Unilever drops the “fair and charming” name of skin lightening products

“This product has built on, perpetuated, and benefited from internalized racism and promotes anti-black sentiment among all of its consumers.”

Posted June 25, 2020 at 3:02 pm ET

Unilever will no longer use the name “Fair and Lovely” for one of its international skin whitening brands following an investigation by BuzzFeed News.

In a statement, the consumer products giant said: “We are committed to a skincare portfolio that includes all skin tones, celebrating diversity of beauty. That is why we are removing the words ‘fairness’, ‘whitening’ and ‘lightening’ from products, and changing the Fair & Lovely brand. ”

BuzzFeed News identified several companies that had publicly declared their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and pledged to support the anti-racism effort, but continued to sell skin lightening products. The products are aimed at non-white consumers in high demand in countries such as India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria and Ghana.

Among them was Unilever, who initially posted on her Instagram: “We have a responsibility for racial justice,” and said she had pledged “more than $ 1 million to date” in donations to social justice organizations and activists.

The post was immediately criticized as online users accused the company of hypocrisy given its legacy of marketing skin whitening products primarily to women.

In response, Unilever unveiled its vision to “evolve” its portfolio of skin care products after admitting that the current language used reinforces colorism in multiple communities, a world view that suggests lighter skin is better, due to its proximity to whiteness.

Sunny Jain, president of beauty and personal care at Unilever, said: “We recognize that the use of the words ‘fair’, ‘white’ and ‘light’ suggests a unique ideal of beauty that we do not believe is correct, and we want to address this. .

“As we evolve the way we communicate the skin benefits of our products that deliver radiant and even skin, it’s also important to change the language we use.”

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a company representative confirmed that the change to the brand will be “in all markets where the brand is sold as Fair & Lovely”, but there will be “no change in formulation.”

The decision to remove the “Fair & Lovely” name from the brand but retain the product has been criticized.

An online user wrote: “The problem is not the name of the product. It is the fact that there are products for skin whitening. The idea that having “white” skin is the highest of beauty standards is to say that all other skin tones are minor. “

The company responded by clarifying that its products did not contain “hydroquinone or bleach,” two of the most widely used ingredients related to skin whitening and various side effects, including thinning of the skin and damage to vital organs.

There are currently two petitions requesting the suspension of the product, and one says: “This product has been based, perpetuated, and has benefited from internalized racism and promotes anti-black sentiment among all its consumers.”

Another expressed how the brand had set the standard for beauty standards. The organizers wrote: “Fair & Lovely tells us that there is something wrong with our color, that we must be light to feel beautiful. To feel worthy. “

Unilever confirmed that it had no plans to alter the formulation or withdraw the product from the market, insisting that it would continue to meet “consumer needs responsibly” and “offer a safe and effective product for radiant and healthy skin.”