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Vaseline Facebook app to lighten skin called unfair
MUMBAI (Reuters) - An application for skincare brand Vaseline on Facebook that lightens the skin tone of profile pictures has been labelled unfair in India, one of the largest markets for skin-lightening products.
The application, or app, for Vaseline Men Be Prepared, promises to transform a user's profile picture by clearing dark spots and lightening the skin tone.
The page, which also offers tips on clearing acne and staying healthy, has more than 8,000 monthly active users and nearly 700 fans, many of whom have criticised the app and the advertising campaign on discussion boards and in reviews on the products.
"It is insidious ... to take advantage and make profit out of a bias that unfortunately exists in the Indian society," member Subodh Diwakar posted in a discussion on the page.
"Many people are developing needless self-doubt and inferiority complexes. I strongly condemn this ad campaign."
Skin-lightening products, made popular in India by Unilever's best-selling Fair & Lovely cream, are a highly contentious issue in a country where a premium is placed on fair skin.
Advertising campaigns have often focused on how a person -- usually a woman -- with fairer skin can land a better job, a better partner and win the approval of parents and peers alike.
In recent years, companies including Unilever and Garnier, besides local brands Emami and Godrej, have also marketed products for men to tap the rising spend on male grooming.
Top Bollywood actors, including Shah Rukh Khan and Shahid Kapur, endorse skin-lightening products for men.
The Facebook application for Vaseline Men was created as a "culturally relevant and engaging way for Indian men to interact with this product," a spokesman for Vaseline in India said.
But the interactions have not all been positive: "Any other place this would be termed racist ... Am I the only one to feel that this is insulting?" posted one member on the page.
(Reporting by Rina Chandran)
(For more news on Reuters India, click in.reuters.com)
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