Fairness, Beauty Products or Misleading our Youth


I switched on the television with a hope to watch something meaningful. Browsed through almost all the channels in the next ten minutes. What caught my attention was the fact that among the hundred odd channels offered by my service provider, there was this one common thing.

The fairness cream Ads.

fl Fairness

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Sun Control, Sun Defense, Sun Protection Factor, SPF, UV Rays, Complexion, Confidence, Beauty pageants, Job offers, Modeling contracts etc., being used as the selling points. It irks me when celebrities endorse such products for some hot cash without even bothering to know if it has any harmful effects on the users.

Some of these ads are highly irrelevant and baseless. They should actually be sued for misleading the youth of our country. While some have welcomed the new rules and regulations mandated by Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), some others are still flaunting their older versions promoting skin-lightening.

In a fairness crazy nation like India, I’m sure the sales for these creams irrespective of their brands would be sky-rocketing.

Why go far? My nine-year old has already started comparing her skin tone with that of her sister, her father, mine and her friends. I attribute this to the elders in the family who consciously or unconsciously have been making her aware that she isn’t as fair as her sibling and cousins. It becomes really hard to teach a child to accept the reality that skin tones don’t matter when an elderly person they look up to keeps repeating it to them.

That’s not the point that I want to make. What I want to highlight is the fact that children these days, especially girls, are increasingly conscious about their skin complexion and their looks. So much that they avoid going out to even play or walk. As a child I fondly remember the times spent outside in the balcony or terrace or on the road playing with my friends from the neighbourhood. Boys as well as girls could be found right out there playing various games that helped us build team spirit and improve our social behaviour. But there is one very important thing that we gained from all this playing out in the sun. Vitamin D.

For those of you who aren’t aware of what Vitamin D is and what its importance to our well-being is, here’s a definition I shamelessly copied from Wikipedia.

Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for enhancing intestinal absorption of calciumironmagnesium,phosphate and zinc. In humans, the most important compounds in this group are vitamin D3 (also known as cholecalciferol) and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). Cholecalciferol and ergocalciferol can be ingested from the diet and from supplements. Very few foods contain vitamin D; synthesis of vitamin D (specifically cholecalciferol) in the skin is the major natural sources of the vitamin. Dermal synthesis of vitamin D from cholesterol is dependent on sun exposure (specifically UVB radiation).

As vitamin D is synthesized in adequate amounts by most mammals exposed to sunlight, it is not strictly a vitamin, and may be considered a hormone as its synthesis and activity occur in different locations. Vitamin D has a significant role in calcium homeostasis and metabolism. Its discovery was due to effort to find the dietary substance lacking in rickets (the childhood form of osteomalacia).

Beyond its use to prevent osteomalacia or rickets, the evidence for other health effects of vitamin D supplementation in the general population is inconsistent. The best evidence of benefit is for bone health.

In short, it is not just necessary to eat calcium-rich food like milk and other dairy product, but it is equally important to let your body absorb it with the help of Vitamin D.

Here’s what I read in one of the articles I came across the web on the Vitamin D deficiency statistics in India.

Vitamin D deficiency prevails in epidemic proportions all over the Indian subcontinent, with a prevalence of 70%–100% in the general population. In India, widely consumed food items such as dairy products are rarely fortified with vitamin D. Indian socioreligious and cultural practices do not facilitate adequate sun exposure, thereby negating potential benefits of plentiful sunshine. Consequently, subclinical vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent in both urban and rural settings, and across all socioeconomic and geographic strata. Vitamin D deficiency is likely to play an important role in the very high prevalence of rickets, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and infections such as tuberculosis in India. 

Source: Vitamin D Deficiency in India: Prevalence, Causalities and Interventions

The more you read and research on the subject, the more alarming it is.

Vit D deficiency is a common problem in India due to several factors:

  1. Changing food fads and food habits contribute to low dietary calcium and Vit D intake.
  2. High fibre diet containing phosphates and phytates which can deplete Vit D stores and increase calcium requirement.
  3. Genetic factors like having increased 25(OH)D-24- hydroxylase which degrades 25(OH)D to inactive metabolites.
  4. It has been shown that increment in serum 25(OH)D in response to treatment depends on the heritability of Vit D binding protein.
  5. With modernization, the number of hours spent indoor have increased thereby preventing adequate sun exposure. This is particularly true in the urban Indians.
  6. Increased pollution can hamper the ultraviolet rays to adequately synthesize Vit D in the skin.
  7. Cultural and traditional habits prevalent in certain religions like “Burqa” and the “pardah” system have been well-known.
  8. Repeated and unplanned, unspaced pregnancies in dietary deficient patients can aggravate Vit D deficiency in the mother and the foetus.

Vit D deficiency is not only a problem in India but also in countries like Pakistan, China, middle-East and Africa. It is relatively less common in Japan, USA, Canada and South-east Asia. In USA and Canada, milk is usually fortified with Vit D and the use of vitamin supplements is common.

Source: Vitamin D Deficiency: Indian Scenario

The most basic way to allow our bodies to gather Vitamin D is by exposing ourselves to sun every day for at least a few odd hours. I hear a lot about young children falling unconscious and being diagnosed with severe Vitamin D deficiency. Even young females and nursing mothers have been heard to be ailing with this condition.

So the next time your child throws tantrums to be allowed to play outside, go out with him/her and forget about getting tanned. It helps build a positive relationship with your child and benefits your health too.


Following is an article that I’m sharing for the content as the reasons listed sound really good. About their products, I’m sorry I have no personal experience to share.

5 reasons why Plum says no to fairness creams



9 Replies to “Fairness, Beauty Products or Misleading our Youth”

  1. A great article, Rekha.
    Deficiency of vit. D is a growing concern among Indian youngsters. Now-a-days, kids play in play centres in malls instead of playground. Add to that the sunscreen lotion fad. I don’t understand this obsession of fair skin tone. What’s wrong with a beautiful tan?
    Though India is a tropical country, sunrays aren’t concentrated, so there is no risk of skin cancers due to sun exposure in India. We don’t need protection from the sun, but exposure to it.

  2. Very relevant article Rekha. What really pisses me off is the use of women and the ‘way’ they are used for these ads. It’s a pity our great country is so fairness conscious. Hope things change, but the way these ads are misleading people, I have very little hope that things will ever change.
    Thanks for sharing such a great post 🙂
    Cheers, Archana – http://www.drishti.co

  3. Which is why it as a very common ailment of women who were in purdah. I’m glad you brought up the practical as well as the moral wrong of continually screening ourselves from sunlight!

  4. Hello Rekha, this is SP, the founder of Plum. Loved reading your post! Despite the stereotype about “gorapan” being reinforced everyday in several subtle & not-so-subtle ways, we are beginning to see very early signs of change in society, especially in today’s younger lot whose concept of beauty & skin care goes beyond just looking fair. But we still have a long way to go.

    And thank you for the mention, and the kind words!

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