Fair & Lovely
Fair & Lovely Image Credit: Agency

Mumbai: Unilever will drop the word "fair" from its "Fair & Lovely" brand of skin lightening products, which are popular in South Asia but have long been criticised for promoting negative stereotypes against people with darker skin.

The brand name change is subject to regulatory approvals, the company said in a filing to the exchanges. It did not specify what the new name would be.

A source in the parent company told Reuters that alternatives like "Dare & Lovely”, "Care & Lovely", or "Fresh & Lovely" were being considered, but products with the old brand name will not be recalled.

"We recognise that the use of the words 'fair', 'white' and 'light' suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we don't think is right, and we want to address this," Sunny Jain, president of Unilever's beauty and personal care division, said.

Unilever's 'Fair & Lovely' brand dominates the market in South Asia. Similar products are also sold by L'Oreal and Procter & Gamble.

Running deep

Products marketed for skin lightening have a huge market in South Asia due to a societal obsession with fairer skin tones, but those notions are being questioned more frequently as perceptions change. Johnson & Johnson this month said it would stop selling skin-whitening creams which are popular in Asia and the Middle East.

"We are making our skin care portfolio more inclusive.. .a more diverse portrayal of beauty," Hindustan Unilever Chairman Sanjiv Mehta said in a separate statement.

In India, fairness products have long been endorsed by leading Bollywood celebrities, as well as other popular youth icons.

Advertisements have regularly featured two faces showing skin tone transformation, as well as shade guides to show "improvement".

Hindustan Unilever said it had moved from that line of advertising in 2019, and "will continue to evolve its advertising to feature women of different skin tones, representative of the variety of beauty across India."

A source at L'Oreal in India said the French cosmetics company was also having discussions in view of the backlash.

"Words such as skin brightening, whitening, lightening could soon become a thing of the past on all labels and product sales pitches," the source said.