Unilever’s skin-lightening brand in India faces renewed questions

As a slew of companies rethink their branding amid global demonstrations for racial justice, Unilever is facing renewed pressure to stop selling skin-lightening creams in India and elsewhere in Asia.

The multinational consumer goods company’s Fair & Lovely brand has sparked an outcry on social media and a wave of petitions calling on Unilever to stop making and selling the product, including one with nearly 13,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. Petitioners claim the products, long a source of controversy, promote racism by depicting lighter-skinned people as “confident and successful,” while those with darker skins are portrayed as insecure.

An Instagram post from Unilever two weeks ago in support of racial justice drew criticism and calls to boycott its products, with one commenter writing, “All this while you make millions from whitening cream? Double standards to say the least #boycottunilever.”

The product line reportedly generates more than $ 500 million in annual sales for Unilever. Unilever, the owner of Dove’s soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, among other brands, did not respond to requests for comment.

Other companies have recently announced plans to change the branding of products that portray minorities in harmful ways. Dreyer’s said it would change the name of the popular Eskimo Pie ice cream after nearly 100 years, calling it “derogatory.” Quaker Oats said it will rebrand Aunt Jemima, and the companies that make Uncle Ben’s, Mrs. Butterworth’s and Cream of Wheat are reviewing their brands.

On Friday, Johnson & Johnson said it would discontinue two lines of skin-lightening products popular in Asia: the Neutrogena Fine Fairness line, sold in Asia and the Middle East, and the Clean & Clear Fairness line, sold solely in India.

Quaker Oats retiring Aunt Jemima name and image after 131 years

“Conversations over the past few weeks highlighted that some product names or claims on our Dark Spot Reducer products represent fairness or white as better than your own unique skin tone. This was never our intention — healthy skin is beautiful skin,” Johnson & Johnson said in an emailed statement.

In Asia, commercials advertising Neutrogena Fine Fairness touted how the product’s ability to help users “whiten more thoroughly.” Neutrogena also has promoted a serum as one that “doubles your skin’s whitening power.”

Neutrogena Fine Fairness (English Subtitle) bymayjuigiuig on YouTube

The products represent less than 1% of its 2019 global beauty sales, according to Johnson & Johnson.

Band-Aid, another Johnson & Johnson brand, last week said it would start selling bandages to match non-white skin tones.

“We are committed to launching a range of bandages in light, medium and deep shades of Brown and Black skin tones that embrace the beauty of diverse skin,” the company said in an Instagram post. “We promise that this is just the first among many steps together in the fight against systemic racism.⁣”

The company first tried selling bandages with varying skin tones in 2005 but stopped due to lack of demand.

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Moneywatch – CBSNews.com

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