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India Facebook users urged to 'appear whiter'

By Mark Dummett
BBC News, Delhi

image captionHaving lighter skin is considered an asset in parts of India

Facebook users in India are being urged to make themselves appear whiter online, as part of a marketing campaign by a skincare company.

Vaseline has launched software to promote its new skin-whitening cream, which promises to reduce five types of dark face spots.

Facebook users are asked to download a programme or app, which will then similarly adjust their photographs.

Having lighter skin is considered an asset in parts of India.

Pankaj Parihar of Omnicom, the advertising firm behind the campaign, told the AFP news agency the response to its "Vaseline Men" cream "has been pretty phenomenal".

'Thoroughly attractive'

The Vaseline Men Facebook page has more than 500 fans, who also receive grooming tips such as this:

"Don't shave for a day or two and let the stubble grow in rakishly. Combine this with sunglasses to look utterly mysterious, rakish and thoroughly attractive."

But not all users approve. Ember Rayne Hulett from Virginia in the US writes that "Black is Beautiful. You don't need a cream to be cool".

As with the Indian economy as a whole, the skin-whitening industry is growing like never before, and is now worth billions of dollars.

Most products, such as Fair and Lovely are aimed at women, but men are being targeted as well by lotions like Fair and Handsome.

Ravi Raj Narula, the owner of a cosmetics shop in central Delhi, said his customers include men from the villages surrounding the Indian capital.

"Earlier it was only the ladies who were interested, but now many young boys and men also want to have a fairer complexion," he said.

"Maybe it is because of the impact of the Indian film industry because traditionally the heroes and heroines have been shown as white-skinned people.

"Or maybe it is a legacy we inherited from the Britishers when they left India?"

More on this story

  • India's unbearable lightness of being

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