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Fair and Lovely

Unilever is changing the name of its ‘Fair & Lovely’ skin care brand


TextAlex Peters

The move comes as brands worldwide begin to reckon with racially-insensitive products

Unilever has announced it will be rebranding its skin-lightening skincare range ‘Fair & Lovely,’ which has been widely criticised for promoting stereotypes that fair skin is more desirable.

As brands worldwide begin to reckon with racially-insensitive products, the Indian arm of the global consumer giant said it would drop the word ‘Fair’ from the name of the brand.

“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,” Sunny Jain, president Beauty & Personal Care, said in a statement. “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.”

As well as the name change, Unilever has committed to changing the advertising and packaging around the Fair & Lovely brand to be more representative of women of different skin tones. Rather than promote the products as skin lightening, the brand will be focusing on the benefits of “glowing and radiant skin.”

Fair & Lovely has long been criticised for upholding and promoting fair skin ideals and perpetuating colourism within its Asian market. A petition calling on Unilever to stop selling its Fair & Lovely product was signed by over 13,000 people in the past two weeks. “This product has built upon, perpetuated and benefited from internalised racism and promotes anti-blackness sentiments among all its consumers,” the petition writes. “Colourism, discrimination based on the colour of your skin, is a direct by-product of racism affecting millions of people today, that fairness creams such as Fair & Lovely continue to advance.”

In its statement, Unilever stress that Fair & Lovely has never been a skin bleaching product but recognises that in the past advertising from the brand has contributed to negative stereotypes related to darker skin tones. “Fair & Lovely upholds principles that no association should be made between skin tone and a person’s achievement, potential or worth,” the statement reads. “We are aware that historic advertising is available on the internet; these ads are not aligned with the current values of the brand.”

Unilever says its pledge to stop using the words ‘white/whitening’, ‘light/lightening’ or ‘fair/fairness’ will be a policy extended to all of its beauty and personal care brands. Beauty brands currently owned by Unilever include Dove, Simple, and Vaseline.

This move comes just days after another consumer giant, Johnson & Johnson, announced it would no longer sell products that have been used by some consumers to lighten skin tones. Both Neutrogena’s Fine Fairness range and Clear Fairness by Clean & Clear which were sold in Asia and the Middle East are being discontinued. 

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