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Snow White

It is being called "Snow White syndrome" in India, a market where sales of whitening creams are far outstripping those of Coca-Cola and tea.

India also has the world's second most lucrative marriage industry - the first being neighbouring China - that has grown to a whopping $40bn a year spent on weddings, dowries, jewellery etc.

And demand for fair-complexioned brides and grooms to grace these occasions is as high as ever

Fuelling this demand are the country's 75-odd reality TV shows where being fair, lovely and handsome means instant stardom.

As a result, the Indian whitening cream market is expanding at a rate of nearly 18% a year. The country's largest research agency, AC Nielsen, estimates that figure will rise to about 25% this year - and the market will be worth an estimated $432m, an all-time high.

With the Indian middle class expected to increase 10-fold to 583 million people by 2025, it looks as if things will only get better for the cream makers.

But there have been questions by medical experts about the effect of these creams on the skin.

Brand ambassador

The implicit assumption by many is this: the whiter the skin, the more attractive you are.

Fair and Handsome cream
India's skin-lightening cream industry gets ever more lucrative

John Abraham, a top Indian actor and model, says: "Indian men want to look better."

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