Skin-whitening creams are joining talc baby powder in Johnson & Johnson’s growing discontinued pile. Reuters reports that the company announced it will stop producing its Neutrogena Fine Fairness line, which is available in Asia and the Middle East, and its Clear Fairness by Clean & Clear line, which is available in India, both of which feature products that lighten skin tones.
Though such skin-whitening products have long been criticized for their perpetuation of racism and colorism, the definitive announcement comes after a week of corporations rethinking the racists origins behind brands like Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth’s, and Uncle Ben’s. Earlier this month, Band-Aid, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson, also acknowledged darker skin tones exist while standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. “Conversations over the past few weeks highlighted that some product names or claims on our Neutrogena and Clean & Clear dark-spot reducer products represent fairness or white as better than your own unique skin tone,” the company said in a statement. “This was never our intention — healthy skin is beautiful skin.”
Though words like “brightening” and “lightening” are marketed on labels with an intention to target dark spots, a closer look reveals that “dark spots” quickly morphs into “entire face.” Neutrogena’s Fine Fairness brightening serum assures it “doubles your skin’s whitening power for even-toned lasting translucent fairness,” while Clean & Clear’s Clear Fairness cleanser contains “gentle whitening beads” that come in an “oil control formula for long lasting pinkish fair skin.” Commercials for the former line straight-up say its products can help you “whiten more thoroughly.” According to the New York Times, Johnson & Johnson assures the products will no longer be produced, shipped, or linked to, but they’ll remain on physical shelves until stock runs out.
In the words of our sage teddy bear Hip Hop Harry, who’s next? Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, and L’Oréal have also come under fire for continuing to sell skin-whitening products abroad under brands like Garnier and Olay. Twelve thousand people have already signed a petition calling for Unilever to stop producing Fair & Lovely, a skin-lightening product sold in India and the Middle East that comes complete with commercials showing women with darker skin lightening their complexions and subsequently succeeding in their endeavors.