Unilever faces calls to scrap skin lightening products

Published June 26, 2020
“Fair & Lovely” brand of skin lightening products are seen on the shelf of a consumer store in New Delhi, India on June 25, 2020. — Reuters
“Fair & Lovely” brand of skin lightening products are seen on the shelf of a consumer store in New Delhi, India on June 25, 2020. — Reuters

NEW DELHI: Unilever is facing calls to scrap a range of skin lightening products in South Asia, where critics said a rebranding announced on Thursday was a “gimmick” that did not fully resolve the problem.

“Fair & Lovely” products are sold across Asia, but the brand has long been criticised as perpetuating negative racial stereotypes and the company has faced intensified pressure in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

On Thursday, Unilever announced it was dropping the word “fair” from the name, a move applauded by some but criticised by others, with many people on social media in India saying it did not go far enough.

One Twitter user urged the company to “pull the plug on the product”, while another said if the brand was “targeting the same set of people even with a different name, it doesn’t become any less problematic”, calling the change “a gimmick”.

A spokeswoman for the company said it was removing all references to whitening and lightening from its branding and that the name change was “not the end destination”.

“We will also continue to evolve our advertising, to feature women of different skin tones, representative of the variety of beauty across India and other countries. We are fully committed to caring for and celebrating all skin tones,” she said.

After years of criticism and campaigns against such products, many brands moved to calling them “skin brightening”, “whitening” or “lightening” creams and face washes. Unilever said it would remove the words “fair/fairness”, “white/whitening”, and “light/lightening” from all its products and rename “Fair & Lovely” in the next few months.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2020

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