Must it be fair? Of course not

THEY say life is not fair. It isn't, especially when a woman, or a man, does not conform to the "normal" standards of beauty. In this part of the world, this heavily centres on the colour of your skin. The lighter you are, the higher your chances are to fit into this mould.

Asian girls would know this well being in a society that reveres light toned faces over darker complexions. This inane idea that fair skin is the epitome of ideal aesthetics is perpetuated by our society's proclivity to value a "clean, smooth and milky" complexion touted by people who believe in this one-dimensional beauty.

Snow-skinned maidens are the desired ones, while the more pigmented of the lot are considered to be of a lesser breed – even viewed as dirty and ugly – leaving young girls to fear that dark translates to unwanted.

It's not hard to imbibe this in the minds of impressionable girls and full-grown women alike since the dissemination and promotion of it is ubiquitous.

Skin tone comments easily escape the lips of observers often followed by unsolicited advice on avoiding the sun.

Invariably you'll find people using the word fair as the first and main feature to highlight when speaking of an attractive woman. You'll also face no trouble finding the virulent spread of this standard via the media.

Examples are rife from a classic 60s Malay movie called Dayang Senandong, in which a cursed princess is subjected to the Cinderella treatment by her mother-in-law solely for looking like a lump of coal, to the many "lovely" TV ads of a particularly longstanding brand.

The filmmakers spared no expense at making the princess look like she bathed herself in motor oil to emphasise her hideousness, and the ads have no qualms at belittling women by showing them that men don't see you unless you're glowing white.

While in the movie, the evil mother-in-law did a 180° turn when the spell on the princess was broken and she revealed her true white colours, the ads often show women finding success in love and life with a dab of whitening cream. Apparently being fair solves all your problems.

One of these ads went the extra mile and tried to incorporate intelligence by having the girl conflicted between marriage and education.

How did she solve this dilemma? Not through meaningful discussions. Instead she chose to lighten her skin a blinding light or two and suddenly she concludes that she could have both – all thanks to a brightening emulsion.

These types of highfalutin storylines are damaging especially to teenagers not yet comfortable in their own skin.

To think that the fairness of your epidermis dictates how people will treat you and be the measure of your worthiness for respect and kindness is ridiculous. Yet these ads continue to be made with this formula.

Whitening skin care products dominate the shelves of beauty stores and have further extended their reach through unregulated online market places like Instagram where you'll discover the selection is vast and confusing, not to mention bizarre.

Recently the Health Ministry banned several local beauty products for using dangerous chemicals including mercury.

It has also taken measures to control the online sales of unapproved beauty products, in which the bulk of them are for brightening purposes and it doesn't stop at topical creams.

I once stumbled across a product in the form of candy named after a popular brand of corrosive bleach.

To think that anybody would be trusting enough to swallow something supposedly as harmless as sweets to achieve brighter skin is as alarming as a pregnant woman believing that drinking soya milk will ensure her baby will not pop out rivalling the bottom of a wok.

Another eyebrow-raising product I once found online was a soap infused with incantations to ensure that the wearer would gain fairness with a little help from the supernatural.

It's appalling to see what lengths a misguided person can go through just to garner the look that they've been peddled only to end up slathering effluent on their faces while the cosmetic manufacturers laugh all the way to the bank. Whether you're white, yellow, chocolate ganache or any other tone in between, it's important for us to recognise that we're all made differently and we should appreciate that.

You should have the confidence to own what you have and know that no amount of gunk can give you the superficial beauty you perceive in others. Leave behind any idea of what you've been told to look like and you'll find life to be much fairer with a brighter mind.