Consumer goods giant Unilever said on Thursday, it is will drop the word “fair” from its “Fair & Lovely” skin lightening products, in response to the intense global protests against racism sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement.
The company said that in the coming months it will change the name of its dominant and popular “Fair & Lovely” product that is used for skin-lightening and sold in Asia.
“We recognise that the use of the words ‘fair’, ‘white’ and ‘light’ suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we don’t think is right, and we want to address this,” said Sunny Jain, president of Unilever’s beauty and personal care division.
Skin lightening cosmetics have a huge market in South Asia, but their promotion is being questioned, especially in the wake of a global backlash against racial prejudice.
Earlier this month, Johnson & Johnson said it would stop selling skin-whitening creams in Asia and the Middle East, while PepsiCo said it would change the name and brand image of its Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup.
Unilever’s “Fair & Lovely” brand dominates the market in South Asia. Similar products are also sold by L’Oréal and Procter & Gamble (P&G).
In India, the biggest market for “Fair & Lovely”, fairness products have long been endorsed by leading Bollywood celebrities as well as other youth icons.
Adverts have regularly featured two faces showing skin tone transformation, as well as shade guides to show “improvement”.
Unilever’s India unit, in which the company owns a 67% stake, said it had shifted from such marketing in 2019 and would continue to evolve it to feature women of different skin tones.
Several users on Twitter applauded the move, though some said it was too little, too late.
“This is a big win, but it’s only the beginning,” Nina Davuluri, who in 2014 became the first Indian American to be crowned Miss America, told Reuters.
“While Unilever removing words such as ‘fair, white, & lightening,’ and changing the … brand name is a step towards inclusion, it’s only one piece of a much larger fight to end colorism.”
Davuluri on Tuesday wrote an open letter to Unilever CEO Alan Jope, urging him to stop production of the products.
The name change is subject to regulatory approvals, Unilever’s India unit, Hindustan Unilever, said. It declined to say what the new name would be.
Public records indicate Hindustan Unilever last week filed an application to trademark a logo for soaps, creams, shampoos and other products under the brand name “Glow & Lovely”.
In 2018, the company also registered trademarks to market skincare and haircare products under the brand names “Even & Lovely”, “Always Lovely”, “Care & Lovely” and “I Am Lovely”, among others.
Separately, a source at L’Oréal in India said the French company was also having discussions in view of the backlash.
L’Oréal India declined to comment. L’Oréal in France did not respond to an e-mail seeking immediate comment.
P&G declined to comment. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)