Colorism in Bangladeshi Society

Kari B. Jensen, Hofstra University
DOI: 10.21690/foge/2020.63.2f


A memory from 30 years ago when I got to know my Bangladeshi husband and many of his Bangladeshi friends is that his female friends would show me photo albums from their weddings, but I was not able to recognize them in their bridal photos. The reason was the thick layer of white cream they had applied to their face, in accordance with wedding traditions in Bangladesh. Many Bangladeshi people in Bangladesh and in the diaspora consider light skin more attractive and desirable, resulting in discrimination of dark-skinned people, particularly girls and women. Advertisements for skin lightening products such as “Fair and lovely” have a significant presence in Bangladeshi society, on TV and social media as well as print media and huge billboards in cities and rural towns (Figure 1). The contrast in skin tone between the people in the advertisements and the people on the streets is striking.

Figure 1: Streetscape in the city of Mymensingh, Mymensingh Division, Bangladesh. August 2008. Photographer: Naser Khan.

This article is based on semi-participant observation and in-depth, semi-structured, in-person interviews with middle-class women and men in Bangladesh and in the Bangladeshi diaspora in the US. They were asked to share their own perceptions and experiences of colorism and beauty standards, and encouraged to philosophize about possible causes of the colorism that is so entrenched in Bangladeshi culture and society, as well as possible ways out of such discriminatory perceptions and practices.

Ethnically there is not much diversity in Bangladesh, as 98 percent of the population is considered Bengali. However, the historical origins of the Bengali people are diverse because of migration streams, trade routes and invasions during thousands of years. As a result, skin coloring varies greatly within the Bengali population, from white to dark brown. Even among siblings, skin tone can vary significantly (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Biological sisters in Dhaka city, Bangladesh. 1987. Photographer: Naser Khan.


Colorism means discrimination based on skin color. The oldest origins of colorism in South Asia are disputed. Some scholars go as far back as the Aryan invasion around 3,500 years ago and theorize about the origins of the caste system (see for instance Kulke and Rothermund 2016), whereas a clear connection between skin color and caste is now usually debunked as an orientalist myth (Philips 2004). More commonly, the centuries-long presence of Mughal empire and the British empire, and the colonial privileges given to fair-skinned communities is seen as having led people to associate power, status and beauty with fair skin (Philips 2004). My participants especially emphasized the legacy of the British presence. They also said that more recent origins of colorism in Bangladesh can be found in books, dramas, movies, TV series, and advertisements, where all the lead actors, heroines, princesses, news anchors, and models are light-skinned although there are very few people in the Bangladeshi population with such light skin tones (Figure 3 through Figure 12).

Figure 3: Winners of a Bangladeshi beauty contest, depicted in the Star Showbiz magazine, Vol.02 Issue 26, page 12; attachment to the English-language newspaper The Daily Star, 31 January 2015.
Figure 4: Front-page model: Bangladeshi actor Anika Kabir Shokh. Star Showbiz magazine, Vol.02 Issue 28; attachment to the English-language newspaper The Daily Star, 14 February 2015.
Figure 5: Bangladeshi actors: Clockwise from top left: Arifin Shuvoo, Mahi, and Pori Moni. Star Showbiz magazine, Vol.02 Issue 28, page 3; attachment to the English-language newspaper The Daily Star, 14 February 2015.
Figure 6: Models in an illustration photo in a special Valentine’s Day attachment to the Bengali-language newspaper Prothom Alo, 14 February 2015.
Figure 7: Advertisement for a skin lightening product called “Vaseline Healthy White Lightening Visible Fairness Lotion” by Unilever, in the magazine Life Style, Vol.14 Issue 39, page 20; attachment to the English-language newspaper The Daily Star,. March 10, 2015. Note the small advertisement in the upper right corner, for “Woman’s World Aesthetic Clinic”, which among other services offers “whitening”.
Figure 8: Advertisement for the skin lightening lotion “Fair&Lovely: Advanced Multivitamin Expert Fairness Solution” by Unilever, on page 5 of a special Valentine’s Day attachment to the Bengali-language newspaper Prothom Alo, 14 February 2015.
Figure 9: Men are targeted, too: Advertisement for the skin lightening product “Fair&Lovely: Max Fairness Multi Expert Face Wash” by Unilever, on page 7 of a special Valentine’s Day attachment to the Bengali-language newspaper Prothom Alo, 14 February 2015.
Figure 10: Advertisement for “Pond’s White Beauty Daily Spot-Free Lightening Cream” by Unilever, in the Star Showbiz magazine, Vol.02 Issue 26, page 2; attachment to the English-language newspaper The Daily Star, 31 January 2015.
Figure 11: Not only in advertisements for skin lightening products, but also for any other products the models tend to have an extremely light complexion, such as in this advertisement for a mosquito spray, in the magazine Life Style, Vol.14 Issue 39, page 20; attachment to the English-language newspaper The Daily Star, March 10, 2015.
Figure 12: Another example of light-skinned models advertising something else than skin-lightening products: Advertisement for an Airtel internet package, in the Star Showbiz magazine, Vol.02 Issue 26, page 1; attachment to the English-language newspaper The Daily Star, 31 January 2015.

