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A woman walks into a local health/beauty store. She has some beauty essentials to buy — lipstick, moisturiser, some talc. And a particular brand she likes for face powder because it claims to follow Ayurvedic principles in preparing it’s formulations. So, she goes to the counter for that brand.
Surprise, surprise, that face powder is not available anymore. Instead, the brand has, in similar packaging, launched a ‘lightening’ or brightening or fairness-enhancing variant.
“What happened to the ‘non-lightening’ variety,” she asks the sales girl who is, as usual, hovering so close that if the woman turns around too quickly, the sales girl will bump into her.
“Madam, we only stock this variant now. It’ll improve the dullness of black skin,” explains the sales girl, looking helpfully at the woman’s own coffee complexion.
“Thank you, but it so happens, I like my black skin,” the woman retorts, quite affronted.
That woman was me, obviously. And it is not the sales girl’s fault that she was tactless about my skin colour. She simply assumed I would want a fairness-enhancing product. Well, my favourite skincare brand just lost a loyal customer.
Your colour, your choice?
Of course, I cannot blame the cosmetic company for re-launching its products as beauty aids to ‘lightening’ or ‘brightening’ skin colour. Every brand worth it’s packaging, does it. That’s where the money lies, after all.
And it’s a chicken-and-egg syndrome, really. Which came first, the demand for fairness or the products to meet that need? Now there’re so many ways to achieve a lighter skin tone — brightening day creams, night creams, foundations, moisturisers, de-tan face washes, after-sun fairness washes, fairness creams and of course, face powders too.
But what happens to people who want regular beauty products? People who want to be able to choose non-fairness creams? People like me and my aunt. My aunt lives in Wellington, a mostly unexplored valley, in the Nilgiris. There the weather is extremely drying so you need to slather on creams/ moisturisers, all the time. And my aunt has only the local pharmacies in town (which double up as all–in-one stores) for her supply of light summer moisturiser. “My usual brand has been rebranded as a ‘brightening’ moisturiser and the regular cream is not available any more,” she says wryly. To get the regular kind, she will have to travel to Ooty (a half hour trip, one way) where there are more stores and, therefore, greater choice. Too much of a hassle for her. So much more simple then, to stop using that particular brand.
If you want to use a fairness cream, or a brightening product, you have every right to do so of course. But I and my aunt have a right too, the right to choose to not use them.