50 Shades of White – The Obsession With Fair Skin


“Looking for a dark, independent & ambitious girl for my educated and well settled son. Caste no bar.” 

Have you ever come across a matrimonial advert like the one above in any leading daily? I know I haven’t. At least not the first few words. The ideal bride is always fair skinned, homely and well educated for the fair skinned handsome groom who works for a multinational company. Somehow the notoriously changing Indian milieu finds its reflection in a 3 by 5 cm  ad. The challenge to fit the things deemed important in just 25 words for Rs. 3500 (an approximate cost) makes one prioritize. The order of precedence in most of the matrimonial ads is skin color, religion and education.


Let me just focus on the obsession with the fair skin, because the latter can be a topic for another blog. If the growing sales of fairness creams is an indication of the obsession, the fairness card indicator that comes with every tube shows that you get closer to being beautiful with every shade lighter. There is a ghastly white shade in the end which most brides opt for on their wedding. The premise – If you aren’t white, become white!


Kalpana, a make-up artist on Urban Company shares, “I was once asked by the bride to ‘make her fair’. I tried to tell her that she had a beautiful face and an amazing skin, but she had this drilled in her that somehow she will look better if she was fairer.”

Women are conditioned to believe that. If it wasn’t for ‘Kali’ – a nickname in school that belittled my complexion, it was that aunt who used to greet me with “You look darker today”. The fairy tales that paired ugly with dark. The pressure of being fair even got to God (Lord Krishna) who questioned why Radha was fair and he wasn’t. Fair skin has been an indicator of the social stature in the society. Admittedly during an interview, Nandita Das was asked to become “whiter” for the roles of high class or rich women. Her acting prowess only got her the roles of a village belle or a middle class woman.

Roopali, another make up artist points out, “From the home remedies to the costliest creams, women will try everything to become lighter. One must embrace their true colors and highlight their features. Make-up is not about making you look like a totally different person. It is about making you look as the best of you!”

The fact that you embrace the way you are is what is most important. Make up is not just a technique to hide your imperfections (and color is not one of them), it is also done to highlight the best in you. Our make-up artists have put together a few tips that can help you love the way  you look, just the way you are.

1. Embrace your color

Neha Puri, our resident make up artist says, “Don’t lighten your skin, but brighten it. Use a nice cleansing product to clean your skin before any make and apply a sunscreen with a SPF of 30. You can also use a tinted sunscreen which matches your original skin color. Use a concealer to hide the blemishes and the dark circles. People with dark skin have more melanin deposits under the eye. All the products suggested don’t lighten your skin, but brightens it. The more natural you look, the more real and beautiful you will be.”


2. Choose your foundation

Umang, a make-up artist who also runs her own salon shares her expertise, “Never use a foundation lighter than your skin. It makes the skin look unnatural and patchy. Using your hand may not be an accurate match so use your forehead or jawline as a match. Do your research on what look best on dark skin and don’t opt for something that insists on you looking lighter. Confidence only comes with loving you as you, and no foundation can change that.”

3. Bold Blushes

Kalpana weighs in, “Use bold colors like oranges, corals, soft pinks and wine depending on the time of the event. Neutral browns and beige tend to make dark skin dull and tired.”

4. Finishing touch

Finish your look with a powder that matches you skin color and is matte. For darker skin tones illuminating powders with gold tones work well. Peach hues, deep bronze and burgundy work well as a good eye shade or a lip shade.


Dark is not better and neither is fair. Both are equally beautiful and won’t find a precedence in any matrimonial section of the world. In the words of the great Michael Jackson himself,

I said if you’re thinkin’ of being my baby

It don’t matter if you’re black or white