Johnson & Johnson Will Stop Selling Skin Lightening Products Overseas

According to the BBC, skin whitening cosmetics such as "Fair and Lovely" (reportedly the first to be marketed in India) have continued to be popular sellers since the 1970s.

American multinational Johnson & Johnson announced on Friday that it will cease production on two lines of skin-lightening products from Neutrogena and Clean & Clear that are popular overseas.

The move comes in the wake of a recent resurgence in the Black Lives Matter movement, a time of reckoning for many brands and companies with potentially racially insensitive ties.

Skin-lightening products have proven increasingly popular in South Asian countries in recent decades as beauty giants market use the lure of fair-skinned Indian stars to get customers to buy the products they advertise.

The topic arose more recently back in 2019 when a distributed image of 2019's Miss India beauty pageant finalists went viral, showcasing 30 finalists with similarly fair skin, dark hair and slim body types. 

Many held the pageant and Indian advertising ethics accountable. 

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On 25 June, Hindustan Unilever – the Indian subsidiary of Unilever PLC which is a British-Dutch multinational company – announced it will stop using the word “Fair” in the brand name Fair & Lovely for its skin-lightening cosmetics range, though the popular product will still remain on shelves. (Fair & Lovely is India’s biggest-selling skin-lightening cream, generating €280 million in annual revenue.)

The brand’s new name is awaiting regulatory approvals.

“We recognise that the use of the words ‘fair’, ‘white’ and ‘light’ suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we do not think is right, and we want to address this,” said Sunny Jain, a company executive.

This week has also seen L’Oréal follow suit.

On June 26, the French cosmetics giant announced that it would remove words referring to “white”, “fair”, and “light” from its skin-lightening products sold under the Garnier brand.

Neutrogena Fine Fairness and Clear Fairness by Clean & Clear included products advertised as dark-spot reducers to consumers in Asia and the Middle East. (The products in question were not distributed in the US or Europe.)

"Conversations over the past few weeks highlighted that some product names or claims on our Neutrogena and Clean & Clear dark-spot reducer products represent fairness or white as better than your own unique skin tone," the company said in a statement, via The New York Times.

"This was never our intention — healthy skin is beautiful skin."

According to the Times, Johnson & Johnson says these products will stop being produced, shipped, or linked to. However, they will remain on shelves physically until stock runs out.

Last week Band-Aid, another brand which falls under the Johnson & Johnson umbrella, announced it would begin selling bandages to match non-white skin tones.

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We hear you. We see you. We’re listening to you.⁣ ⁣ We stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues, collaborators and community in the fight against racism, violence and injustice. We are committed to taking actions to create tangible change for the Black community.⁣ ⁣ We are committed to launching a range of bandages in light, medium and deep shades of Brown and Black skin tones that embrace the beauty of diverse skin. We are dedicated to inclusivity and providing the best healing solutions, better representing you.⁣ ⁣ In addition, we will be making a donation to @blklivesmatter.⁣ We promise that this is just the first among many steps together in the fight against systemic racism.⁣ ⁣ We can, we must and we will do better.

A post shared by BAND-AID® Brand Bandages (@bandaidbrand) on

"We are committed to launching a range of bandages in light, medium and deep shades of Brown and Black skin tones that embrace the beauty of diverse skin," the company's Instagram post read, in part.

"We are dedicated to inclusivity and providing the best healing solutions, better representing you. In addition, we will be making a donation to @blklivesmatter.⁣ We promise that this is just the first among many steps together in the fight against systemic racism.⁣"

A myriad of other companies has also committed to evolving any packaging which perpetuates racial stereotyping – Uncle Ben's, Aunt Jemima and Mrs Butterworth's to name a few. 

Aunt Jemima's name and image will be changed according to the brand, while the other two products will alter their "visual brand identity."

Let's hope the gauntlet has been thrown for other companies to follow suit. 

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