It was only in the 1980s, they found, that physical beauty, with a particular focus on skin colour, emerged as the dominant ideal. Levashni Naidoo, a senior dermatologist at a popular Durban skin clinic, says she she often sees parents who have brought along their children to inquire about skin lightening.
The 1990s later ushered in the era of the "super-bride"' and, they write, "fair-skinned complexion became a form of social capital for females in attracting males". "Some of them already have severe skin damage from previous skin-lightening products," she told Huff Post SA.
The media further taps into the insecurities of the individual and becomes part of a larger system that promotes self-hatred, low self-esteem and self-loathing.
"The women rarely ask about a man's skin colour." The pressure to be fair-skinned, it seems, falls mainly on women.
Adverts on Indian marriage websites and in local newspapers like The Post are filled with men seeking wives with "fair to wheatish" complexions. Preference for light-skinned women is a relatively recent phenomenon among Indians globally.
"It shows that people are not comfortable in their own skin and that they believe that being fair makes them more attractive and opens up more opportunities.
In certain Indian communities for instance, it is believed that the prospects for marriage are enhanced by fair skin.