This story about Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan’s endorsement of a skin lightening product demonstrates just how controversial a cosmetic product can be. Khan, who’s been described as the Tom Cruise of Bollywood, is being criticized for reinforcing prejudices and stereotypes. The product he’s pitching is called Fair and Handsome and it’s supposed to make users lighter-skinned and confident. You can see the video here.
Their website lists the 4 key ingredients as Peptide, Licorice, Vetiver and Aloe Vera. These aren’t likely to give any skin lightening effect. It is more likely they are using technology similar to Meladerm since hydroquinone is banned in some EU countries. They don’t have the same labeling requirements as the US so the actual active ingredients couldn’t be found.
It’s always seemed ironic that we all seem to want what we don’t have. People who are dark skinned want lighter skin. People who are pale want tanned skin. Women with straight hair get perms, those with curly hair get it relaxed. For cosmetic companies, this is good. There will always be a need for products to fix some perceived problem. Unfortunately, I’m just not sure if reinforcing stereotypes and making people feel bad about their natural beauty is good for humanity.