Unilever’s India unit, Hindustan Unilever, has announced it will drop the word “fair” from its ‘Fair & Lovely’ line of skin lightening products as corporations face a growing backlash for selling products that promote discrimination based on skin colour.
The company said in a statement it is on a “journey towards a more inclusive vision of beauty”. Skin lightening products are popular in South and Southeast Asia, where lighter skin is held up as a beauty ideal.
But beauty standards have once again been thrust under scrutiny in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and people are pushing back against colourism in the industry, forcing corporations to review their products.
In a statement, Sunny Jain, president of Unilever’s beauty and personal care division, said: “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.”
Hindustan Unilever’s chairman, Sanjiv Mehta, said in a separate statement that the company is seeking to make its skin care portfolio “more inclusive” and to “lead the celebration of a more diverse portrayal of beauty”.
“The new name is awaiting regulatory approvals, and the pack with the revised name will be available in the market in the next few months.”
The Fair & Lovely product line dominates the market in South Asia for similar products, which are also sold by L’oreal and Procter & Gamble. In the UK, consumers have been warned to stay away from skin lightening creams “at all costs” as the formulations can “act like a paint stripper”.
The decision follows Johnson & Johnson’s announcement earlier this week to discontinue two lines of skin lightening products which are popular in Asia.
Johnson & Johnson will no longer sell the Neutrogena Fine Fairness line and the Clean & Clear Fairness line. The Neutrogena line is sold only in Asia and the Middle East, while the Clean & Clear line is sold only in India.
Advertisements promoting skin whitening have long featured two faces with different skin tones in a transformation from dark to light, as well as shade guides to show “improvement”.
Hindustan Unilever said it had done away with those images in its advertising in 2019 and “will continue to evolve its advertising to feature women of different skin tones, representative of the variety of beauty across India”. It did not specify what the new name of the product would be.