‘Fair’ Move: Ghana Bans Skin Lightening Creams, Will India Follow?

By Cake Staff:

In a positive development, Ghana (located in West Africa) has issued a ban on skin-lightening products and cosmetics.

Hydroquionine, which is the chemical commonly used in the skin-lightening and skin-bleaching products prevalent not just in various African countries, but also in India, has been found to cause harmful side effects such as blistering, skin irritation and discolouration. It’s also been suggested that these products can eventually cause skin cancer.

Despite having such shocking side effects, these products have been popularly in use in many countries across the globe — and that is because colourism is still a very legitimate, and very disturbing reality. Colourism — which is basically the preference of lighter skin over darker skin — is an issue that has been plaguing people of colour for centuries, and skin bleaching and skin lightening products are the biggest example of its existence. In India, ‘fairness creams’ are in abundance, and the way they are marketed get more and more disturbing with each day. Advertisements for skin lightening creams have, in the past, showed ridiculous things such as how having lighter skin will increase a woman’s eligibility for a job, and even, marriage. In fact, the very brand is called ‘Fair and Lovely’ — as if to say that only being ‘fair’ is what will make you ‘lovely’, and that you cannot be beautiful or desirable otherwise, making this yet another unrealistic beauty standard for women.

This equation of lighter skin with desirability is perhaps yet another aftermath of colonialism, in which we had been conditioned to see white Europeans as the ideal standard for beauty and have been unconsciously trying to emulate it, even after all these years of being free from the colonial yoke. While this has been going on for ages, and is so common that it’s almost become a cultural norm — Ghana’s step offers some kind of hope. In India, actress Nandita Das, along with the non-profit organization WomenOfWorth had started the ‘Dark Is Beautiful’ campaign in 2009 to spread awareness about colourism and combat the discrimination, misogyny and toxic beliefs that are perpetuated because of it, and has been doing some great work. Other than that, Dove, a popular Indian skincare brand, has started a campaign called #RealBeauty, which aims at expanding the definition of ‘beauty’ and ‘desirability’ when it comes to women — and includes women of not just all body types and age groups, but also, of various skin tones. Further, a popular lingerie brand has recently introduced a line of nude lingerie to match the skin tones of women with darker skin. While we still have a long way to go in order to defeat colourism in its entirety, these developments do make us feel like the times are definitely changing.

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