L’Oreal to drop words such as ‘whitening’ from skin products

Martinne Geller, Reuters

Posted at Jun 27 2020 07:15 PM | Updated as of Jun 27 2020 07:51 PM

The logo of French cosmetics group L'Oreal in Levallois-Perret, France in February 7, 2020. Gonzalo Fuentes, Reuters/file

LONDON (UPDATE)—L'Oreal, the world's biggest cosmetics company, will remove words referencing "white", "fair" and "light" from its skin-evening products, a spokeswoman said on Friday, a day after Unilever made a similar announcement in the face of growing social media criticism.

Unilever and L'Oreal are two big players in the global market for skin whitening creams used in many Asian, African and Caribbean countries where fair skin is often considered desirable.

Unilever, in particular, came under fire for its "Fair & Lovely" brand at a time of worldwide focus on racial injustice following weeks of protests sparked by the May death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody in the United States.

L'Oreal's products include Garnier Skin Naturals White Complete Multi Action Fairness Cream.

"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 statement.

L'Oreal's 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.

Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever — which reportedly raked in some $500 million 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".

Several companies, including L'Oreal, have been criticized recently for skin-lightening products after the global rise of the Black Lives Matter movement following the police killing in the US of African-American George Floyd last month.

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.

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

— With a report from Agence France-Presse