The first time I went to live abroad in an international school, I received a little culture shock when a girl asked me, “Did you go to a tanning salon? Your skin colour is perfect!”
Now, for the past sixteen years of my life, I had never associated the word ‘perfect’ with my skin colour. As most Pakistani girls, I was constantly told I needed to spend less time outside in the sun and more time sitting inside with turmeric smeared all over me.
But in my international school, which had students from more than 65 different countries, the beauty standards shifted dramatically. People would complain of being too pale and sit in the sun to get a tan. I was always being complimented on my skin tone, a phenomena very new to me.
This experience made me realize how much colourism had affected me growing up, and how much it was affecting others in Asian countries. And I strove to educate myself on what colourism is and how I can move beyond it and appreciate my colour like others did.
I have cooked up the following ways in which we can all beat internalized colourism and finally love the skin we are in.
Ditch the light foundation
Often you see girls wearing foundations many many shades lighter than them. It looks like they’re impersonating Edward Cullen.
Girls, buy foundation that is as near to your skin colour as possible. Now, even the saleswomen at makeup stores might try to sell you a foundation color that’s too pale, so unless you want to look like the Madhatter, make sure to buy a shade that perfectly disappears into your skin.
Stop destroying your skin
Skin whitening creams can cause long term damage and possibly lead to illnesses such as permanent pigmentation, skin cancer, liver damage, and mercury poisoning. So just don’t.
Buy a beautiful bronzer
Bronzers are what can transform a beautiful desi girl into a glowing goddess. However bronzers are very underutilized due to colourism. Buying a bronzer will turn you into a shimmering, sunkissed beach babe. Instead of skin destroying whitening creams, invest in a good bronzer.
Get some vitamin D
Don’t be afraid to get some sun rays. Spend time soaking up the sun (but choose a broad-spectrum protection formulated sunscreen that will protect against both UVA and UVB rays, skin protection is important!) Never forgo plans just because you don’t want to get darker.
Lift others up
Compliment others on their darker skin colours. Celebrate the diversity of our melanin compositions. Use words like ‘gold’ and ‘caramel’ and ‘chocolate’ and throw compliments around like confetti. Compliment yourself.
Appreciate dark skinned celebrities
Look towards Kajol and Mila Kunis and celebrities that are beautiful and proud in their skin colour to change your own idea of beauty instead to just focusing on lightskinned celebrities.
Never complain about your skin colour
Don’t complain if you’ve gotten darker. Celebrate it! You’ll do wonders for those around you, especially children who look up to you. You could be the pioneer for self love and appreciation of desi beauty in your household.
Join anti-colourism campaigns
Be a part of campaigns such as Dark Is Beautiful to spread the message.
Wear whatever colours you want
There are no rules anymore. Neon colours, bright colours, pastel colours, they will all look stunning on you. As long as you wear them with confidence.
Feel free to scream at stupid ads
When a lightening cream ad comes on TV, feel free to boo and throw popcorn at the screen. It helps, somehow.
Never use dark skin colour as an insult
Because it’s really not.
Today, I dare you to compliment a child on their dark skin colour. Change the tide!
“When she is told
Her skin is too dark;
I do not hesitate to offer,
That the sun loved her so much
It kissed her more
Than the rest of us”
By Dua Shamsi