In Bangladesh, dark-skinned people face several types of discrimination. Some people have a very negative reaction when a dark brown child, and especially a girl, is born. Families often have problems getting their daughter married off if her skin is dark. Dark girls and boys may experience negative comments about their skin color from their own parents, relatives, friends and random people in the streets, thereby being constantly reminded that according to mainstream perceptions in society they are not considered beautiful. People with a light complexion tend to be over-represented in certain jobs where face-to-face contact with customers is prevalent. Several of my participants explained that skin color sometimes overrides merit in such jobs.

Perceptions of beauty

In the past there have been several incidents where I was puzzled by the hype around certain South Asian movie stars or certain Bangladeshis among people in my social network. Later I came to understand that the reason those people were seen as extraordinarily beautiful was their extremely light complexion. The strong preference for fair skin in Bangladeshi society can be seen from the following quotes:

In our culture, it is always about lighter skin (32-year-old woman)
The grandmother will like the lighter-skinned grandchild more than the darker-skinned (48-year-old man)

The people I interviewed expressed that the common way of perceiving beauty and attractiveness in Bangladeshi society is that fair complexion trumps anything else: facial features, body shape and size, health, demeanor, personality, and mental ability. One participant explained that his mother possesses the typical Bangladeshi perception of beauty, which he illustrated by saying that she will never be able to fathom that anyone can think of Michelle Obama as more beautiful than Hillary Clinton. To her, that’s simply not possible. Although some of my participants themselves used the term beautiful interchangeably with fair skinned, and one participant expressed that she wants her future husband to be fair-skinned, most of my participants said that they disagree with the mainstream Bangladeshi beauty perceptions, and several told me about someone they know or a model or actress who is dark-skinned and very beautiful. There was also a focus on the concept of inner beauty:

I’m inclined to mental beauty rather than physical beauty…. I’m a religious person, and I believe that Allah has created mankind in different shapes, colors, etc. (48-year-old man)
A good person—that’s beauty to me. If you’re bitchy you’re not beautiful! She may be pretty, with good features, etc. but wouldn’t be beautiful if not [having a] nice personality. (32-year-old woman)
When someone says: “I’m looking for a beautiful girl”. What is it? Beautiful features, or also beautiful inside? (40-year-old woman)

These statements give some hope for a future where there is less focus on superficial aspects such as skin color. However, it is important to understand how discriminatory attitudes are still carried on from one generation to the next.

Normalized discriminatory attitudes

There are many ways that children are socialized into perceiving lighter skin-tones as more beautiful and attractive. In several cases I observed the first comments about a new-born baby were about the baby’s skin color, not health. My finding correlates with a book chapter written by Santi Rozario (2002), although Rozario focuses on girls only. According to the book editors:

“Rozario … describes that in Bangladesh, from the moment of birth, the complexion and skin colour of a girl is an issue. Relatives and neighbours will freely make comments on the baby girl’s complexion, labeling her as shundar (pretty), more or less synonymous with farsha (fair complexion), as shemla (not fair but not really dark), or ashundar na (not pretty), meaning kalo (black). As she grows up, at every stage of her life, on numerous occasions, she will hear comment on the lightness or darkness of her complexion” (Manderson and Liamputtong 2002, 9).

Similarly, here is one of several participants’ statements about Bangladeshi babies getting used to hearing comments about their skin color, literally from day one:

All the visitors talk like that—in front of the baby—“oh thank god she’s not dark like her mother”, and so on. …Now [my daughter] has similar skin-tone as her dad—shemla—so that’s OK. But mother-in-law will say she is gom (wheat colored): “She will be pretty when she’s older because she has gom (wheatish) complexion.” They tell me: “Don’t expose her to the sun, she’ll get dark.” I say nothing, I just keep quiet. Girls are not supposed to go out that much anyhow. And if you stay in the sun for too long, it’s not good for health. But they wouldn’t tell boys to stay out of the sun because of skin tone. (32-year-old woman).

