Facebook app whitens skin

Published:  July 27, 2010
Facebook app whitens skin

A seemingly harmless Facebook application, that essentially “Photoshops” your profile pic, has caused some discussion to flare up about racism on various news sites and blogs last week.

Vaseline has released the Facebook application: Vaseline Men BE PREPARED as a marketing tool for its skin whitening cream for men. It’s not the Facebook app however, that upsets people it would appear; it’s the fact that a product like this even exists. The market for the product is Indian males, especially in Northern India, where it is culturally more desirable to have fair, or light skin.

Many westerners are surprised to learn that the market for skin lightening cream for both sexes in India is estimated to be worth 500 million dollars a year, so why wouldn’t Vaseline launch a product? Indian women have been buying the creams by Emami, Unilever, Garnier, L’Oreal and Nivea for over 27 years now.

A quick search of an online store revealed over 1000 skin lightening, skin whitening, pigment correcting, skin smoothing and spot removal creams—all aimed at the Indian and Asian markets—that claim to lighten the pigment in your skin.

A quick visit to any western beauty store however will reveal just as many skin darkening creams. In a culture awash with fake tan, spray tan, tanning salons and many other products and services designed to darken pale skin, it’s hard to see where the difference lies. If L’Oreal released a Facebook app for Americans that darkened your profile pic to a culturally accepted shade of Oompa Loompa orange to promote their tanning creams and bronzing lotions, would there be the same amount of controversy? I doubt it.

In an age where breast enlargements, hair dye, hair extensions, wigs, teeth whitening, make up and bronzed tans, (fake or otherwise), make a daily appearance in Western advertising and popular culture, the true racism here appears to lie in the fact that Indians are not allowed to alter their appearance to appear more desirable or culturally acceptable, but Westerners are.

3 Responses

  1. CAT

    you raise some interesting points. at first, it did sound absurd to me, but then when you flip it around and say how would we feel if it were an app for white skinned people to get a ‘darker’ tan, it seems ok. I guess it just depends on how extreme the difference is..

  2. Sheree Louise Dillon

    anyone who uses that crap must be reeeally self conscious

  3. All through South East Asia it is the same thing.

    You’ll find that the fairer skinned people get the better clerical jobs or they’ll get to work in stores where as anyone that is too dark have to work the more laborious jobs or as tour guides on boats.

    Its just the same as people in more western countries spraying themselves that weird orange colour.

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