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India’s obsession with skin fairness is heading south

First came the face, with even Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan jumping on the bandwagon to tout dangerously volatile chemical concoctions that would turn you into a black-clad Parisian mime artist.  

Gleeful manufacturers and marketers then headed south, conjuring up a deodorant that would not only banish unpleasant, Masala-charged odours but make that rarely seen and regularly ravaged underarm area fair and lovely as well.

And now it seems that relentless march southwards continues with ‘Clean and Dry Intimate Wash’, which reportedly offers protection, fairness and freshness for vaginas; an area which – to be fair – historically remains challenged in the ‘fairness’ stakes given the fact that it spends large swathes of its life, erm, covered up.

A new TV commercial for the cream – first aired in India on Tuesday – shows a young couple going through the usual morning routine but the woman is pensive, staring into the distance, seemingly in crisis.  The camera then pans to her in the shower with a bottle of the lotion in question before the video abruptly cuts to a graphic which depicts an unusually darkened groin region of a woman magically transforming itself after application of said cream.  

The subsequent images – unsurprisingly – show the woman jumping for joy much to the bemusement of her husband/partner.


The commercial has come under attack from viewers, women’s rights activists and advertising executives.  Author and ad guru Anuja Chauhan told the Hindustan Times “It’s insane to project a personal hygiene product like this. There is way too much pressure on looking fair. At least the private parts should be spared!”

Barkha Sing, chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women agreed saying the ad was “ridiculous” while designer Rina Dhaka called the ad “shocking and horrifying.”

Social media sites were suitably abuzz over the advert with one Tweeter saying “After watching the ad, I’m expecting people to mention “must have fair skin AND privates” on matrimonial websites.”

A spokesperson for manufacturer Midas Care defended the cream, saying “The wash keeps the skin clean, fair and safe from infections. Fairness is just one of the many offerings.”  

–    Vijitha Alles



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