After J&J’s ‘Clean & Clear’, HUL Makes ‘Fair & Lovely’ Move. Will Others Ditch Fairness?
Two young women stand at a counter next to a shelf where Hindustan Unilever Ltd. Fair & Lovely beauty products are displayed for sale at a store in Mumbai. (Photographer: Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg)

After J&J’s ‘Clean & Clear’, HUL Makes ‘Fair & Lovely’ Move. Will Others Ditch Fairness?

As brands globally face a backlash for racial overtones of their products, Unilever Plc decided to rename its melanin-suppressing cream Fair & Lovely. It’s not alone. Last week, Johnson & Johnson decided to stop selling fairness products as the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement rages worldwide. Others may follow suit.

This may impact the brands in India the most. India is the largest market for fairness products. Fair & Lovely, according to a Bloomberg report, garners $500 million in the domestic market alone.

India’s basic moisturiser market worth $1.1 billion in 2019, according to data by Euromonitor International, is dominated by fairness creams. That’s despite international and homegrown beauty companies launching inclusive products.

“While the trend of inclusive beauty and embracing darker skin tones is gaining momentum, it is more of an urban phenomenon, with this segment accounting for 34.5% of total population in 2019,” Pradeep Srinivasan, consultant at Euromonitor International, said in an emailed statement. In the last three years, according to Euromonitor, share of fairness creams fell marginally from 80% to 78.6%.

The protest against policy brutality against Black people and racism after the death of George Floyd in the U.S. may hasten this change.

Johnson & Johnson stopped selling its fairness products under Neutrogena and Clean Clear brands. “Conversations over the past few weeks highlighted that some product names or claims on our dark spot reducer products represent fairness or white as better than your own unique skin tone,” it said an emailed statement to BloombergQuint. “This was never our intention—healthy skin is beautiful skin.”

The company said it’s now working on removing links to purchase from its website and retailer pages. “For a short while, products may still appear on a limited number of in-store shelves as stock runs through.”

After its parent announced rebranding of Fair & Lovely, Hindustan Unilever Ltd. said in a statement it will take the brand forward as being more inclusive and is awaiting regulatory approvals to rename the face cream.

The maker of Ponds said that early last year it started replacing words like ‘fairness’, ‘whitening’ and ‘skin-lightening’ with ‘glow’, ‘even tone’, ‘skin clarity’ and ‘radiance’. Fair & Lovely also stopped advertising showing transformation in skin and shade guides, it said. “The company will continue to evolve its advertising, to feature women of different skin tones, representative of the variety of beauty across India.”

A spokesperson for Emami Ltd., which also sells men’s fairness creams branded Fair and Handsome, said it’s studying all implications and evaluating its next course of action. L’Oreal India, which also sells fairness creams, declined to comment. Procter & Gamble India, the maker of Olay branded products, has yet to respond to emailed queries.

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