In 2005, Indian firm Emami was the first to offer whitening products for men, followed closely by the L’Oreal stable of brands and Nivea, making the market worth some £12 billion.The success behind skin whitening lies in the cultural belief among some Asians that the lighter one’s skin tone, the higher their social standing – a hangover, no doubt, from the colonial days when darker skin tones were negatively perceived.
Vaseline (who, rather worryingly, released a product with the promise that it would achieve ‘an Aryan glow from head to toe’) has just launched a Facebook app aimed at men featuring Bollywood actor Shahid Kapoor. The software allows users to adjust their profile pics so their skin appears lighter.
In spite of its instant success, parent company Unilever isn’t prepared to comment on how their campaign might be perceived as a way of perpetuating an outdated and racially-insensitive mode of thought.
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