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Unilever drops ‘whitening,’ rename Fair & Lovely lightening products



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Unilever, the multinational consumer goods company, announced Thursday that it will remove terms like “whitening’’ from its skin care products and rename its “Fair & Lovely” skin lightening products as accusations of racial prejudice against the company have intensified, 

A British/Dutch company, Unilever owns Dove soap and advertising for that product also has sparked controversy.

In 2017, a three-second video on Facebook showed a Black woman removing a brown T-shirt to reveal a white woman underneath, suggesting Dove Body Wash had cleansed her.

Unilever took down the ad and apologized. But the company’s reputation for insensitive advertising has persisted before the company announced changes Thursday in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and a global outcry for racial equality.

“We are fully committed to having a global portfolio of skin care brands that is inclusive and cares for all skin tones, celebrating greater diversity of beauty,’’ Sunny Jain, Unilever’s president of beauty & personal care, said in a news release posted on the company’s website. “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.

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

Major companies have faced increased scrutiny for the handling of racial issues. Unilever’s announcement comes three days after Johnson & Johnson disclosed it would discontinue two lines of skin-lightening products popular in Asia. Sunil Bhatia, chair of the Human Development Department at Connecticut College, said Unilever’s decision to rename Fair & Lovely is not enough.

“Calling skin lightening products by another name is just another marketing gimmick,’’ said Bhatia, who does research on globalization, migration, and racial identity formation. “Any product that reinforces a preference for light or fair skin should be banned because it keeps systemic racism and casteism in place.’’

Skin bleaching ads have a history

In the cosmetic industry, the history of advertising showing preference for white skin dates to at least 1940, when a brand of skin bleaching sold by Lucky Brown showed a woman’s skin color change to white from brown after the cream was applied.

In recent weeks, Unilever has drawn criticism on social media and through online petitions for its whitening cream, which has been on the market since 1975. The product is among those viewed as portraying lighter-skinned women as more beautiful than darker-skinned women.

Earlier this week, AIDS-Free World tweeted, “@Unilever has consistently undermined the mental and physical health and welfare of women and girls through the production, advertising, and sale of various “skin-lightening” creams, contributing to colorism and racism in many countries.’’

Unilever disputes that Fair & Lovely is a skin bleaching product. The company says the product is designed to improve skin barrier function, improve skin firmness and smoothen skin texture – all of which help enhance radiance and glow, as represented in advertising and communication.

Unilever also touted a “more inclusive vision of beauty that celebrates and cares for all skin tones’’ and cited its plan to change the name of Fair & Lovely.

“We have changed the advertising, communication and – more recently – the packaging in South Asia, and we think it’s important that we now share the next step that we have been working on: changing the brand name,’’ Jain said. “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 want Fair & Lovely to become a brand that celebrates glowing and radiant skin, regardless of skin tone.”

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/06/25/unilever-to-stop-promoting-whitening-rename-fair-lovely-lightening-products/3258532001/



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