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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 November 2005, 13:08 GMT
Indian men go tall, fair and handsome

By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai

Fair and Handsome cream
India's skin-lightening cream industry is valued at over $190m
All is fair. So believes an Indian cosmetics company that has launched a new skin-lightening cream exclusively for men in an attempt to target the growing number of metrosexual males.

Called Fair and Handsome, the advertisement for the product gives the message: be fair or remain in dark oblivion.

Until now, skin-lightening creams have been aimed almost exclusively at women. This is the first launched nationally for men.

Surveys carried out by cosmetics companies suggest growing numbers of Indian men are using the creams.

Our initial worry was men would be shy and not buy it. But these fears have proven unfounded
Emami director Mohen Goenka

Emami Industries, which launched Fair and Handsome, said its research showed that figure was 29%, which some might find unlikely.

But the firm's director, Mohen Goenka, says: "We tested the product in the southern city of Hyderabad and the response was much better than we expected.

"There is no doubt men are becoming conscious of their skin. We realised there was a ready market for a product like this and began selling it across the country."

He added: "Our initial worry was men would be shy and not buy it. But these fears have proven unfounded."

'Wheat fields'

The domestic skin-lightening cream industry is valued at over $190m - a strong indicator of the great Indian obsession with fair skin.

Jerry Pinto
There's not one guy who admits to being dark and attractive, they just say we are wheatish and fair
Jerry Pinto,
Man's World magazine

Mothers are known to tell their daughters not to play in the sun and to be sure to apply sunscreen when they go out because no man would want a dark bride.

Editor of men's magazine, Man's World, Jerry Pinto, says most dark-skinned men are as insecure as women and go to equal lengths, albeit secretly, to achieve lighter skin.

"I don't think men share this notion of tall dark and handsome," he says.

"In India, it's tall, fair and handsome. A look at the matrimonial section, which is a very good way of seeing how men look at themselves, there's not one guy who admits to being dark and attractive, they just say we are wheatish and fair.

"So there is just not one dark-skinned person in this country, they are all rolling wheat fields of masculinity."

Prof Shallini Bharat, a socio-psychologist with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, believes this complex is a result of the country's history.

Men in Mumbai store
Fears men would be too shy were unfounded, the company says

"India's rulers have always been fair, be it the Aryans in the early centuries or Europeans in later years. Fairness is equated with superiority, power and influence, therefore the preference for lighter skin."

Most advertisements for the creams tend to portray that dark skin will hold a person back, whereas fair skin will mean social acceptance and even success in the chosen profession, as well as among the opposite sex.

The advert for the male cream shows a dark-skinned college boy relegated to the back seat and ignored by the girls until he uses the product. Soon enough, his complexion lightens and girls flock to him like moths to a flame.

Prof Bharat says this sort of advertising is not good for Indian society as it promotes fair skin in a country where a large percentage of the population is dark.


However, the commercial has certainly been effective in boosting sales.

Bhavin Parikh
Men are no longer shy of admitting they want to look good
Bhavin Parikh

At a big shopping store in southern Mumbai (Bombay), men did not seem shy of picking up the cream along with their groceries.

Banking professional, Bhavin Parikh, says fair skin is an issue for both sexes and men are now becoming more open about using skin care products.

"Previously, men believed that they are not supposed to use fairness creams and this was the domain of ladies only. However, times have changed now and we too are trying out new products to take care of ourselves.

"Men are no longer shy of admitting they want to look good."

Amit Gaikwad, a business manager, said he would not mind trying out the cream but only out of curiosity and not a deep-rooted desire for fair skin.

"I think it depends from person to person, some might prefer to be fair while some might not. To me, it doesn't matter. I think you should be the way you are."

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