Skin Whitening Products (Finally) Come Under Fire

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If you’ve lived on the eastern side of the globe, you’re undoubtedly familiar with beauty products that promise ‘skin whitening’ or ‘instant fairness’. These bleaching products are so ubiquitous on the shelves in this area of the world, that it’s a mild shock to realize people in the western world find these products to be alien. With eyebrows now raising over the nature of skin whitening, there has been a movement on social media that highlights everything that’s fundamentally wrong with cosmetics of this nature; they promote the idea that fairer or whiter skin is better than the skin you’re born with. Whether it is intentional or not, it can’t be ignored that these products perpetuate subconscious bigotry.

The anti-racism protests in the U.S. and beyond following the tragic killing of George Floyd have sparked worldwide conversations about racial inequality and allyship. A number of brands – both in fashion and beauty – have faced criticism for virtue-signaling without addressing real issues of workplace inequality or the promotion of racism through their products.

After facing social pressure about some of their products, beauty giant Johnson & Johnson has decided to drop their skin-whitening line, which is sold in the Middle East and Asia. The company will no longer produce or ship the Clean & Clear ‘Fairness’ range which is sold in India and the Neutrogena ‘Fine Fairness’ range sold in Middle East and Asia. “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. This was never our intention – healthy skin is beautiful skin”, Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.

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