Skin lightening creams have long been normalised across North Africa and the Middle East.
However Johnson & Johnson—the corporation behind popular staples like Clean & Clear Fairness and Neutrogena Fine Fairness—are finally putting the racist practice to a halt by pulling both ranges off the shelves in their Middle Eastern and Asian markets.
The move comes in the midst of a powerful streak of Black Lives Matter protests in America, during which a number of multi-national corporations have made long-overdue changes in order to align with the movement’s anti-racist demands.
Last week, Bandaid (which is also a Johnson & Johnson company) introduced a new line of racially diverse bandages, having previously only sold its single-toned line since the company’s founding in 1920.
A number of other companies have taken similar measures, namely Ben & Jerrys’, which issued statements in support of Black Lives Matter, but still manufactures and sells its products in illegal Israeli settlements,
“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,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement. “This was never our intention – healthy skin is beautiful skin.”
With the region making up more than half of the global skin whitening market ($7.5 billion out of $13.3 billion), it could be argued that Johnson & Johnson’s product lines were motivated by profit.
Confirming that both product lines by Clean & Clear and Neutrogena would be pulled off the shelves may be a step in the right direction, however the company’s claim that their intentions were merely to promote healthy skin is still up for debate. Both Clean & Clear Fairness and Neutrogena Fine Fairness product lines were only sold in the Middle East and other Asian markets where white skin remains a beauty ideal, largely due to colonialist mindsets. Johnson & Johnson’s refusal to acknowledge the full-scope of its participation in racist practices is something for all of us to bear in mind. In the meantime, Unilever’s Fair & Lovely is still on shelves.