Cosmetic companies to remove words like ‘fair’ and ‘whitening’ from skin products

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Many cosmetic companies are rethinking their strategies to market skin products, removing words that reference race or whiteness amid increased awareness of systemic racism.

Some say it’s contradictory for companies that have promoted fair skin and skin whitening products while others welcome small changes that come on the heel of mass protests in the United States and a movement of actively denouncing racism.

French cosmetic giant L’Oréal announced that they would remove words such as “whitening” or “fair” from products:

The company said in a statement that they had “decided to remove the words white/whitening, fair/fairness, light/lightening from all its skin evening products.”

L’Oréal recently came under heavy criticism by British model Munroe Bergdorf for the company’s statement condemning racism and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. She explained that the company had fired her in 2017 for speaking out about systemic racism.

“You dropped me from a campaign in 2017 and threw me to the wolves for speaking out about racism and white supremacy. With no duty of care, without a second thought,” she tweeted on June 1.

“I had to fend for myself being torn apart by the world’s press because YOU didn’t want to talk about racism. You do NOT get to do this. This is NOT okay, not even in the slightest…Where was my support when I spoke out?”

Bergdorf has now been rehired after L’Oréal UK President Delphine Viguier apologised for how the situation was handled.

Bergdorf was the first transgender model for the brand and will sit on the company’s UK Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board.

Other cosmetic brands, meanwhile, have taken similar steps to change their marketing language.

Unilever’s India branch “Hindustan Unilever” said last week that they would rebrand their “Fair & Lovely” cosmetics line.

“We are making our skin care portfolio more inclusive and want to lead the celebration of a more diverse portrayal of beauty,” said Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Unilever which is based in Mumbai.

Johnson & Johnson made a similar decision about skin-whitening products marketed in Asia and the Middle East, US media reported last week.

But some questioned the decision to change the language but keep the products:

“If I understand correctly the L’Oréal group is removing the words “white/whitening” from its products but continuing to sell these products intended to lighten brown and black skin,” tweeted French journalist Rokhaya Diallo.

“So is it ok to continue making money on this disaster?”

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