Unilever announced on Tuesday that the British-Dutch company, which makes a variety of consumer goods ranging from energy drinks to personal care products, would be renaming its Fair & Lovely skin lightening cream in favor of a “more inclusive vision of beauty.”
In a statement on the Unilever website, the company explained that it was in the process of removing the terms “fair/fairness,” “white/whitening” and “light/lightening” from its wares. Sunny Jain, president of Unilever’s Beauty & Personal Care unit, emphasised that Unilever was “fully committed to having a global portfolio of skin care brands that is inclusive and cares for all skin tones, celebrating greater diversity of beauty.”
“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,” Jain said. “We have changed the advertising, communication and — more recently – the packaging [of Fair & Lovely] in South Asia, and we think it’s important that we now share the next step that we have been working on: changing the brand name. We will also continue to evolve our advertising, to feature women of different skin tones, representative of the variety of beauty across India and other countries.”
The statement stopped short of revealing Fair & Lovely’s new name, but clarified that it “will be shared once several legal and regulatory requirements are met in each country where the brand is available.”
Fair & Lovely is primarily sold in India, Pakistan and Indonesia, according to the product section of the Unilever website, which as of Tuesday still listed the cream as “an iconic brand that has championed the deepest ambitions and desires of women.” An ad for the cream uploaded to YouTube in 2011 shows a woman’s skin tone noticeably lightening after using it, and Unilever addressed such “historic advertising” in its statement by pointing out that such commercials were “not aligned with the current values of the brand.”
Unilever’s decision comes nearly a week after Johnson & Johnson announced that it would stop selling similar products in its lineup that were only distributed in Asia and the Middle East, going by the names “Neutrogena Fine Fairness” and “Clear Fairness.”
Social media reactions to the announcement were mixed, with supporters applauding Unilever’s move and detractors arguing that a name change would not address the underlying reality of skin whitening creams remaining popular in countries such as India. Others pointed out that recent racial injustice protests connected with the Black Lives Matter movement were the likely impetus for the change.
Multiple Bollywood celebrities, including stars such as Priyanka Chopra, Sonam Kapoor and Disha Patani, were hit with criticism of selective activism in early June for applauding the Black Lives Matter movement and promoting equality, despite previously serving as brand ambassadors for whitening creams in India. A Unilever Instagram post on June 3 stating that the company had “a responsibility for racial justice” was met with similar critique, with a number of commentators pointing out that the company’s words rang hollow while it was still selling creams designed to alter the shade of one’s skin.