the same thing as Caucasians applying self-tanner to get a sun-kissed glow; instead, many people believe that light skin is simply superior to dark skin. (This ad gets that message across.)

But now it's not just adults who want their skin to be lighter. To find out how kids are getting into it,


"I have clients who put their children on the product — some as young as nine years old, with a reference from dermatologists, so that they are not the slightly darker child in school or in the class picture," says former beauty queen Sorisha Naidoo, who markets a skin-lightening product. "In parts of the Indian community, being the slightly darker cousin or sister means that no matter how striking, intelligent or skilled you are, being fair still means more."

Many Bollywood stars such as Kareena Kapoor, shown here, have fair skin. And with light-skinned models and actresses outnumbering their dark-skinned counterparts, the beauty ideal is tilted toward the light end of the spectrum. I can't help but worry for that proverbial child, who's told that her beautiful dark skin is something that needs to be "fixed." What do you think it will take to create a broader, more inclusive standard for South Asian beauty? Or do you think that whitening creams are just a different kind of beauty product?


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