For Indian brides, fair skin is still lovely

Our obsession with lighter skin is reflected clearly during weddings, with most brides asking their makeup artists to lighten their skin tone

In the series of tone-deaf comments from privileged Bollywood actors, the latest were those made by Sara Ali Khan about colourism in India, in an interview with Barkha Dutt. 

In a video snippet that’s doing the rounds on social media, she can be heard saying “If you want to be tanned put some bronzer on and if you want to be fair, put some powder on,” effectively dismissing the immense bias and societal pressures that dark-skinned people face in this country as a problem of ‘perception’. Her remarks drew sharp criticism from netizens.

India’s obsession with fair skin is ancient and well-documented and is one of the most common requirements to be a suitable bride or groom. With a majority of the brides wanting to look picture-perfect on the day, many of them also ask their beauticians to make them look fairer. Metrolife takes a look at what make-up artists feel about this practice.

Zara Syed, a makeup artist who runs her own school, says that almost 70 per cent of her clients want her to make their skin shade lighter with make-up. “I try convincing them that lightening is not the way to go but most of them don’t budge,” she says. If they insist, she obliges them but doesn’t go more than two shades lighter than their natural tone.  

However, makeup artist Roshni Safir says that she is seeing a growing movement towards self-acceptance with fewer clients requesting a lighter skin tone and opting instead for a “more natural look.” But Priya Abhishek Joseph, who is also in the same profession and champions dark skin, says the problem is not just with the clients.

“Artists themselves make their darker-skinned clients look fairer, it’s the practice.” Social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest further heighten the insecurities; most posts under a tag like ‘Indian bridal beauty inspiration’ show fair-skinned brides. “The fear of appearing dark is almost a phobia. Clients need to be repeatedly assured that I am not making them look darker,” adds Priya. 

She understands the fear though, having herself faced hurtful comments about her skin tone while growing up, which affected her self-image.”It was demoralising and made me insecure,” she says. 

It is up to a person how they want to look on their wedding day but Priya is concerned about the message the society is sending out to the young dark-skinned girls.

“They see a celebration of fair skin and it sends out a message that they are not beautiful the way they are. This can create more deep-seated issues of insecurity which won’t go away with the wave of a make-up brush,” she adds.

 

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