Colourism in the South Asian community has been around for centuries. But with Unilever dropping the word ‘fair’ from their skin lightening cream ‘Fair and Lovely’, and Asian matchmaking website Shaadi.com removing its skin tone option, could this be a sign that society is finally starting to change?
Faryaal Hussain, 31, owner and formulator of a luxury skincare company, Zahmeen Ltd, is no stranger to colourism and welcomes these changes – but says there’s still much more that needs to be done. In fact, her experience with colourism is the very thing that inspired her to set up her business and empower other women to accept and love the skin they are in.
“Growing up in the South Asian community where girls of a darker skin hue were seen to be less beautiful and not deserving enough of the same opportunities as their fairer counterparts affected my confidence growing up – I know this has affected millions of other women too,” said Faryaal.
“Sadly we are brought up in a culture where a colour complex is constantly reinforced from childhood to adolescence. For too long, we have allowed this discrimination to fester in our communities and influence our social dynamics, so I’m glad to see that some changes are being made following the BLM movement. However, women are still constantly bombarded with billboards and TV adverts promoting whitening creams which is unacceptable.”
A victim of colourism herself, Faryaal established her beauty brand Zaheem Ltd in 2018 with the aim of empowering women of all colours to love and accept their skin, by boosting confidence through her natural based skin products. Initially she began making products for friends and family from her kitchen table in Essex, but due to their popularity she quickly scaled her business and premises to meet demands from across the world.
“As a Pakistani Muslim woman, I was always made to feel ‘not good enough’ due to my darker hue. When I was younger, I thought lightening creams were my only option but I soon realised that I shouldn’t have to change to fit in with society – it’s society that needs to change.
“My products are inspired by the natural beauty secrets used by our ancestors, often lost through the generations. I use only pure, natural ingredients obtained from the source to enhance complexions and give the skin a beautiful glow. I want women to realise that we are all beautiful regardless of our colour. I also wanted to prove that darker skinned, married Muslim women like me can also be successful and are built for more than just the kitchen or to reproduce.”
Before launching her business, Faryaal’s story was very different. She had a successful career in retail management and was a private university law tutor but was pressured to leave that behind to conform to the societal norm in her community – a stay at home cook and housewife. Pressures to conform to society’s outdated expectations led her to develop debilitating anxiety and depression, which resulted in seizures.
“My drive for launching Zahmeen Ltd was so much more than for financial gain – I wanted to break free of the cultural expectations that were restricting me and many other women in the South Asian community.
“Having my 2 children and starting a new business gave me the strength to carry on in some very dark times. Depression and anxiety affected everything I did – I was unable to work and unable to function normally at times.” said Faryaal.
The Essex mumpreneur prides herself on being a role model to other women, empowering them to chase their dreams – particularly those oppressed by gender, cultural and religious stereotypes. She uses her growing social media platform to uplift and encourage females feeling trapped in cultural practices
Zahmeen Ltd has also had her best months yet thanks to lockdown – with online sales reaching 13k in revenue, surging 150% from previous months.