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Life & Style

Johnson & Johnson to stop selling skin whitening products

Major companies have recently moved to alter branding and products with racist imagery and connotations.

Updated June 23, 2020

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Johnson & Johnson has decided to stop selling skin-whitening creams popular in Asia and the Middle East, it said on Friday, after such products have come under renewed social pressure in recent weeks amid a global debate about racial inequality.

Johnson & Johnson will stop selling its Clean & Clear Fairness line of products, sold in India, a spokeswoman told Reuters. It was reported earlier this month that it would drop its Neutrogena Fine Fairness line, available in Asia and the Middle East.

“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.

“This was never our intention – healthy skin is beautiful skin.”

The healthcare company said it would no longer produce or ship the products, but that they might still appear on store shelves until stocks run out.

Creams that promise to lighten or brighten skin are marketed primarily to women by the world’s biggest personal care companies, including Unilever, Procter & Gamble and L’Oreal under their respective brands Fair & Lovely, Olay and Garnier.

Those companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

About 6,277 tonnes of skin lighteners were sold worldwide last year, according to Euromonitor International, including products marketed as anti-aging creams targeting dark spots or freckles.

The move follows a wider trend of change following demonstrations against racism held after the death of George Floyd as a result of police brutality in the United States. Major companies have moved to alter branding and products with racist imagery and connotations. Band-Aid, also owned by Johnson & Johnson, has announced it will be selling bandages that match a variety of skin shades.

More than 12,000 people have signed a petition calling on Unilever to stop producing and marketing Fair & Lovely and issue a public statement acknowledging its role in perpetuating anti-blackness.

"This product has built upon, perpetuated and benefited from internalized racism and promotes anti-blackness sentiments amongst all its consumers," says the petition. "Colorism, discrimination based on the color of your skin, is a direct by-product of racism affecting millions of people today, that fairness creams such as Fair & Lovely continue to advance."