Now that everything in the world is being examined under a new lens and being tested for any signs of implied racism, support for the Confederacy or other sins of the mind, nothing should really surprise us anymore. But I’ll confess that I didn’t see this one coming. The Associated Press is reporting that leading manufacturers of cosmetics are now renaming or pulling from the shelves their various lines of “whitening creams.” These products apparently produce a lightening effect on the user’s skin color. One of the largest players in this market is Unilever, with its “Fair & Lovely” brand of skincare products. Other manufacturers have their own competing offerings. But now it’s 2020, so these products need to either disappear or undergo some rapid rebranding.
Following decades of pervasive advertising promoting the power of lighter skin, a re-branding is hitting shelves globally. But it’s unlikely that fresh marketing by the world’s biggest brands in beauty will reverse deeply rooted prejudices around “colorism,” the idea that fair skin is better than dark skin.
Unilever said it is removing words like “fair”, “white” and “light” from its marketing and packaging, explaining the decision as a move toward “a more inclusive vision of beauty.” Unilever’s Indian subsidiary, Hindustan Unilever Limited, said the Fair & Lovely brand will instead be known as “Glow & Lovely.”
French cosmetics giant L’Oreal followed suit, saying it too would remove similar wording from its products. Johnson & Johnson said it will stop selling Neutrogena’s fairness and skin-whitening lines altogether.
I must lead even more of a sheltered life than I’d previously thought because I’d never even heard of these products. Nor was I aware that you can use chemicals to artificially “lighten” your skin tone. I’d been under the impression that such things were determined by the amount of melanin in your skin, so I’m still unsure how these products are doing what they allegedly do.