‘The desire for fair complexion existed much before fairness creams’: An interview with Shahnaz Husain
Excerpts from interview with Shahnaz Husain who is an international fame beauty expert. Hussain is also called herbal queen of India.
Question: If we talk of our Indian society then it is considered that lady with fair skin colour is beautiful. The fair complexion is the parameter of beauty in Indian society. We generally see matrimonial advertisements in which boy/girl of fair colour is preferred or fair colour of bride/groom is mentioned in the advertisement. Why?
Answer: In India, the desire for a fair complexion existed much before fairness creams. You may ask, “Why do Indians put such a premium on a fair complexion?” The question does not have a simple answer. I think it has a lot to do with the Indian ideals of beauty. Different countries have different ideals of beauty. In India, “fair” is considered beautiful. India is known for diversity. We find complexions from very fair to dark. So, perhaps, Indians feel that it is possible to be Indian and still be fair. If all Indians were dark in colour, the mindset may have been different. Who knows? For an answer to this question as to why Indians want to be fair, we probably need to look at history and sociology to find out how beauty ideals develop. Commercial advertisements, which always show fair men and women, may have a part to play, by drawing the parallel that fair means beautiful. Some people think that centuries of British dominance in our country has given us an inferiority complex in general.
Question: Why should we fix the parameters of beauty with fair colour only? Is it not the right time to change the parameters/perspective of beauty in Indian society?
Answer: I have always said that the beauty of the skin lies in its good health and not its colour, but the desire for a fair complexion continues to exist. In fact, I have written about make-up and + for darker complexions. If one has a healthy, glowing skin, colour ceases to matter. In fact, a dark-skinned woman can look as beautiful as a fair skinned woman. In fact, the colour of her skin can be an asset. With suitable colours and make-up, her colour ceases to matter. Yes, it is definitely high time that the parameters of beauty changed in Indian society and Indian mindset. Advertisements showing that fair complexioned people are superior and successful should not be allowed.
Question: There is inner beauty or beautiful heart also. How will you define it and how is it different from rest of parameters of the beauty?
Answer: Beauty is a total impact of mind, body and soul! I would like to call it “inner beauty.” How can beauty be complete without inner beauty? A harmonious combination of body, mind and soul makes us more complete, more at peace and more beautiful. The ancient sages of India advocated yoga, pranayama and meditation, to find the inner self, whether it is inner heart or inner soul. These can easily be adapted to our modern lifestyle, if you can do breathing exercises, followed by Yoga and then meditation. Yoga helps to reduce mental stress and promote a sense of well being. Meditation is another useful way of calming the mind. Remember that the silence and calmness already exist within you. All you have to do is discover it.
Question: The person who does not have fair complexion gets low feelings/impression that he/she is not beautiful. How such feelings should be removed from individuals. The person who is not fair complexions is considered as bad featured.
Answer: The mindset in the society and the family must change. Importance should not be given to a fair complexion and comparisons should not be made between a fair and dark person. Talents of children should be given more importance and should be developed. A person who has a talent for singing, playing instruments, painting, or writing, imparts self-confidence in the person. Self-confidence helps one to go forward, and the colour of complexion ceases to matter so much. Changes in mindset are so important. Parents should also stop trying to improve their children’s complexion. Mothers keep writing to me asking how they can make their daughter fair. If the mother thinks this way, the daughter will easily get an inferiority complex.
Question: The bias for skin complexions begins from home. The practice to stop/end such biased approach should also be started from home. How can we include it in the moral education of our children?
Answer: As I have already said, the mindset at home should change. Parents should stop giving their children an inferiority complex regarding complexion. Also, they should keep in mind that bleaches and some fairness treatments may contain chemical ingredients, which can harm the skin. So, parents should focus more on safety and protection, as well as enhancing the health and personality of their children. I also welcome the new Advertising Guideline passed by the Advertising Standards Council of India on Fairness Creams. The huge market of fairness creams in India does require appropriate control and direction, especially with regard to influencing ideas and opinions. For example, a dark person should not be shown as being unhappy or depressed due to the colour of the complexion. I believe that advertisements should not focus on attitudes, class, ethnic background, or community. People should realize that what makes a person beautiful is not colour, but much more. As I said, beauty is a total impact. It is the personality and how we interact with others that make all the difference.