November 27, 2020

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Unilever’s ‘Fair & Lovely’ skin lightener to be renamed after global backlash

After years of backlash, Unilever is dropping the word ‘fair’ from the ‘Fair & Lovely’ skin lightening cream in South Asia. Some say that that move does not go far enough.

Unilever announced a rebranding of the “Fair & Lovely” skin lightening cream in South Asia on Thursday with a decision to drop the word “fair” altogether amidst ongoing backlash over racial prejudice.

While some lauded this move, others referred to it as a “gimmick” that did not resolve the problem, calling for the brand to be pulled from the market.

“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,” said Sunny Jain, president of Unilever’s beauty and personal care division.

While the obsession with fair skin may be seen across Asia, South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan share a complex equation with a light complexion as it is often seen to represent a higher social class.

Advertisements for “Fair & Lovely” regularly feature top Bollywood stars and youth. Until recently, they also featured shade guides to show “improvement” in skin tones, often propagating ideas that women could get better jobs or improved prospects for marriage by using skin lightening products.

Several multinational companies have come under fire for their skin lightening products as the Black Lives Matter movement goes global following the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, in the United States.

“They have to answer for all of this,” said Kavita Krishnan, an activist with the All India Progressive Women’s Association, referring to the “toxic culture” that the company had profited over for years by equating lighter skin tones with beauty, confidence, and success.

“They should be dropping the product,” she said, narrating her own experience where shopkeepers often tried to push such products on her after seeing her dark skin.

Unilever’s India unit, Hindustan Unilever, did not confirm what the new name would be. Records show that the company filed to trademark a logo under the brand name “Glow & Lovely” last week. In recent years, it has also trademarked other brand names like “Even & Lovely”, “Always Lovely”, “Care & Lovely” and “I Am Lovely”.

see/rc (Reuters, AP, AFP) (DW)