I, particularly as a dermatologist, meet  many people who ‘want to become fair’ day in and day out. My practice begins with girls who are  depressed with the notion of being ‘dark’ or  boys who are  obsessed with their ‘dark’ colour and this ends with  women tagging their children (some as small as 2 year old girls) wanting to make them fair.

I ask all of them one thing:

“Why do you want to become fair?”

The answer is always the same:

“It looks good!”

I ask:

“Why do you think that ‘fair’ is good?”

They say (yes, all of them):

“The people around me keep pointing out that I am dark and keep saying it’s good to be fair skinned.”

It’s heart wrenching, annoying and frustrating for a dermatologist to listen to the woes of a ‘dark skinned individual’ in this country. These people who visit me are not only emotionally fatigued but have become their own guinea pigs! They have most probably tried every cream there is, have visited every beauty parlour there is and have temporarily ruined (at times even permanently ruined ) their skin by the time they reach us.

So for all those are their own guinea pigs and who haven’t yet reached the ‘ ruined the skin stage’ and who think that they are dark... here are some things you should follow:

1. Read! Read! Read!

Knowing what ingredients your cream contains is very important. Your skin is the largest organ of the body. You have to be responsible towards it. Otherwise, you will end up damaging it to the extent that no dermatologist will be able to help you! We as dermatologists (I am saying this on behalf of my fraternity) relentlessly see hundreds of cases a year where the use of a cream permanently damaged the skin.

So READ the ingredients section. Make it a habit!

2. Know! Know! Know!

Just reading the ingredients isn’t the only thing. KNOW the functioning of the ingredients. Now, most likely a question has popped in your mind, right? How do I know how the ingredients function? Precisely... it is difficult for individuals to know everything! Which is why dermatologists exist. If you do not know what the ingredients do, what you can do is take the tube of cream to a dermatologist near you. This way you know the possible side effects of the ingredients and also will know how to use them. Safety always stands first!

3. Ask! Ask! Ask!

Ask questions.

  • What does the cream do?
  • Is the company selling the cream being honest with you? 
  • Is there any proof that the cream is safe? Are people who say that the cream is safe ‘knowledgeable’ or are just like you who have become guinea pigs and have ‘tried and tested’ the cream on themselves?

Please understand that every skin is different. So no cream can be ‘generalised’ to all skin types. Not even moisturisers! There are going to be many people on the net, many family members and many friends who will tell you that it is ‘good’. Ask them for a scientific reason! Remember, if there is no scientific reason then stay away from the cream.

  • ‘Maine try kiya ... mujhe farak pada... tu try kar toh tujhe bhi padega’ is the WRONG REASON!
  • ‘7 ya 15 dino mein gora ho jao!” is the WRONG REASON!
  • ‘1 din mein dark mark gayab!” is the WRONG REASON!
  • ‘For all skin types” is the WRONG REASON!

4. Throw! Throw! Throw!

Throw away all creams which have the following ingredients:

  • Betamethasone Dipropionate
  • Clobetasol Propionate
  • Clobetasone Butyrate
  • Mometasone Furoate
  • Fluticasone Propionate
  • Mixture of any of the above + Hyrdroquinone + Tretinoin
  • Any cream that has the word ‘lite’ or ‘fair’ written on it (they are supposed to be prescribed or used after advice)
  • Any cream that claims ‘fairness in 7 days or 15 days etc.”

5. Go! Go! Go!

Visit a dermatologist! The dermatologist will guide you on what is to be done. A person can only become fair as much as their genetic constitution permits them to be! There are no two ways about it. Your genes cannot be changed right? So if a person or company that sells fairness creams claim that they can make you fair... how honest are they? A dermatologist will help you understand not only the limitations of your skin but treat you wisely.

Here is some food for thought:

Writing this article actually made me look up the definition of the word 'fair'.

Fair is defined as:

- (adjective)of hair or complexion) light; blonde

- (noun archaic) a beautiful woman

But it also means:

- (adjective) treating people equally without favouritism or discrimination

Thinking 'fair' now?

-Dr Pradnya Shastri