Beauty brands face increasing pressure to tackle the racism embedded in their products for consumers who live outside of the United States, especially those who boast of skin lightening and whitening properties.
Global conglomerates such as Unilever, L’Oreal, and Johnson & Johnson have started renaming or removing products that keep white skin desirable. But applying Western expectations to the Asian audience, where skin lightening products are sold, is heavy. Many consumers do not support the withdrawal of these products, even if the intention is to stop promoting fair skin as the ideal of beauty, says Sofya Bakhta, marketing strategy analyst at Daxue Consulting, a research firm. market in Shanghai.
In Asia, consumers see fair skin as a beauty ideal, and Chinese slang as 白 富 子 (bai fu mei), which translates directly to “white-rich-handsome,” is still commonly used in the country to describe a woman who is “perfect,” says Ashley Yang, a 26-year-old from Kunming. She adds that (hei cabbage qiong), which translates to “black-ugly-poor”, has been used to describe something unwanted.
“Asian consumers have their own beauty ideals and, perhaps, they are not yet ready to abandon the standards that have formed over decades,” says Bakhta.
Such standards have led beauty companies in Asia to market products insensitive to blacks and dark-skinned consumers, says Jason Petrulis, assistant professor of world history at Hong Kong University of Education. Today, there are over 25,600 skin whitening products sold by Alibaba. “For years, leaders have known that they are putting racist material in millions of Asian homes, and they agree with that. “
Eliminate or rename lightening products
The recent attention to space follows weeks of anti-racism protests in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and the resulting calculation racist practices rooted in many companies.
Johnson & Johnson, which sells skin lightening products in Asia and the Middle East like Neutrogena’s “Fine Fairness” and Clean & Clear’s “Clear Fairness”, said it will stop selling these and other products. which are marketed as dark spot reducers, but have been purchased by some consumers to lighten skin tone.
Other companies will continue to sell such products, but with a different branding, which means that the products will still be available but will not be promoted to support fair skin as ideal. Unilever renames Fair & Lovely skin whitening cream, sold in South Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, to Glow & Lovely, the men’s version ahead be renamed Glow & Handsome.