It’s not enough for Indian boys and girls to fear that they won’t get a playmate or a spouse or a job because of their unsightly skin-tone. It’s not enough that ads should tell women they need their underarm deodorant to include skin-lightening cream if they want to go sleeveless.
Now comes Clean and Dry “intimate wash,” which promises women “protection, fairness and freshness” below the waistline. A new ad for the ph-balanced cleanser features an attractive young bride who lacks confidence around her husband, presumably because her vagina is too dark. After one splash of Clean and Dry, however, love blooms anew.
The media’s reception has been harsh. “This is a wonder product,” Manjula Narayan writes in India’s Sunday Guardian, “it’s an Itch Guard that promises to bleach my oyster.”
While skin lightening products and advertising are ubiquitous in India, this isn’t just a local, or regional, phenomenon. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Rupa Subramanya points out that intimate skin-lightening got its start in the West, and notes that studies demonstrate the negative effect that darker skin can have on job-seekers in the United States: