Vaseline Debuts Skin-Whitening Facebook App In India

If ethnocentrism offends you, stop reading now.

The image below is the landing page for the new Vaseline Facebook app that allows users to lighten their skin in profile pictures. What’s worse is that it was launched to advertise a product that does the same thing in real life.

Aimed at Indian men, Vaseline’s new skin-whitening cream Be Prepared makes it possible for users to achieve “can get the perfection we vouched for.” It gets rid of five different types of dark spots. It has B3 and triple sunscreens to prevent light from activating one’s melanin. In under one minute a day, you can transform your real face the way only Photoshop can — and the guy in the ad, Bollywood star Shahid Kapur, seems to love it.

Like the rest of the post-colonial world, India has a strange cultural preference for fairer skin. Unlike the rest of the world, however, in India, advertising and sales of highly produced skin lightening cream flies. Why?

“The Aryans, who came from central Asia, in addition to the Portuguese, the French and the British colonisers ruled over the country and probably contributed to this negative perception of dark-skin,” sociology professor T. K. Oommen at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi told Agence France Presse.

Lighter skin is associated with the ruling social class, with wealth, with general betterment. Skin lightening creams for women have been a cosmetics staple in India for decades, so when a men’s cream debuted a few years ago, its success was almost ensured.

“Indian cosmetics giant Emami launched the first skin-whitening cream for men in 2005, called “Fair and Handsome” and advertised by Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan. It came 27 years after the first cream for women.

Since then a half dozen foreign brands have piled into the male market, including Garnier, L’Oreal and Nivea, which promote the seemingly magical lightening qualities of their products in ubiquitous advertising.”

We understand that people are in business to make money — making that paper is the reason (well, a big reason) each and every one of us gets up and goes into the office every morning. But what Vaseline is doing here is just plain wrong. Taking advantage of a nation’s insecurities for the sake of the almighty dollar — or rupee, in this case — reeks of low moral integrity and really poor taste.

What bothers us the most, though, is that the same brands that tell us we can improve our beauty by simply moisturizing daily or rinsing and repeating four times a week are telling people on the other side of the world that they have to be fairer skinned to be beautiful. We will not have our beauty products talking out of both sides of their mouths. Our idea of beauty is not universal, and we understand that. But acceptance of honest, natural human beauty should be a global standard more powerful than any international brand.

[AFP via Yahoo News]

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