In the wake of Black Lives Matter, skin whitening creams and celebrities who endorse such creams got a lot of backlash from the internet.
List of Indian actors who are speaking on BLM and their fairness cream ads, a thread : pic.twitter.com/yUeRNLch6U— anti pigeon (@aluminiummaiden) May 31, 2020
In addition to that two online petitions on Change.org, Ban Fair & Lovely and Discontinue Fair & Lovely, collected a total of 18,000 signatures that forced companies like Johnson & Johnson to completely stop selling whitening creams.
Even Hindustan Unilever was forced to rebrand its Fair & Lovely range of skin-lightening creams. The brand announced that it will change the name of the brand and will also get rid of terms like 'lightening' 'fairness' and 'whitening' from its products and the packaging.
We’re committed to a skin care portfolio that's inclusive of all skin tones, celebrating the diversity of beauty. That’s why we’re removing the words ‘fairness’, ‘whitening’ & ‘lightening’ from products, and changing the Fair & Lovely brand name.https://t.co/W3tHn6dHqE— Unilever #StaySafe (@Unilever) June 25, 2020
However, the brand has not discontinued its skin lightening products or products that have skin-lightening agents. Writer and activist Poorna Bell added,
It doesn't do enough to make reparations for the untold mental and emotional damage done by colourism. Renaming the products doesn't mean anything - that's still just colourism by another word.
Even though the ingredients listed for Fair & Lovely's are not really harmful, two components Pyridoxine hydrochloride and tocopheryl acetate can have side effects like sensory nerve damage, cancer, reproductive toxicity and endocrine disruption, among others.
In a 2008 study, it was also found out that the cream has mercury in it even though it wasn't in the cream's official list. The cream, when used on female mice, showed changes in its brain, kidney, and liver tissues. Another similar kind of study was done in 2018 which found small amounts of lead, arsenic, and mercury, in Fair & Lovely’s products.
Even though the company has pledged to remove words such as 'fair', it has not yet announced that it will stop using Niacinamide, a melanin suppressant, that is currently listed as an ingredient for Fair & Lovely.
Let's hope that the brand shows more commitment to colorism and racial equality.