On many occasions I have heard Bangladeshi mothers, here in the US and in Bangladesh, shout to their daughters and sons, of any age, from toddlers to teenagers: “Stay away from the sun!” and “You’re getting black!”. When Bangladeshi women see a light complexioned girl, it is common that they refer to the girl as a doll, such as in this compliment: “How beautiful! She’s white like a doll!” This was uttered by a woman of Bangladeshi origin at a Bangladeshi dinner party here in the US where she met an eight-year-old light-skinned girl for the first time. Right besides this girl sat a ten-year-old girl with significantly darker skin-tone who also has parents from Bangladesh and who understands Bangla. This incident exemplifies the way that discriminatory attitudes become normalized.

A woman who was raised in Bangladesh and moved to the US in her late 20s, told me about some of her teenage experiences in Bangladesh:

When I was in 9th grade, a boy said something so hurtful that I cried the whole night, I got a fever, and I only wanted to die.
Q: What did he say?
A: “The girl is so dark that you cannot even see her in the dark”—something like that. The boy lived in our neighborhood, I didn’t know him that well, he was in 11th grade. I didn’t have the courage to say anything against him. Eventually things became easier, not because the comments stopped, but I got used to them and was able to deal with them, and oversee them. Sometimes I blamed my parents for being born. “They don’t have the right to give birth to me and leave me in this miserable life”, but I didn’t tell them. …
It started hitting me much more that I got darker skin. I saw my friends had lighter skin tones, they got different comments than me, they could wear all kinds of colors and it fit their skin tones.
Q: Who decided that?
A: I learned it from people’s comments. If I wore something bright pink: “It doesn’t look good on you, because you have darker skin tone, it doesn’t look good on you”. Even if you go to stores, the store keepers will tell you. Even now, if I go to the store to buy a sari, the storekeepers will tell me, “it doesn’t look good on you”. I make up my own mind, and I go with that. Now I don’t care what people say. When I was in University I started thinking “go to hell with what people say”. I had to go through a lot for that. In Bangladesh girls are not allowed to think and talk like that, they are supposed to follow what society says. …
At first, my in-laws didn’t approve of me, because all they want is for their daughter-in-law to have fair skin tone. They said it even in front of me, that they weren’t happy because of my skin tone. …
My mother-in-law, when we go shopping for saris for [the] Eid [festival], she will comment—she will say “this will not fit you because of your dark skin tone. It will fit your sister-in-law because she is fair”.

Furthermore, this woman shared with me that when her husband told his parents that he wanted to marry her, they told him: “If you marry her, your children will be dark. When your children are dark, how will you marry them off?”
Together, these examples of experiences and comments illustrate a common discourse in Bangladeshi society that normalizes discriminatory attitudes against people and especially females who happen to be born with a dark complexion.

Gender differences in discrimination

In South Asia, “the words ‘fair’ and ‘beautiful’ are often used synonymously in female beauty descriptions and feminine gender identity constructions” (Philips 2004, 253). However, there was no agreement among my participants on whether the discrimination based on skin color is worse for females than for males, although most of the stories that were told about discrimination were about girls and women. A female respondent who was convinced that it is worse to be a dark girl than a dark boy said:

If you’re a dark-skinned young man, or even if you lack a leg, or a hand, you will still be able to find a spouse. But for women things are complicated. It has to do with the patriarchal system … The ultimate implications of being kalo (black) are so different for girls and boys… If someone describes a boy as kalo it’s not such a big deal. But if someone calls my daughter kalo it’s a big deal because I know what she will be going through…. Sometimes for boys to be called kalo is macho, masculine… If you’re a dark girl you’re a third-class citizen in a sense (40-year-old woman).

Another female respondent, who herself experienced a lot of negative comments and attitudes due to her complexion, told me:

My brother has fairer skin. Even my uncle and aunts would say [to my parents] “he has fairer skin tone—it would be better if your girls had fairer skin tones instead of him—it will be hard to marry them off”. …
I prayed five times a day that if I would have a daughter, she would not have dark skin. Because I don’t want her to have to go through what I went through. The boys also get comments like that, but it’s much worse for the girls. All have to be pretty, beautiful, and so on. Not boys. …. When I saw [my new-born daughter’s] skin tone I thanked God that she didn’t have [as] dark skin [as] me. I don’t want her to have to listen to my mother-in-law talk to her [the way she talks to me]. (32-year-old woman).

