Unfair Shades of Melanin

A pigment in the skin, melanin, determines the skin color in all of us. Melanin itself, however, is red (pheomelanin), or dark-brown to nearly black (eumelanin). Skin color selection is more genetic at birth, but what intrigues me is that as we “evolve” we get selective, in a vastly wasteful attempt to define the race of a person based on their skin tone. In South Asia for instance, fairness has a colonial connotation of power and superiority.

The real motive behind this post, is less mutated though. I often wonder about the obsession of an average Indian with a fair complexion. Hey, nothing bad there. What you do with your fairness cream is not my business. But, on one hand, I find it funny when I see matrimonial classifieds for (or from) a “… fair girl with good temperament …”, and on the other hand, I question the act of consumerism behind “skin lightening/whitening products”.

Are these fairness product companies suggesting that melanin content can be altered after birth? Hasn’t scientific research proved enough, that a healthy skin matters more than fair skin, and that 99% of the fairness products are, well, ineffective. What a bubble burst. The chase then remains, not to get fair, but to live upto a stereotype. The only ones benefiting from this craze are the fairness product companies who are laughing all the way to the bank. Fairness products have been estimated to account for up to 40% of the profits of the cosmetics industry (in India alone). Don’t get me wrong — the color, of our skin that is, depends on what we think, of an “appearance-based social structure” that is.

I wonder if the radiance of Christmas is — white, red, or green?

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