Unilever will no longer use the name "Fair and Lovely" for one of its signature international skin whitening brands following a BuzzFeed News investigation.
In a statement, the consumer products giant said: “We’re committed to a skin care portfolio that's inclusive of all skin tones, celebrating the diversity of beauty. That’s why we’re removing the words ‘fairness’, ‘whitening’ and ‘lightening’ from products, and changing the Fair & Lovely brand name.”
BuzzFeed News identified various companies that had publicly declared support for the Black Lives Matter movement and made commitments to support the anti-racism effort but continued to sell skin lightening products. The products are aimed at nonwhite consumers with large demand in countries like India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria, and Ghana.
Among them was Unilever, which initially posted on its Instagram: “We have a responsibility for racial justice,” saying it had pledged “more than $1 million to date” in donations to social justice organizations and activists.
The post was immediately met with criticism as users online accused the company of hypocrisy given its legacy of marketing skin whitening products primarily at women.
In response, Unilever unveiled its vision to “evolve” its skincare portfolio after admitting that the current language used reinforces colorism in various communities, a worldview that suggests that lighter skin is better, because of its proximity to whiteness.
Sunny Jain, president of beauty and personal care at Unilever, said: “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, 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.”
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a representative for the company confirmed that the change to the brand will be “across all markets where the brand is sold as Fair & Lovely” but there would be “no changes to formulation.”
The decision to drop the name "Fair & Lovely’ from the brand but keep the product has been met with criticism.
One user online wrote: “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.”
The company responded by clarifying that their products did not contain “hydroquinone or bleach,” two of the most commonly used ingredients linked with skin bleaching and various side effects including thinning of the skin, and damage to vital organs.
There are presently two petitions calling on the product to be discontinued, with one saying: “This product has built upon, perpetuated and benefited from internalized racism and promotes anti-blackness sentiments amongst all its consumers.”
Another expressed how the brand had set the bar for beauty standards. Organizers wrote: “Fair & Lovely 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.”
Unilever confirmed that it had no plans to alter the formulation or remove the product from the market, instead insisting that it would continue to serve “consumer needs responsibly” and “offer a safe and effective product for healthy glowing skin.”