Racism Controversies in the Beauty and Cosmetic Industry

Racism Controversies in the Beauty and Cosmetic Industry

By Samantha Krevolin


Many western-based cosmetic companies have products that are outdated in terms of racism and stereotyping. With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and other social injustice movements, it is extremely important that racial stereotypes are not displayed through the advertising of certain beauty products. Major brands like Unilever, L’Oréal, and Johnson and Johnson are experiencing major backlash among consumers for continuing to sell products that endorse skin lightening and whitening. 


Although the problems that arise from products with goals of “lightening” the skin are getting attention in America and other Western countries, the Eastern hemisphere seems to be unphased by this blatant racism. Countries in Asia and Africa seem to want to keep these products since their purpose supports their historic ideals of beauty. In China, slang is still used to describe beauty or perfection as “white-rich-beautiful” within their language. This cultural aspect proves that the nation is still behind in what Americans and western countries deem to be traditional ideals.  




Products like Unilever’s “Fair & Lovely”, Neutrogena’s “Fine Fairness” and Clean and Clear’s “Clear Fairness” endorse lightening skin tone through the cosmetics. The ads for products like these and other similar ones display women with different skin tones on her face and have the lightest shade displayed as the desired one. Some of these companies will stop selling these products due to the backlash from Americans. However, others decided to conduct surveys among consumers within the Eastern hemisphere to see what they believe is best for their brand. The survey found that a high majority supported the continuation of these products. Because of that, the companies will change the name, for example from “Fair & Lovely” to “Glow & Lovely” to satisfy all customer wants, and maintain the high profits they bring in for the brands. 


It is interesting to see how in today’s world where racism, social injustice, and stereotyping are all very much frowned upon at a variety of levels, every country has their own opinions on these matters. Although these issues are experiencing ongoing change and alterations, it is important to watch how companies based in different parts of the world or targeting different audiences handle the situation. 

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