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Skin-lightening for Indian men? Vaseline has a Facebook app for that.

Judging by Hollywood (and “Jersey Shore”), many Americans covet nothing more than the perfect tan. Imagine a Facebook application that allowed these tanning enthusiasts to tint their pasty profile pictures with a faux bronze glow.

No big deal? Now imagine a similar app inviting Indian men to lighten their skin.

If you just uncomfortably shifted in your seat, took offense, or spat an expletive at your computer screen, you’re not alone.

Vaseline’s new skin-lightening app for Facebook users in India is causing a ton of controversy. Created to promote Vaseline Men UV Whitening Body Lotion, the company argues the app is a harmless exploration of their new product. “Much like self-tanning products in North America and Europe, skin lightening products are culturally relevant in India,” the company said in a statement. “In India, men use these products to lighten and even out their natural skin tone and to reduce the appearance of spots while protecting their skin from the sun.”

While I absolutely don’t know enough about Indian culture to form an educated opinion on the matter, I do know that something about the concept irks me. And it has nothing to do with whether or not people choose to alter their skin color, but with how Vaseline is framing the decision.

The text on their web site reads, “A fair complexion has always been associated with success and popularity. Men and women alike desire fairness, it is believed to be the key to a successful life.”

Whether or not anyone believes that seems irrelevant. I don’t need a company explicitly telling me (or my Indian friends) what to desire. The issue may be “culturally relevant,” but the company is still gleefully exploiting peoples’ insecurities and making big bucks off of them.

So is the app “unacceptably racist,” as Kunnath Santhosh, creator of his own protest page, alleges? Or is it just an international interpretation of beauty, no different from the GTL of “Jersey Shore” (that’s gym, tanning, and laundry for anyone not well-versed in the wise words of The Situation)?


4 thoughts on “Skin-lightening for Indian men? Vaseline has a Facebook app for that.

  1. It IS rooted in racism, and it IS completely unnacceptable…but it still happens. And unfortunatly, in India, that IS what people desire. I read a different article about this that said fair skin tone is most important characteristic people look for in a mate. It’s absolutly horrid but true.

    Quite frankly, I don’t understand why any skin tone should be considered “ugly”. Thankfully I grew in the U.S where my natural skin tone is good enough, even if my figure, my skin itself, or my height isn’t. And when you think about it, isn’t every cosmetic company doing the same thing, exploiting peoples’ insecurities?

  2. I recently read a book called Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry. They discuss how the cosmetics companies put chemicals in their products that have known to contribute to Cancer, and that one of the worst products are skin lightening creams sold in other countries.

    They say many skin lightening creams contain Hydroquinone, which is a confirmed animal carcinogen, and is toxic to the skin, brain, and immune system. I’m outraged that Vaseline is selling this Cancer in a bottle product.

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