If you could end world hunger or make your skin fairer, what would you choose?

Sounds like a silly question. But we as a human race are getting it all wrong.

23 billion dollars. That is how much we spend worldwide every year buying skin lightening products. In India, where I grew up, the market for fairness products is estimated to account for almost a fifth of this.

30 billion dollars. That is what the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) of the UN estimates we need every year to end world hunger and provide adequate nutrition to everyone on the planet.

For years many, many groups and individuals have campaigned against fairness creams, but have always remained in the fringe against a rapidly growing and lucrative business. Celebrities have spoken up in support of Black Lives Matter, while quietly earning millions endorsing these fairness creams. Ironic, no?

The tide is finally turning. Ever so slowly. It is.

On the back of the recent BLM protests, Johnson & Johnson finally decided this week to exit this category, Unilever announced yesterday to remove the word “Fair” from its cream Fair and Lovely.

This is good. But I feel that a rebranding doesn’t go far enough.

If Unilever really feels strongly about it, then they should stop making the product entirely. Other players in this space: L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble, Shisheido, Avon and others are yet to weigh in – it’s high time they started to.

For generations – these fairness creams, their advertising and the narratives they have spread have done SO much damage to the confidence of people with darker skin tones.

I remember these ads I used to watch as a child which showed that using fairness creams made you do better in interviews. Can you imagine the impact of that on an impressionable teenager dreaming of their future?

Unfortunately this is not something that is false. It is a reflection of our society. There was this landmark study done by the University of Georgia in 2006 which showed that the lighter your skin tone, the more likely were you to be selected for a job interview. Nothing could be more unfair.

There should be zero correlation between the amount of melanin in our body and prospects for career and personal success. If not, how are we anything but ridiculous as a human race?

The existence of these skin lightening products are a blotch on our society. So are the obvious biases still prelevant which have evoked the very emotional protests worldwide.

It’s time we eliminated both.

Let’s start feeding our malnourished, no longer our biases.