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South Asia’s Most Popular Skin Lightening Product to Change Its Name Amid Backlash


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    Growing global support to the Black Lives Matter movement and continued discussions on race and skin color have prompted South Asia’s most popular skin-whitening cream by Unilever to change its name.

    Change in tone: Skin lightening brand Fair & Lovely, which has become popular in India for promoting pale, fair skin as the standard of beauty, recently announced that it is dropping the word “fair” from the brand name. 

    • In recent weeks, two separate petitions urging Fair & Lovely manufacturer Unilever to stop the production of its Fair & Lovely range have been signed by over 18,000 people. 
    • For years, Fair & Lovely has dominated the country’s skin-lightening industry with up to 70% market share.
    • “This product has built upon, perpetuated and benefited from internalized racism and promotes anti-blackness sentiments,” one petition said.
    • “[The cream] tells us that there is something wrong with our color, that we have to be light in order to feel beautiful. In order to feel worthy,” a second petition said.
    • TV commercials from the product line feature successful Bollywood stars who have recently been heavily criticized for perpetuating colorism.

    Beauty standards redefined: Manufacturer Unilever announced the change on Thursday after Johnson & Johnson said it decided to discontinue two of its own skin-lightening products.

    • The brand will also do away with any references to the cream’s whitening or lightening effects. The change will happen “in the next few months,” and will affect the product line sold across Asia.
    •  “We recognize that the use of the words ‘fair,’ ‘white’ and ‘light’ suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we don’t think is right,” Sunny Jain, Unilever’s beauty and personal care division president, said in a statement.
    • He said the move will shift the brand’s emphasis on creating “glow, even tone, skin clarity and radiance.” 


    Adverse reactions: The name change has earned some mixed feedback on social media with some users praising the company while many are pointing out that the product itself is the problem and not just the name.

    • “I have goosebumps as I read this! Kudos to you @Unilever I’m so so so happy rn. And I thank you on behalf of over 10k people who signed my petition for this to happen,” a Twitter user wrote.
    • “Finallllyyy. Best news I got all day Raising hands revolutionary,” shared another.
    • “‘Fair & lovely’ to be rebranded dropping the word ‘fair’. While the attempt is fair (no pun intended), is it really enough? Using the words glow and brighten doesn’t really change what the product was built for. ”…a rose by any other name……” tweeted journalist Avni Raja.
    • “The problem isn’t the name of the product. It’s the fact that skin whitening products exist. The idea that having ‘white’ skin is the highest of beauty standards is saying that all other skin tones are lesser,” wrote another Twitter user.

    Feature Image via TH ADS

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