Why are skin whitening creams problematic?

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fair and lovely

As a little black Indian American kid, I can tell you that most of us Indian kids who are on the darker side are made to hate our skin color. According to my grandmothers, having black or dark skin is considered to be ugly and that I should remedy that by using skin whitening creams. Now, as an adult, I’d like to come back to this issue of whiteness being the epitome of beauty and how skin whitening creams are dangerous for our skin and self-worth. As an adult who is comfortable in their skin, I can now tell you that yes, I love my skin color and would not change it for anything, but if you asked me that question a few years back, the answer would be have been very different. Part of my journey into loving myself was going to therapy, and part of it was doing an English degree, where I was learnt that all these discourses about skin tone and skin whitening creams stem from colonialism. Let me explain why.


As with most of the evil of today’s world in the like of homophobia, sexism or even racism, the skin whitening industry is flourishing thanks to colonialism and Eurocentric norms of beauty. The industry of skin whitening creaming is flourishing in both South Africa and India, both countries whose human capital and resources were used and abused for the purpose and construction of the former empires who are now the epitome of freedom and justice. I think many of us forget how far of a reach colonialism had on the colonized, and we especially forget this when we are getting them from a western point of view.


The issue of colorism and skin whitening cream work hand in hand and is rooted in colonialism, and far too many of us aren’t ready for this conversation yet. As Indians, we should ally to ban these types of creams that are even endorsed by the biggest stars in Bollywood like Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan or even Priyanka Chopra. We need to stop using skin whitening creams because they’re dangerous for our self-image and are not safe to use.

The side effects of using skin whitening creams

It not only promotes a negative image of darkness and dark skin, but it can also cause a lot of complications if used in the long run. Dark and light-skinned people can use skin whitening creams to lighten their skin tone, get rid of age spots and freckles. However, most of these products contain mercury which can be lethal in high doses for the human body and can even cause mercury poisoning. A survey conducted by the FDA found that people who used skin whitening creams had an elevated amount of mercury in their blood, urine and hair. A high mercury level on your skin may cause pain or rashes, damage your kidneys or even affect your nervous system. Some symptoms of mercury poisoning are:

    • Fatigue
    • High blood pressure
    • Kidney failure
    • Neurological issues like irritability, memory loss and tremors
    • Sensitive to light

The use and abuse of skin whitening or fairness creams aren’t good for your skin, and though labels like Fair & Lovely have rebranded themselves as Lovely now, the damage has been done. A generation has been raised with it profiting off their dissatisfaction with the way they look, and even though they changed their name now, it doesn’t make everything okay. Thousand if not millions of individuals are still searching for ways to lighten their skin color because they were made to believe that their skin color is unattractive and ugly. So, no a rebranding and a name change won’t fix anything. But at least it’s a minor step towards the right path.


We need to decolonize our minds and start loving ourselves for the way we are. And, if nobody told you this today, then let me say this, our dark skin is beautiful, and it protects us from the sun, and we are beautiful no matter what people tell us or what we were made to believe. Sound off the comments section below; tell us if you were ever made to hate the way you look because you didn’t fit in what is considered conventionally attractive.

Why are skin whitening creams problematic?

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