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  • L’Oreal and other companies have been criticised over skin-lightening products.

    L’Oreal and other companies have been criticised over skin-lightening products. | Photo: AFP

Published 27 June 2020
Opinion

The announcement comes against the backdrop of global anti-racism protests.

French cosmetic giant L'Oreal has announced Saturday that it will remove words like “whitening” from its products, as global anti-racism protests continue around the world.

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The world's largest cosmetic company said in a statement that it “has decided to remove the words ‘white/whitening,’ ‘fair/fairness,’ ‘light/lightening’ from all its skin evening products.”

Paris-based L'Oreal made the decision in the wake of global protests against racism, which were sparked after the killing of George Floyd in the U.S. last month, and exposed the reality of structural racism in all areas of the society.

The announcement also follows the decision on Thursday by the Indian and Bangladeshi arms of Unilever to rename their locally marketed “Fair and Lovely” skin-lightening cream for the same reason.

Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever –which reportedly earned $500 million from the product in India last year– said it would stop using the word “fair” in the name as the brand was “committed to celebrating all skin tones.”

Earlier in June, L’Oreal faced criticism after tweeting that it “stands in solidarity with the Black community and against injustice of any kind. Speaking out is worth it.”

The social media post drew a negative response from people who claimed the company’s business model and advertising has long focused on white consumers.

For her part, Munroe Bergdof, who was L’Oreal UK’s first openly transgender model, accused the company of hypocrisy for having fired her in 2017 for decrying “the racial violence of white people.”

"As an activist, part of my work is to encourage big businesses to understand their responsibility with regards to diversity and inclusion," Bergdorf said in a statement.

After the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement, large companies in the beauty industry have been accused of promoting, for a long time, "whitening" through their products, thus fueling the idea of a totally white beauty model.

So that, several U.S. companies were literally forced to speak out, even change their visual identity, such as Mars, which says it plans to develop its Uncle Ben’s brand, which uses a caricature of an African American man as its logo.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson said last week it would also stop selling some Neutrogena and Clean & Clear products, advertised as dark-spot reducers in Asia and the Middle East.

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