Dove Campaign Tackles 'Narrow And Restrictive' Beauty Standards Imposed On Indian Women

'The current face of beauty would be a fair and smooth-skinned woman.'

Despite having more than 631 million female inhabitants, 29 states and 22 languages, beauty standards in India have been branded as "narrow and restrictive".

New research conducted by Dove reveals that 76% of Indian women believe it is critical to live up to certain beauty standards.

"These beauty standards are influenced by Bollywood, media and society of what is termed beautiful," psychologist Varkha Chulani tells The Huffington Post UK.

"Emphasis is on shape of body, colour of skin, shape of eyes, texture of hair."

Dove's new campaign, 'Let’s Break the Rules of Beauty', aims to redefine such ideas of beauty and inspire India to embrace its diversity.

"There is a clear wish for these standards to be widened, as the research shows 67% of Indian women would like to see a more diverse range of beauty represented in the media," Chulani adds.


The new research found that while Indian women and girls were found to be more happy with their life compared to the global total, the pressure to comply to Indian beauty ideals still exists.

The vast majority of Indian women and girls (80% and 77%, respectively) believe that to do well in life they need to look a certain way.

According to Chulani, this pressure leads to low body confidence, with around seven in 10 Indian girls opting out of social activities because they don't feel good about the way they look.

"If women and girls don't believe they are beautiful they miss opportunities in life, whether it is in careers or socially," she adds.

"They lead withdrawn lives and don't step forth to do what makes them happy. They limit their interactions, don't pursue their dreams, feel disengaged, and forego economic advancement as well."

As part of its campaign to change all of this, Dove made a film with 85 Indian women celebrating their own ideas of beauty.

Below, six of the women who starred in the film tell us what they consider to be the current face of Indian beauty and what feature (either inside or out) they are most proud of.

Etkha, 24
"I believe every women who recognises that she has a striking feature, a personality that stands out, is the face of beauty for me.

"I think that my eyes are my favourite features and my boldness and a happy-go-lucky attitude."
Aparna, 37
"After taking part in the Dove campaign, I’ve realised now that we are too diverse to have only one face of beauty in India. For me, somebody who is comfortable with who they are is beautiful.

“I don’t have a particular favourite physical feature, but I like that I am honest with myself in life.”
Mary-Ann, 23
"Although the criteria for what makes one beautiful varies across the country, in general, the current face of beauty would be a fair and smooth-skinned woman with long, silky-smooth, straight hair. I think that this notion of beauty arose from the age-old association of such characteristics with wealth, health and other privileges.

"The media and our society have concretised these notions over the years by repeatedly projecting it as the only face of beauty.

“[My favourite feature] would be my determination to stay true to myself and being independent. I love how being true to myself makes me unique and brings out a confident, radiant smile from within me.

"I just adore how all my physical features come to life and look beautiful when I am being myself and working hard at what I am truly passionate about.”
Gita, 61
“I think every woman in India is beautiful. Our confidence, patience and our ability to shine through in the face of all adversity adds that special glow to our personalities.

"[My favourite feature is] my reassuring smile and my fun, vibrant sense of fashion and style. I love the sarees I wear and always a flower in my hair."
Persis, 24
"The current face of Indian beauty is someone who is fair, thin and tall. All these aspects of her appearance are ranked far higher by society that I think the media should be portraying to the women in India. A step that I think Dove has taken in the right direction.”

"I am in the process of learning to love myself for who I am; my best feature is everything that makes me, me.

"And I look at my flaws (all the millions that I see) and love them even more because they make me who I am. Imperfect.”
“We as a country are still focused on the 'textbook' definition of the perfect Indian girl. Almond shaped eyes, straight and sharp nose, full lips and an hourglass figure.

"My favourite feature is my smile – it’s so natural and contagious. I believe my smile boosts my confidence, and makes me feel good about myself, sharing this feeling with others.”
Serena Willliams

Our Body Image Heroes