India’s Skin Lightening Industry Is Worth Almost $500M, And 60 Percent Of Women Say They Use Products

Kevin Mwanza
Written by Kevin Mwanza
skin lightening
The global skin lightening market is worth $20 billion. At least four in 10 women globally use a lightening product of some sort. Photo by Dazzle Jam from Pexels

With six in 10 women in India using skin lightening creams and other bleaching products, the industry has grown to be worth more than $500 million.

Fair skin is associated with beauty, wealth and status on a cross-cultural scale, according to a 2004 survey by the World Health Organization.

The use of Black skin to denote backwardness among moviemakers in Bollywood, India’s largest film export sector, has played a role in pushing for fair-skin products, making them “super popular” in the Asian country.

Lilly Singh, a top Indian comedian, took a stand against lightening creams in an episode of her “A Little Late” show, making a funny takedown of beauty products that whiten people’s complexions.

The global skin-lightening market is worth $20 billion, according to Bloomberg, and it’s growing. At least four in 10 women use some form of fair skin products.

Nearly 77 percent of Nigerian women — the highest percentage in the world — use products that lighten their skin on a regular basis.

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Skin lightening products are not considered to be safe because mercury is frequently used to make them.

The World Health Organization issued this warning: “The main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage. Mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration, and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.”