In the process of finding a spouse, a female’s complexion is crucial and often overrides most other aspects such as education, personality, and health. Skin color seems to be more of an issue in arranged marriages, which several stories from my participants illustrate. A woman told me that one of her best friends in Bangladesh had “really dark skin, but was a very nice girl.”:

She had everything you would want in a girl… but her parents went through hell I would say, to find a husband for her. Everyone was rejecting her because of her skin color. Finally they found a man who was willing to marry her because she had some family in the US so he was told they would be able to move to the US in the future. Later, when that didn’t go through, he started complaining and blaming [his wife and his in-laws]… “You lured me into this, this is the reason I got married to her. It was a mistake marrying a person with dark skin …now my kids will be dark.”… It’s everywhere. Even if your features are very smart, but your skin color is dark, you cannot find a husband. Skin color is a huge deal in Bangladesh I would say. (40-year-old woman).

According to, the largest and oldest matrimonial website in Bangladesh, “at least 70% of grooms say that it’s compulsory for their brides to be fair” (Amreen 2019). In arranged marriages, a dowry (payment in money or kind from the bride’s family to the groom’s family) is often involved, and although dowry was outlawed in 1980 in Bangladesh it is still widely practiced. The dowry demands can lead to a financial crisis for parents of dark-skinned daughters: “With dark skin tones, you have to pay one and a half times more” (32-year-old woman).

Although most of my participants said that colorism is worse for girls than for boys, several mentioned that dark-skinned young men in Bangladesh struggle with low self-esteem:

[A young man that I know, who is in his twenties] doesn’t know how to deal with his dark skin-color. He uses “Fair and lovely”, and different face washes to lighten his skin tone. That’s not right. I tried to talk with him, but it’s difficult to give new input. He doesn’t listen that much. He says he doesn’t care, but I know he does, because when his mother says those things to him, his face changes. (32-year-old woman).

This woman explained that by “those things” she meant that the young man’s mother often tells him that if he stays in the sun, he’ll get even darker. His mother has also said that it would become harder to find a wife for him if he becomes darker than he already is.

Skin lightening products

Streetscapes are turned into places of discrimination when billboards display the message of colorism, glorifying fair skin (Figure 13). The seemingly omnipresent advertisements not only on billboards, but also in newspapers, magazines, the internet and on TV tell people how successful they will become if they use skin lightening products. The message in the advertisement on the billboard in Figures 1 and 13 is “Din-e Din Total Fairness” (Day by Day, Total Fairness). The image is of a young woman dancing after 7 days, 14 days, 21 days, and finally with the supposedly right look after 28 days of using a skin lightening cream. In a commercial that ran on TV in Bangladesh some years ago, a woman was depicted in different situations to demonstrate how she became increasingly successful in many aspects of her life the longer she used the skin lightening product. Similarly, an analysis of television advertisements of fairness products in India found them to “connect fairness with achieving other personal goals, such as marriage, success, empowerment, job opportunities, and confidence.” (Karan 2008, 1) The contrast in skin tone between the photo models and the common people represents an unattainable ideal of physical appearance that leaves many people with low self-esteem, frustrated, and eager to buy whatever product is being advertised.

Figure 13: Advertisement for the skin lightening lotion “Fair&Lovely” on a billboard in the city of Mymensingh, Mymensingh Division, Bangladesh. August 2008. Photographer: Naser Khan.

Globally, the production and sale of skin lightening products has become a booming industry. “In 2017, the global skin-lightening industry was worth $4.8bn (£3.4bn), and it is projected to grow to $8.9bn by 2027…Skin-lightening products include creams, scrubs, pills and even injections designed to slow the production of melanin.” (Khan 2018) The Asia-Pacific region has the fastest growing market for skin lightening products worldwide, explained by prevalent colorism in most Asian communities, with fairness products sold to both women and men, and increased spending on cosmetics among the growing middle class (Global Industry Analysts, 2018).

The use of skin lightening products is accompanied by many health risks. “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. Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy.” (World Health Organization 2011, 2). Not only are the people who use the products themselves exposed to health risks, but a lot of people are also affected indirectly, as toxins from the skin lightening products end up in waterways and seafood.

“Mercury in soaps, creams and other cosmetic products is eventually discharged into wastewater. The mercury then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and enters the food-chain as the highly toxic methylmercury in fish. Pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children” (World Health Organization 2011, 2).

