Clean Beauty Booth’s stance against fairness products, while very clear in terms of policy, does merit some words in terms of detail. The fairness market in India is deemed to be valued at INR 5,000 crore or $13.63 billion (rates as on 7th Sept 2020, figures per this Mint Article). The stakes are clearly immense but Fair & Lovely recently announced a rebranding that it would further on be about glow and not fairness. While this is a welcome step in the right direction, it was clarified that it was only a rebranding and that the formulation would be the same. The messaging within many South Asian families, however, remains unchanged. Fairness is prized above all and any hint of melanin on the skin is shown some degree of concern. While we aren’t in the business of moral policing, we do feel like it is time beauty standards started veering towards the direction of more representation of all skin tones, positive messaging / normalizing towards darker skin tones and a corporate stance to absolutely not profit off of the idea that a darker skin tone is a beauty “concern” that needs a fix. It does not need fixing. The body is signaling no signs of distress from the presence of melanin. Its function is purely sun protection and our tropical climate needs it.
The problem of course has never been functional, but societal. Fairness creams have traditionally reinforced societal ideas that dark skin leads to no marital prospects, career doom and general societal rejection. These ideas have been passed down from generations and need softening and not judgement and positive messaging around acceptance of all skin shades helps this. The idea that fair skin is preferable will probably need a couple of generations to wash away, but we would like to do our part to pitch in and not profit off of an idea that has in so many cases caused harm - large or small. This spills over to our position of supporting only cruelty-free brands and toxin-free skin care. Overall well-being includes, or rather starts with mental well-being and every skin shade merits equal amounts of self-acceptance. The notion that dark is also beautiful, especially in a South Asian context, is an idea whose time has come.
Every little bit counts and we want to make sure that we contribute to moving towards a kinder and more accepting environment.
Here's a short note on the policy as well:
We are currently seeing a flood of products that are termed as “brightening” and “glow” products versus being called fairness products, while listing the benefits as fairness. This has made our job a bit harder because now the selling of fairness has reached subtext. While subtext is still better than overt messaging, policy-wise, we will not be listing any product that lists benefits of their products on their own website as fairness. As much as this is about formulation (we reject products with Hydroquinone, because of ill effects on health), this is also about messaging. A product selling you an even skin-tone and a product that sells you a fairer skin tone are quite different. You might still see products that have vitamin-c, retinol and milder ingredients on our platform but we only host products that are addressing skin concerns and not shade “improvement”.
Long story short, here’s what our policy is:
NO: Products containing Hydroquinone
NO: Products selling fairness, shade “improvements” and “white” glow
YES: Retinol, Vitamin-c and milder ingredients are okay but we are aware that studies around this (and other ingredients) are constantly evolving
YES: Products focused on hyperpigmentation, age spots, stretchmarks (even though ALL of these skin states are natural and beautiful in their own right)
We will be focusing deliberately on positive and inclusive messaging for different skin shades and body types. Messaging around body positivity, mental health and self-acceptance are all double and triple checked and in some cases assented to by qualified therapists because it is something we take very seriously.