'Whitening', 'lightening' and 'fair': L'Oreal to ban skintone-related phrases from products

The cosmetics giant will rebrand a number of its skincare lines in the wake of ongoing anti-racism protests

FILE PHOTO: A cosmetic display of French cosmetics group L'Oreal at the Nice International Airport, in Nice, France, October 10, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo

French cosmetics giant L'Oreal has announced it will remove words like "whitening" from its products, against the backdrop of global anti-racism protests.

L'Oreal is the latest multinational after the likes of Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Mars to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement, prompted by the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody in May.

"The L'Oreal Group has decided to remove the words white / whitening, fair / fairness, light / lightening from all its skin evening products," the company said in a brief statement.

The announcement follows Thursday's decision by the Indian and Bangladeshi arms of Unilever to rename their locally marketed Fair & Lovely skin-lightening cream for the same reason.

Unilever – which reportedly raked in about $500 million (Dh1.83 billion) in revenue from the product in India last year – said it would stop using the word "Fair" in the name as the brand was "committed to celebrating all skin tones".

In India, several Bollywood stars have come under fire for endorsing skin-whitening products, including actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra, who faced a backlash after posting in favour of the BLM campaign.

Several companies – including L'Oreal – have been criticised recently for skin-lightening products after the global rise of the movement.

Johnson & Johnson said last week it would stop selling some Neutrogena and Clean & Clear products, advertised as dark-spot reducers in Asia and the Middle East.

"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," a Johnson & Johnson statement said, adding: "This was never our intention – healthy skin is beautiful skin."

Not just beauty brands taking action

Several American groups have said they would change their visual identity, including confectioner Mars, which announced its plans to develop its famous Uncle Ben's brand, which uses a caricature of an African-American as its logo.

Elsewhere, Quaker Oats has promised to withdraw its 130-year-old image of Aunt Jemima from a brand of syrup and pancake mix by the end of the year, saying it represents a "racial stereotype".

Australia is to rename its Allen's Lollies-branded Red Skins and Chicos confectioneries made by Nestle over perceived racial connotations.

Colgate-Palmolive is, meanwhile, to "re-examine" the name of its toothpaste brand Darlie, which is sold in Asia but means "toothpaste for black people" in Chinese.