News - June 9, 2015

Blog: Is a fair skin more beautiful?

Most Europeans can’t wait to get into the sun and enjoy a barbecue on a sunny day in the weekend. Yet, brown skinned women try to stay out of the sun to prevent their skin from getting darker, writes Mary Shrestha.

Recently I joined a barbecue event with friends by the riverside. It was a very sunny, hot day, so I had put on sunblock to prevent my skin from tanning. While I was enjoying the warmth, my focus was also on staying out of the sun as much as possible. I sat in the shade and used my hand to keep the sun out of my face when necessary.  

At the same time, my friends kept staying in the sun. I was amazed to see the difference: white women long for a tanned skin tone and brown women long for a fair skin tone.

There are so many differences in these two worlds. Back in my home country, and throughout South Asia, it is considered beautiful if a person, especially a girl, is fair. Even those who are not that fair try to make their skin look lighter with the many cosmetic products that promise fairness. It should also be noted that these ‘fairness products’ are being advertised and sold widely, unlike here. For many of us it was a shock to not find many fairness cosmetics when we first came to Europe.

Fairness is perceived as beauty and this also has a connection with societal pride and marriage. A fair-skinned girl often is the pride of a family. In addition to this, men and their families long for a bride/daughter who is fair.

While being light-skinned (white) is a dream for most women in South Asia, women with a white skin tone often desire a tanned skin. As I think about this, I feel very happy and comfortable with my skin tone right now. Maybe because, for a change, I have a skin tone that my friends, who are fairer, are longing for. I might, consciously or subconsciously, be influenced by the preferences of my surroundings, which are currently in my favour. It is well said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Mary Shrestha is from Nepal and she is doing her master in International Development Studies at Wageningen University.