Skin lightening products are very common in Bangladesh, and they are sold over the counter in cosmetic stores, gift stores, and grocery stores (Figure 14).

Figure 14: Store shelf in the Eastern Plus shopping mall, in Shantinagar, Dhaka city, Bangladesh, with skin lightening creams and lotions: “Pond’s White Beauty Anti-Spot Fairness” cream, and “Fair&Lovely Advanced Multivitamin Expert Fairness Solution” lotion. May 2019. Photographer: Sakib Adnan.

There are over 2000 beauty parlors in Bangladesh, most of which offer “brightening facials, fair polish or bleach that promise lighter skin” (Amreen 2019). Measured by mercury content, Bangladesh is at the very top of the list of 22 sampled countries where skin lightening products are popular and easily available, as almost 50% of the creams sampled and tested in Bangladesh had mercury levels exceeding the established safety limit (European Environmental Bureau 2018, 15). One of my research participants had worked for an international cosmetics company in Bangladesh, whereby she had made up her mind on skin lightening products based on what she had learned:

They should ban the products! Everybody knows it’s not good for you, but nobody says anything. Not only Fair&Lovely, also Garnier and other brands. They promise a light skin tone… No such products should be legal. When I worked in [my company], I read that using those chemicals for a long time, you can get cancer. This was a confidential source, in 2004. … There is another brand name: FEM, from India, it’s actually a bleaching cream. It’s available everywhere in Bangladesh. Usually boys wouldn’t say they use it, but they do. Maybe 80% of users are boys, but [they] won’t admit it. My female friends use those. The creams lighten the facial hairs, which lasts for a day or two. Fair&Lovely is very creamy, a cream coat in the face, so you look lighter, but you go in the sun, and it goes away.
Q: If there are no results, why do they use them?
A: Mental satisfaction. And they believe they will eventually become fairer. One cream is called “Fairever” or something like that. My friend has used it for years, and she feels she can see a difference, but we can’t! …
Q: Did you ever try any of those products?
A: No, I never tried those products, except once, but I got a burning sensation, and I washed it off. It was “Fairever” or something, from India. I wasn’t feeling the wind in my face, I sweated. You’re supposed to keep it on, all times. It leads to problems with your skin—you get pimples, and so on. (32-year-old woman)

In Bangladesh there is no legislation requiring ingredients to be listed on cosmetic product labels, but there are some guidelines. The Minamata Convention provisions for cosmetics have been integrated into the national legislation, but enforcement is insufficient, as skin-lightening creams containing more than the established maximum level of mercury are still on the market (European Environmental Bureau 2018, 42). Shyam B. Verma, a dermatologist in India, points at a problem which seems to also be prevalent in Bangladesh: “Companies manufacturing skin lightening products take advantage of the lax advertising laws and make unsubstantiated claims about their efficacy” (Verma 2010, 465). One of my participants commented on Bangladesh’s lax labeling practices:

There are special bleach products—you may end up getting cancer. …. There is no warning on labels. Many may not even know that they could get cancer. But even when they know it they’ll use [the products] because they cannot handle the pressure. (40-year-old woman)

There are probably many reasons why there is so little focus on the risks associated with skin lightening products. One reason may be that discrimination based on complexion is not usually talked about as a problem, leaving a lot of people suffering in silence. A female participant who self-identifies as kalo (black) told me that she had never before talked openly and in–depth about such discrimination with anyone:

We don’t talk about these things with others. Back home [in Bangladesh] nobody talks about it. You cannot talk about it—not with your friends. I never talked with anyone about this. Not even my [dark-skinned] sister.
Q: Why?
A: We want to pretend the problem is not there.

If discrimination based on skin color is not generally talked about, it may be hard to spark a debate on how to end such discrimination. However, when asked, respondents shared their ideas.

Respondents’ suggestions for how to reduce colorism

The older participants expressed stronger beliefs in education as a change agent, and the younger participants expressed stronger beliefs in popular media, such as the internet and TV. Media of all kinds in South Asia use light-skinned models, actors, and news anchors, to the detriment of dark-skinned people’s self-esteem. Promoting dark-skinned models and actors would be the way to go: “We should have some kind of campaign in Bangladesh, and all over South Asia, [stating] that beauty can come in so many colors.” (39-year-old man).

