Cosmetics Firms STILL Promote Skin ‘Whitening’ Despite Rebranding


Many major skincare brands, including Nivea, Pond’s, Unilever, and L’Oreal, made commitments to stop using words like “whitening” and “fairness” during the Black Lives Matter movement. While the companies kept their word in the West, clients in other parts of the world continue to be marketed things that associate beauty with whiteness, reports CNN Style.

Turning point for the cosmetic industry

As the Black Lives Matter movement boosted demands for racial justice in the US and elsewhere in 2020, a string of business announcements seemed to herald a turning point for the cosmetic industry.

Consumers were quick to draw attention to the discrepancy between multinationals’ public comments and their ongoing promotion of creams, serums, and lotions claiming to “whiten” customers’ skin as they came under public pressure to support racial equality. In response, a number of significant skincare producers promised to update their product offerings and branding.

In Asia and the Middle East, Johnson & Johnson declared it will completely discontinue marketing skin-whitening products. L’Oréal pledged to take “whitening” and “fair” out of its product lines. In response to the mounting outcry, Unilever recently changed the name of its contentious Fair & Lovely brand, which focuses on South Asia, to Glow and Lovely.

Beiersdorf AG, the company that owns Nivea, likewise disassociated itself from the terms “whitening” and “fair,” telling Allure magazine that it was doing an “in-depth study” into its “product offering and marketing strategy.” The German corporation informed CNN last year that it has reviewed its communications and will stop them if they “do not embrace the complexions of our diverse client base,” after carefully considering the results of comprehensive consumer research.

These were modest but vital moves taken by campaigners to rewrite industrial narratives that often associate beauty and success and happiness with whiteness. Indeed, if you visit any of the websites for big global cosmetic companies from the US or Europe today, it would appear that there are no specific allusions to skin tone.

However, if you connect from Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, it’s a different scenario.

Conscious rebranding 

For example, L’Oréal’s Singapore platform still actively promotes creams and serums with “excellent whitening” qualities, while its website for Indian customers has a moisturizer called “White Activ.” While recent social media advertisements in mainland China promised a “whitening miracle” and “mild whitening, like the wind of spring blowing across your face,” the brand in Hong Kong, where the Chinese term for whitening simply combines the words “white” and “beautiful,” suggests using a whitening mask as part of its “tips for a peachy complexion.” A similar term, “bihaku,” which also combines the words “white” and “beautiful,” is frequently employed in Japan to describe and market goods.

Additionally, even within the same region, Unilever seemed to be speaking to various demographic groups in distinct ways. Consider one of its most well-known skincare companies, Pond’s, whose English US website does not contain the word “whitening,” but whose Spanish version did up until the media contacted the company for comment on the page. Customers can purchase a variety of items marked “White Beauty” in Thailand, including sunscreen and facial cleanser.

Additionally, even though Fair & Lovely has changed its name to Glow & Lovely, lighter-skinned South Asian women are still frequently featured on the product’s packaging, and Unilever is still selling “Intense Whitening” face wash to clients in India under the Lakmé brand. Although it is promoted as a sunscreen in the Philippines, the conglomerate has kept with the name Block & White for a line that, up until recently, boasted of its “intensive whitening” qualities and “5-in-1 Whitening Essentials” composition.

Amina Mire, who has spent the last 20 years studying the skin-whitening market, thinks that continued advertising of cosmetics that claim to lighten consumers’ skin is evidence that non-Western markets are still “too attractive” for international corporations to take more significant action. The sociology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, acknowledges that recent business pronouncements are “100% a step in the right way,” but believes that multinational corporations would “not make any concessions — or at least very little concession — in the Asian market.”

Because consumers in many of these areas “demand” specific promises that the products lighten skin, Mire asserts that firms would oppose calls to moderate slogans used to target women outside of the West.

Deleting the phrase ‘whitening’

L’Oréal said in a statement that while it has “made modifications” to its product lines, “this transition is not fully complete across all markets and materials due to manufacturing timelines as well as product registration and certification procedures.”

The company is “committed and focused on deleting the phrase ‘whitening’ as quickly as feasible in all markets,” the representative continued. Additionally, the corporation claimed that the use of phrases like “bihaku” is restricted in East Asian nations and that these markets typically use these terms to describe skin tones that are even, radiant, and devoid of blemishes.

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Source: CNN Style