Let’s make beauty – fair for all
‘Glow and Lovely’, formerly known as ‘Fair and Lovely’ is a cosmetic product of the company Hindustan Unilever. It is a BB cream that used to be advertised as a skin-lightening product. BB cream stands for “beauty balm” and is essentially a makeup product with skin benefits. It offers sheer coverage, so it’s best for concealing minor blemishes. The product has always been marketed as a BB cream, only now is the cream’s purpose being changed from a skin lightening one. The cream was introduced to the Indian market as Fair and Lovely in 1975, however, last year it underwent a huge rebranding and its name changed to Glow and Lovely. The reason for this change was because Unilever realised that promoting a product as “fair, whitening, and lightening” was discriminatory to women of different skin tones. The company wanted to change gears and start supporting women of all skin tones instead of making them feel like they had to have “light and white” skin to be pretty.
‘Fair & Lovely’ had a huge market amongst young Indian girls. This is because its product was almost the first of its kind in India, at least at an affordable price. Advertisements for the product promoted the notion that “fair skin is always better”, a belief that fell in line with Indian beauty standards at the time. It was marketed to women aged 18 and older, with the majority of the consumers being between the ages of 21 and 35. Yet there is evidence from the company’s sales and surveys that girls as young as 12 to 14 use the cream. As of 2012, the brand controlled 80% of the Indian market for lightening creams, making it one of Hindustan Unilever’s most successful cosmetics brands. This data was provided in an article published by Metro UK.
Why was Fair and Lovely as a brand so popular?
The reason for the brand’s domination in the market was because it cashed in on many Indian women’s mindset that “fairness was equivalent to beauty.” ‘Fair and Lovely’ advertised their product as a skin “whitening” and “lightening” cream, making it extremely desirable to the Indian masses. Fair and Lovely products were cheap, easily attainable and gave their customers exactly what they wanted. The cream ranged from 50 to 100 rupees and was available in almost every retail or grocery store. Changing their brand to a product that wasn’t “whitening” or “lightning could not have possibly profited them at all. Being a “fairness cream” that promoted fair skin was the basis of their brand. So why did they rebrand to Glow and Lovely, even at the risk of losing half their customers?
Is Fair equal to Beautiful?
For starters, Fair and Lovely profited off a widely held colourist stereotype. Colourism is prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. Though Fair and Lovely did not discriminate based on colour, it promoted the notion that fair-skinned individuals were better and more beautiful than darker-skinned ones. The brand had to market in such a manner considering people wouldn’t use their product unless they felt the need to have lighter skin.
This idea of beauty that the brand was promoting was extremely unhealthy and backwards. It is unhealthy because women do not have control over their skin tones. Thus, promoting a particular type of skin tone would only lead to women with other skin tones believing that they aren’t beautiful. They may feel the need to change who they are and end up unhappy when realisation dawns that their skin tone is something they cannot change. Unilever finally realised its message’s impact on Indian women and had a much-needed wake-up call.The decision to change their name was completely internal, but it can be assumed it’s due to a global shift in beauty standards -all races, skin tones, and textures are beautiful. The company needed to keep up with the times and adapt to people’s new understanding of beauty, which they did.
Setting healthy beauty standards
They officially changed their name to Glow and Lovely in 2020 and abolished their slogan that promoted “whitening” and “lightening” of the skin. They added the name ‘Glow and Lovely’ to all their products in the middle of production and scratched the terms “whitening” and “lightening” from the product description. People criticised the fact that whilst they changed their name, they did nothing to improve the product’s formula. Their argument was that changing the product’s name but not the formula still makes it a “whitening” cream, which means bleaching because that is how it was believed creams made people achieve “light” skin.
To which Unilever replied that Fair & Lovely had never been, and is not a skin bleaching product and that it was instead developed to enhance skin barrier function, increase skin firmness, and smooth skin texture. The company admitted to problems caused by promoting “fairness” as a beauty standard, such as unrealistic individual beauty expectations and that ‘Fair and Lovely’ had added to that, but proceeded to say that they were changing their brand for the better -to promote healthy beauty standards. This includes supporting all skin tones and types while promoting the notion that everyone is beautiful.
Although the brand is at risk of losing a major portion of their target consumers, they are making a change for the better and advancing in a progressive manner. They have a huge number of loyal customers who will stick by them through the process. The people who decide to stop using the product will hopefully resume once they realise that fairness isn’t a beauty standard and nothing of the sort should ever be.
As a youth, I feel the colourist mindset is extremely harmful to people’s self-image and esteem because it deems that women of a certain colour are more beautiful than others. As I mentioned earlier, we do not have control over our skin colour. It implies that one skin colour is better than the other, making us girls and women with different skin tones feel bad about our looks. I have been subject to a colourist mindset myself and have been called names such as “kali” and “gandi” meaning black and dirty, respectively.
It upset me that my skin tone was not considered beautiful, and I tried various things to change it. When I finally realised that it could not be changed, I realised that the global beauty standards were changing and that the youth did not care about skin tone. I think the youth realises the negative impact of harsh beauty standards more than ever, thus believing that everyone is beautiful in their own way. I completely agree with this belief and am glad to see people slowly leaving behind their colourist views. All skin tones are beautiful and Glow and Lovely as a brand has realised that.
Contributor: Anaya Mohanty
About our Writing Program Student
Anaya is an 11th grade IB student studying at the Oberoi International School in Mumbai. She is an avid reader and passionate singer. She also enjoys creating art and swimming. She loves being the devil’s advocate and brings forth a unique perspective to conversations.
Disclaimer: This article is from an academic & research perspective only and not intended in any way to malign any brand.
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- What is Colorism?
- India and Colorism: The Finer Nuances
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