Cosmetics and beauty- fairness is the only parameter

Cosmetics and beauty- fairness is the only parameter

Beauty lies not in a flawless complexion but in the stories that are told by each transitioning line on a woman’s face.    

– Alyscia Cunnigham

These sayings seem untrue in the current world as and only fairness is seen as a key to success in any field and fairness becomes another hurdle in the progress of a woman who is already oppressed because of being a woman. In India white skin is seen as an obsession and synonymy is made between being fair and being beautiful. Fairness is seen as a USP i.e unique selling proposition for women specially and it all starts from a newspaper column where the image of “dream daughter in law” is described as “Fair, Beautiful, Slim girl” irrespective of whatever the standing of the boy is. But fairness is seen as a requisite for a good social standing.


The beauty industry is growing faster than ever before. Today it is valued at an estimated $532 billion and counting, according to a new repost from retail analytics firm Edited. The rise of beauty bloggers sharing Youtube tutorials and posting about their favourite lipstick on Instagram continues to change the way consumers discover new products and engage with brands. In recent years, many cosmetic companies and direct-to-consumer beauty brands have started eschewing traditional advertising altogether, in favour of tapping into the power of influencer marketing and brand ambassadors.[1]

Cosmetic Products fall into a number of fairly straightforward technical categories. However, the advent of ‘innovative’ sales and marketing has led to a profusion of different descriptions for these products. Thus the products described here are in as generic a fashion as possible. Detailed descriptions of example formulations and methods of manufacture of decorative cosmetics can be found elsewhere (Riley, 2000; Schlossman, 2000).

Cosmetics in India

Western ideals of beauty, including fair skin, dominate the world. And with these ideals, products come to serve them. In Nigeria, 77% of women in the country use skin lightening products; in Togo 59%. But the largest and fastest growing markets are in the Asia-Pacific region. In India, a typical supermarket will have a wall of personal care products with well-known “whitening” moisturizers or “brightening” body creams.[2]

Light skin has long been a part of the national psyche of India. The various settlers, rulers, invaders and colonists who had come into India since the 1400s had relatively light skin. This includes the Dutch, French, Portuguese, Mughals and, of course, the British, who were in India from the 17th century to Indian independence in 1947. During the British Empire, the prejudice of formally rooted skin tone; the colonists kept the light-skinned Indians as allies, giving them additional advantages over the rest of the “blacks.” The British East India Company named its settlement at Fort St. “White Home”. George and his “Black Town” Indian settlement.[3]

Though thousands of languages are spoken across the globe, words having different meaning in different languages, but a language that seems to be understood by everyone is face language and only those people are considered good at it who are fair.

Carrying a long and brilliant heritage of cosmetics and beauty, cosmetic makeup products have been used since antiquity and today, it seems that the economy is booming in India, which would be the country consuming the most cosmetics for decades to come. Although the demand for embellishment is increasing day by day, a large number of local and international manufacturers are gradually expanding their ranges and products in different provinces of India.

Though the industry is categorised into further many branches but the common aim that a consumer has is fairness that is often considered as synonymous to beauty. Only fair models with shining skins are chosen to promote such products. Fairness is often used as bait to attract a large consumer base. The scenario is worst as India has the largest consumer market for fairness creams and some brands specially supply it to India as the Indian markets have huge demand for fairness products. The situation becomes more adverse when such brands are endorsed by the film sensations who have a huge fan base and this is the motivation for the fans for the products.

Being dark is being ugly

It starts when babies are young: as soon as a baby takes birth and the parents start comparing the color of their siblings’ skin. It starts in within one’s own family, but people prefer not to talk openly about it. The children born with a dark complexion become a matter of joke to everyone and are laughed at. Sometimes the parents even are the ones who might ridicule them at their dark complexion and the children at a very tender age become depressed and lose their self confidence because of their skin tone. Sometimes when asked about who’s beautiful, children generally point out the fair mate as beautiful and the dark mate as ugly. However this is not biasness but racism that is more prevalent in India as the North Indians are considered to be more beautiful as they are light skinned however the South Indians are dark skinned and are mocked at by the formers because of their skin colour.

However no one believes in beauty, being fair is equated with being beautiful. Beauty can never be understood in terms of colour and it stands far away from it. It is a form of untouchability that prevails in India, though Article 17 of the Indian Constitution abolishes it, however a stigma surrounds the people with dark skin and they are looked down upon by the light toned people, and they find it difficult to bond with white skinned people. Even the talent in India is judged by the colour of the skin and they are shunned because of their skin tone.

The Skin-whitening cosmetics are a multi-billion dollar industry that pushes the idea that beauty is with white skin and there are ways to lighten skin those are both preferable and achievable. The cosmetics industry has been traditionally following the pattern to convince the people that they are not complete without a particular product. Yet, unlike makeup or fake tan, skin-whitening creams base beauty on a racial hierarchy, fuelling intolerance and causing serious social harm.[4]

However, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare proposed to amend the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 last week. The new rules would be drafted under Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) (Amendment) Bill, 2020. Under the new rule, the ministry will be taking punitive measures against ads for fairness creams, and hair loss, weight loss or height improvement products, etc. Reportedly, under this Act, the brands responsible for the ads will be slapped with a penalty of Rs 50 lakh and can warrant prison time up to five years. [5]

Health effects of cosmetics

Skin lightening cosmetics are used by many women and men around the world. Products contain various substances that are often unknown to users. Most of these products include topical corticosteroids, hydroquinone, and mercury salts. Many other substances can be added. Several surveys and cohort studies, including several thousand people, have shown that regular use of cosmetics to lighten skin over large areas can have irreversible skin side effects, such as irregular hyper- or hypo pigmentation, skin atrophy, stretch marks and scars, late injury, and it can also mask or, conversely, promote or activate skin infections. Cases of skin cancer have been attributed to skin lightening cosmetics. The use of skin fairness products that frequently contain toxic ingredients is associated with significant adverse health side effects. Due to the high prevalence of use in Asian and African countries, skin fairness product use is recognised as a growing public health concern. The multi-million-dollar skin fairness product industry has also been criticised for perpetuating racism and social inequalities by reinforcing beliefs about the benefits of skin fairness for cultural capital.[6]


As rightly said by Confucius, that everything has a beauty, but not everyone sees it, the misconception that is beauty is with fairness has to be dismissed and one should have the acceptance to the face that he/she has been naturally given at the same time the dark skin people shouldn’t be looked down by the fair skinned. Cosmetics have no role to play in whitening of skin and celebrities shouldn’t endorse such brands, further a stringent action must be taken against such brands.

“The views of the authors are personal








Harsh Gupta
I am Harsh vasu Gupta pursuing my BA.LLB from University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh. I am associated with his mooting society and Legal Aid society of his college. My areas of interest are constitution, criminal and international law. I love to write blogs and articles. My hobbies are playing cricket and listening songs.