It’s not fair that the parents of little girls start fretting once the girl turns seven or eight, thinking that no man will ever fall in love with them because of their dark skins. Girls usually cake themselves with skin-lightening creams and powders in an attempt to be fair and beautiful.
Women are a prime target by some of the world’s biggest personal care companies, for fairness creams that promise to lighten or brighten skin. According to Euromonitor International, a leading independent provider of strategic market research, about 6,277 tonnes of skin lightener were sold worldwide in the year 2019, including products marketed as anti-aging creams targeting dark spots or freckles.
However, with the global debate over racial inequality and social pressure mounting, healthcare company Johnson & Johnson, said on Friday, that it has decided to stop selling skin-whitening creams popular in Asia and the Middle East.
The healthcare company will stop selling its Clean & Clear Fairness line of products, sold in India, and its Neutrogena Fine Fairness line, available in Asia and the Middle East.
Both of these products are often seen using the words “brightening” and “lightening” marketed on their labels, to target dark spots, which on a closer look at their commercials, quickly morph into an “entire face.” Clean and Clear’s Fairness cleanser contains “gentle whitening beads” that come in an “oil control formula for long-lasting pinkish fair skin”, while Neutrogena’s Fine Fairness brightening serum, assures that it “doubles your skin’s whitening power for even-toned lasting translucent fairness.” Both these commercials implicitly stress on the “whitening more thoroughly” of your skin.
Commenting on the decision, the healthcare company said that its motto was “healthy skin is beautiful skin” and assured that it would no longer produce or ship its dark spot removal creams, however, they will remain on physical shelves till the stocks run out.
Earlier this month, while standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, Band-Aid, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson, also acknowledged darker skin tones exist. In an Instagram post, it said that it was creating a new range of bandages that “embrace the beauty of diverse skin”, including hues that match the skin tone of black and brown customers.
In India, where the Clean & Clear skin-lightening line is sold, consumers have posted reviews about the products’ effects and their ability to lighten skin. Indian celebrities, primarily women, have been called out several times in recent years for endorsing skin lightening or whitening products. However, over the past decade, men have become their target group too, with many introducing separate fairness products for men as well. Prominent Indian actors such as John Abraham and Shahrukh Khan have endorsed those.
Johnson & Johnson is not the only company to have taken measures to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Starbucks, Facebook, and Apple are among the many brands that have either changed their business practices or declared support for the movement over the last three weeks. Unilever, one of the world’s biggest care companies, also made an announcement that it would rebrand its skin-lightening cream ‘Fair and Lovely’, which has received considerable backlash for perpetuating negative stereotypes related to darker skin tones.
Personal care companies Procter & Gamble (P&G) and L’Oréal also promise lighter skin tone to women under their respective brands Olay and Garnier. Several Indian skincare companies such as Himalaya, Biotique, and Lotus Herbal also have a dedicated range of fairness products that fly off the shelves just as fast. As of now, no steps have been taken by these companies to curb the production of fairness or anti-ageing creams.