- Ben Parr, co-founder of marketing firm Octane AI, said given the global reach of these companies, such efforts may set important precedents to fight racism and discrimination across the industry.
- "The moves by these global corporations will continue to drive global impact that the Black Lives Matter movement has started," Parr told Business Insider. "I think that you will probably see a permanent decrease in interest in skin-lightening products worldwide as the world reckons with racism in beauty."
- We took a closer look at the skin-lightening reckoning happening at these companies and what it means for the future.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories .
In the past week alone, several major consumer packaged goods and cosmetics conglomerates announced plans to pull skin-lightening creams from shelves and remove words like "whitening," "lightening," and "fair" from existing products that valorize lighter skin. Their efforts come on the heels of global protests over the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police officers and mounting international support for the Black Lives Matter movement, prompting changes across nearly every industry.
For the beauty industry, the push had been a long time coming. In November 2019, Amazon removed skin-lightening products from its website after criticism over toxic chemicals in such products and their inherently racist nature. Meanwhile, the cosmetics industry has long been the target of controversy for its lack of inclusivity in products that fail to represent a wide range of skin tones and types.
Ben Parr, co-founder of marketing firm Octane AI, said while it's not surprising that these companies are reconsidering problematic products like skin-lighteners, it could set an important precedent that may prompt widespread industry change given their global scope.
"The moves by these global corporations will for sure continue to drive global impact that the Black Lives Matter movement has started," Parr told Business Insider, citing demonstrations that erupted around the world. "I think that you will probably see a permanent decrease in interest in skin-lightening products worldwide as the world reckons with racism in beauty."
We took a closer look at how these companies are changing, below.
Nasir Kachroo/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Unilever announced last week that it will change the name of its Fair & Lovely skin-lightening cream, while also removing the terms fair/fairness, white/whitening, and light/lightening across the brand portfolio.
The company removed before-and-after imagery from its packaging in 2019, at which point it started to shift "all communication of product benefits towards glow, even tone, skin clarity and radiance," according to a press release.
"We think it's important that we now share the next step that we have been working on: changing the brand name," Sunny Jain, Unilever's president of beauty & personal care, said in a press statement. "We want Fair & Lovely to become a brand that celebrates glowing and radiant skin, regardless of skin tone."
Johnson & Johnson
Clean & Clear, Neutrogena/Amazon
Johnson & Johnson took its reckoning one step further by discontinuing skin-lightening products from its portfolio, including Neutrogena Fine Fairness in Asia and the Middle East, as well as Clean & Clear's Clear Fairness sold in India.
"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," the company said in a statement given to Reuters . "This was never our intention healthy skin is beautiful skin."
After Amazon received a petition with more than 23,000 signatures calling for the removal of skin-lightening products, the e-commerce company removed them from the site in 2019. Led by the Minnesota branches of the BeautyWell Project and the Sierra Club, the effort called upon Amazon to pull products that the groups had discovered to be toxic, with high mercury levels.
According to the Associated Press, the BeautyWell Project and the Sierra Club took out a full-page advertisement in a local newspaper calling the selling of such products "dangerous, racist, and illegal."
L'Oreal became the latest company to reassess its skin-lightening products, sharing in a statement on June 27 that it will remove fair/fairness, white/whitening, and light/lightening from products.
The cosmetics company had already come under scrutiny for discrimination against Munroe Bergdorf, a Black transgender model who alleged the company fired her for speaking out against racism in 2017. Bergdorf has since forged a new partnership with the company after having a series of discussions with L'Oreal about the incident.
"Thank you everyone for having my back with this matter over the past three years, it hasn't been easy," she wrote on Instagram. "Looking forward to new beginnings and a new positive relationship with the L'Oreal team."
As one of the largest beauty companies in the world, Parr of Octane AI said it could help set the precedent for competitors that have long been criticized for discrimination in product development.
"The things that people tolerated a month ago, they will no longer tolerate," he said. "We're already seeing this in other ways, like finally changing the Mississippi state flag after 100 years, but I think [brands like L'Oreal] have made leading moves by making these decisions and removing lightening products, and we'll see a lot more of this happening with other beauty companies."
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