The skincare advertisement narrative has been recently challenged in the wake of the Black Lives Matter #BLM movement.
Prominent beauty brands that supported the movement were called hypocrites because they sell products that promote whiteness.
Beauty product names often use language that implies “white”, “light”, “fair” as qualities of healthy skin which is problematic for people who have naturally dark skin.
Not Essentially Racist, But Colorist
If racism is based on prejudice because of race or ethnicity, colorism is a bias based on skin color.
Nina Davuluri, the first Indian woman crowned as Miss America in 2014, experienced colorism.
In an interview with CBS News, she shared an Indian headline stated “Is Miss America too dark to be Miss India?”.
Stephanie Yeboah, a British Ghanian author, told CBS that her grandmother used skin lightening products, and the practice was adopted by her mother too.
Skin-lightening in her family was normalized as a skincare routine and she started to use it as well.
She grew up thinking that her natural skin color made her less privileged.
With lighter skin, she thought she “could do a bit better in life”.
Complexion Is Not A Problem To Be Solved
Davaluri and Yeboah share the belief that a ban on skin whitening products will help people love their natural skin color.
Whitening products are often marketed as solutions to correct dark skin color; the natural dark complexion is not a skin problem to be solved.
Major conglomerates such as Beiersdorf (Nivea’s parent company), Johnson & Johnson, and Unilever have done steps to address the issue.
All three have dropped the use of “white”, “light”, “fair” in their skincare line.
Unilever has expressed solidarity to the issue by committing to include advertisements that celebrate various skin colors.
On the other hand, Beiersdorf and Johnson & Johnson have discontinued the promotion and sale of certain products that lighten skin color.