Photo Credit: Adam Jones
Many skincare conglomerates, including Pond’s, L’Oreal, Unilever, and Niea, have dropped the terms “fairness” and “whitening” from their commercials in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Companies in many parts of the West have delivered on the promise. However, many parts of the world continue to sell skin whitening products with the message that whiteness equals beauty.
When the Black Lives Matter movement gained traction in 2020, many corporations joined the chorus. They became the talk of the industry, with many famous figures and social scientists applauding the advancements.
Multinational corporations quickly issued statements expressing their support for the movement in response to the call. However, consumers have noticed inconsistencies between what the companies have said and their continuing marketing strategy for skin-whitening products. Consumers demanded that these companies change their branding, and corporate executives promised to do so.
For example, Johnson & Johnson confirmed that it would no longer offer skin-whitening products in Asia and the Middle East. Meanwhile, L’Oreal announced that the terms “fair” and “whitening” would be removed from its product labels. In response to this development, Unilever renamed its product “Fair & Lovely” “Glow & Lovely.”
Beiersdorf AG, Nivea’s parent company, promised to deviate from the terms as well. In an interview, the company stated that in accordance with its pledge to the Black Lives Matter movement, it would review its existing marketing strategies and product offerings.
While these changes are minor, they represent the first steps for multinational businesses to take in leading the shift in society’s beauty standards. Whiteness or fairness has long been associated with happiness, success, and beauty.
These pledges are visible in the United States and Europe. It’s a different story in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
What is advertised in other countries
L’Oreal Singapore consistently recommends serums and creams with “powerful whitening” properties. While its customers in India continue to sell L’Oreal’s “White Activ” moisturizer.
The story is the same in China and Japan, with several companies combining the words “white” and “beautiful” for product commercials.
Unilever’s website also appears to have inconsistencies. Many people have commended the website’s absence of the word “whitening.” Unilever’s Spanish-language website, on the other hand, still has “whitening” plastered all over it. This means that many skincare companies only rebranded their products in the United States, not elsewhere – particularly in countries where citizens have naturally tanned skin.
Even after rebranding, Unilever’s Glow & Lovely, formerly Fair & Lovely, still primarily uses light-skinned models to advertise the product. This sends the subliminal message that white is more attractive than any other skin tone. While presenting itself as a sunblock product in the Philippines, Block & White still boasts about its “5-in-1 Whitening Essentials.”
Huge corporation’s hesitation to drop marketing strat in the Indo-Pacific
According to Amina Mire, a sociology professor at Carlton University, the eagerness to make revenue is what drives many skincare companies’ refusal to alter their marketing strategies. Mire, who has been conducting research in the skin whitening industry for over 20 years, understands that non-Western markets are “too lucrative” for Western companies to take action in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Further, Mire added that Western markets would “not make any concessions — or at least very little concession — in the Asian market. They are cleaning up their websites … but on billboards and in their marketing, they know who their consumers are.”
The hesitation is frequently caused by the company’s knowledge that the majority of those in the non-Western market are interested in skin-whitening products. “Nivea products with whitening ingredients remain our biggest sellers throughout Asia,” according to Nivea’s company, and this is true for many other companies targeting dark-skinned women in Southeast Asia and other Indo-Pacific regions.
Opinions expressed by US Insider contributors are their own.