A Billion-Strong Colorist Nation & the Billion-Dollar “Fair Skin” Industry

Did Unilever shape the “light skin fetish” or simply exploit it?

The Maverick Files
6 min readJan 9, 2022


Image source: Adam Jones / Flickr CC by 2.0

Unilever — one of the global consumer giants recently rebranded one of its flagship Indian products — a skin-lightening cream that has been a household name for decades.

The cream called “Fair & Lovely” was rebranded to “Glow & Lovely” after persistent criticism for promoting harmful society standards and preference for light skin.

To understand India’s obsession with fair skin — you must first understand the extent of it and how deep-rooted and harmful this obsession is.

India is a more colorist nation than America or any other part of the world is racist.

Fair, slim and beautiful girl wanted for…

When I was growing up and becoming aware of societal preferences, and starting to form opinions of my own, I was in my mid to late teens back in the 90’s and early 2000’s. My sister and I would grab the weekend classifieds newspaper and laugh at and be astonished by the demands Indian men and their families had for their prospective brides.

A widower in their 50’s would hope for a girl aged between 30–35 who is “issueless” — a ridiculous word to use for a childfree woman, and a series of other requirements.

However, even for a young man, in his 20’s or 30’s looking for his first match — there would be one requirement that would be the standard start of every “bride wanted” template.

Fair, slim and beautiful…” would be the first three words, sometimes accompanied by “tall” if the guy was tall by Indian standards.

Both fair and slim are words that describe the toxic physical beauty standards of the Indian and even the broader society in general.

If you aren’t of South Asian origin, you might be scratching your head on what “fair” skin even means.

Well, let me explain.

Indians don’t really have different races living in the country in the broad sense — only different religions and cultures across different states…



The Maverick Files

Thinker, finance professional, loving husband, a doting dad, fitness enthusiast! MBA in Finance & Marketing and Comp. Science Engineer. www.themaverickfiles.com