Not all participants believe it will be possible to create cultural change to such an extent that attitudes about skin color will change. One woman in Bangladesh said that she talks with her young son about these things and try to instill in him a respect for people regardless of their skin tone, but she doesn’t believe that it will be possible to instill such values across the board in Bangladeshi society. Also, she emphasized the social stratification in Bangladesh, by saying:

People will say “you are boro lok (rich, influential people), you can do whatever you want. But we are not rich, we cannot afford to have a dark daughter”. It’s related with poverty, so it’s complicated. (40-year-old woman)

What she implies is that for a poor person, marrying a dark-skinned person may be so costly in terms of future dowry payments to the grooms of your daughters that it will have devastating economic effects for generations to come. Another participant feels there is a difference between urban and rural areas:

A lot has to happen. It has changed a lot though. In the past, dark girls would never get [marriage] proposals. Things are changing. When the older generation dies out, it will change. But in rural areas I don’t know. They don’t know that girls can be beautiful with dark skin tones. (32-year-old woman).

Among the participants in my research, young women who self-identified as kalo (black/dark) had experienced less discrimination in a diasporic setting in the US than in their home country, and one woman said that she had been made to feel content about her own looks while staying here. She said that in the US she is appreciated for who she is, her qualifications, job experience, and so on, without having to worry about receiving negative comments about her skin tone:

I don’t have to be self-conscious anymore. I can be who I am…You don’t feel you’re scrutinized constantly. Here they do not care, that’s the nice thing. …That helped me so much….[Americans] like your skin tone. People are cherishing you. Someone said to me, “Your skin tone is so beautiful. Even if I tan, I would never get the skin color like you have.” (35-year-old woman)

However, aside from this positive anecdote, the mental pain and suffering that seems to be so commonly experienced by dark-skinned people and especially dark-skinned females in Bangladesh, should be given more focus in academia, schools, media and other arenas, with an aim to build more empathy and critical thinking skills to enable people to avoid the brainwashing that the bombardment of comments, advertisements and entertainment amounts to. Everyone should be appreciated for who they are, not what color their skin happens to be.


  • Amreen, N.A. 2019. Bangladesh’s Fair Bride Obsession. Dhaka Tribune, 9 February. [].
  • European Environmental Bureau (EEB). 2018. Mercury-Added Skin Lightening Creams: Available, Inexpensive and Toxic. Zero Mercury Working Group. Brussels, Belgium.
  • Global Industry Analysts. 2018. Obsession with Lighter Skin Tones in Asia, Middle East and Africa Drives Opportunities in the Global Skin Lighteners Market. Global Industry Analysts, Inc. USA. March 2018. []
  • Karan, K. 2008. Obsessions with Fair Skin: Color Discourses in Indian Advertising. Advertising and Society Review, 9 (2): 1-18.
  • Khan, C. 2018. Skin-Lightening Creams Are Dangerous—Yet Business Is Booming. Can the Trade Be Stopped? The Guardian, 23 April. []
  • Kulke, H., and D. Rothermund. 2016. A History of India. Sixth edition. New York: Routledge.
  • Manderson, L., and P. Liamputtong. 2002. Introduction: Youth and Sexuality in Contemporary Asian Societies. In: Coming of Age in South and Southeast Asia: Youth, Courtship and Sexuality, edited by L. Menderson and P. Liamputtong, 1-16. Richmond: Curzon; Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies.
  • Philips, A. 2004. Gendering Colour: Identity, Femininity and Marriage in Kerala. Anthropologica 46: 253-272.
  • Rozario, S. 2002. Poor and Dark, What Is My Future?: Identity Construction and Adolescent Women in Bangladesh. In: Coming of Age in South and Southeast Asia: Youth, Courtship and Sexuality , edited by L. Menderson and P. Liamputtong, 42-57. Richmond: Curzon; Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies.
  • Verma, S.B. 2010. Obsession with Light Skin: Shedding some Light on Use of Skin Lightening Products in India. International Journal of Dermatology 49(4):464-5
  • World Health Organization (WHO) 2011. Preventing Disease Through Healthy Environments. Mercury in Skin Lightening Products. WHO, Geneva, Switzerland. []


Thanks to all my research participants in Bangladesh and in the US who willingly and patiently spent hours sharing their knowledge, perceptions, and experiences. Thanks to Naser Khan and Sakib Adnan for photos, and to Lois Paquette and editor Deborah Popper for proof-reading. Thanks to Naser Khan, Lois Paquette, Adanya Hicks, editor Deborah Popper and the two anonymous reviewers for commenting on the content of the manuscript.