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'Fair and Handsome'= White as Vaseline Skin Whitening Facebook Tool markets colorism in India

I’m so sick of this sh*t. Why can’t people celebrate the skin they were born with? What is the appeal of risking permanent damage to your skin by baking on the beach, and even more onerous, using chemicals to bleach your skin? Apparently human beings are just screwed up and multinational companies have no problem making a buck over colorism.

The latest entry to cash into this grotesque marketing arena is a Facebook tool in India launched by Vaseline.

Facebook tools and apps offer just about everything. But now, the online social networking site has a new skin whitening app for India. Indians can now whiten their skin on Facebook. Vaseline, skin care company, has recently introduced a skin-lightening application for Facebook users in India.

…Skin whitening programs are new, and will enable Indian users to make their skin whiter in their profile pictures. The download is designed to promote Vaseline’s range of skin-lightening creams for men. The creams are a huge and fast-growing market driven by fashion and a cultural preference for fairer skin.

In a campaign fronted by Bollywood actor Shahid Kapur, the widget promises to “transform your face on Facebook with Vaseline Men.” Kapur’s face is divided into dark and fair halves. Pankaj Parihar from the global advertising firm Omnicom, which designed the campaign stated, “We started campaign advertising (for the application) from the second week of June and the response has been pretty phenomenal.”

And it gets worse, some of your other well-known beauty brands in your local drugstore are diving into this perverse market in India:  Garnier, L’Oreal and Nivea.

L’Oreal is no stranger to marketing damaging skin creams to dark-skinned people looking to improve their chances not only in dating, but economic success, as sadly, white(r) is right if you want to climb the financial ladder. I discussed L’Oreal’s role in this monstrous enabling of bias back in my 2005 post “Skin and the Color of Money.”

The influence of the pharmaceutical industry is evidenced by much of L’Oreal’s promotional rhetoric for skin-whitening cosmetics and related technologies. L’Oreal’s ads for skin-whitening cosmetics increasingly blur the line between cosmetic and pharmaceutical claims. Such close integration between the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries has serious social, medical, and political implications. In fact, L’Oreal has already designated some of its subsidiaries, such as Vichy Laboratories and LA Roche-Posay Laboratoire Pharmaceutique, as quasi-pharmaceutical outlets through which the company can successfully promote skin-whitening and other cosmetics under the rubric of skincare biomedicine.

The Asian markets are targeted just as hard as African ones; in fact L’Oreal tailors its message so expertly and craft its ads so well, you’d think the product should a must-have in your beauty arsenal.

L’Oreal calls this marketing strategy ‘Geocosmetics:

More than half of Korean women experience brown spots and 30 per cent of them have a dull complexion. Over-production of melanin deep in the skin that triggers brown spots and accumulation of melanin loaded dead cells at the skin’s surface create a dull and uneven complexion. Vichy Laboratories has been able to associate the complementary effectiveness of Kojic Acid and pure Vitamin C in an everyday face care: BI-White.

Is this Madison Avenue’s idea of marketing beauty?

The faces of Black South Africans permanently damaged by long-term use of Over-the-Counter (OTC) 2 per cent hydroquinone based skin-whitening cream.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding