Though Johnson & Johnson (J&J), the US healthcare and FMCG giant, has stopped the sale of its skin-whitening creams amidst the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests, other FMCG companies may not follow suit.
The Indian fairness cream market, largely dominated by Hindustan Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Garnier (L’Oréal), is between Rs 5,000-10,000 crore, as per FMCG analysts.
An email sent by Moneycontrol to all three companies on what steps they are taking to curb the production of fairness creams and anti-ageing products did not elicit any response.
However, brand experts say that unlike J&J, other brands will not stop selling fairness or anti-ageing products as the stakes are high.
J&J said it will stop selling the Clean & Clear Fairness line of products, sold in India as well. Earlier this month. the company stopped its Neutrogena Fine Fairness line, sold in Asia and in the Middle East.
Though it has stopped selling the Neutrogena fairness creams, Clean & Clear Fairness products will be sold until the existing stock is exhuasted. In India, it is now available on ecommerce platforms and retail stores.
“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,” J&J had said. “This was never our intention - healthy skin is beautiful skin,” the company said.
The company said the decision is a bold one and needs to be seen in a positive light.
“J&J has been through a lot of legal and perception battles in the recent past, and for it to decide to stop selling its leading skin-lightening range of Neutrogena and Clean & Clear is a bold and ethically correct move, perhaps on the back of substantial introspection they may be going through internally,” said N. Chandramouli, CEO of TRA Research, a consumer analytics and brand insights company.
“Other leading skin-lightening brands may lack the financial will to take such a strong step, though all products which create body dissatisfaction, must ensure they are doing the ethically correct thing,” he added.Ramification on India
The decision by J&J isn't going to have a major impact on the company's business, as its spokesperson says its market share is “negligible”.
The beauty industry has come under fire for controversial products many times. In 2017, Nivea faced public backlash in Africa for marketing a skin lightening lotion.
As of 2012, Unilever’s Fair & Lovely occupied 80 percent of the fairness cream market in India, and is one of Hindustan Unilever’s most successful cosmetics lines.
But Fair & Lovely faced criticisms for many years and recently an online petition was circulated to stop its sales.
Indian celebrities have been called out several times in recent years for endorsing skin-lightening or whitening products.
Such products were, for long, marketed primarily to women by some of the world’s biggest personal care brands such as Fair and Lovely, Olay, and Garnier.
About 6,277 tonnes of skin lightener, including products marketed as anti-aging creams targeting dark spots or freckles were sold worldwide last year, according to Euromonitor International.
However, over the past decade, men too have become their target group, with many introducing separate fairness products. Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan and John Abraham have endorsed those.
Fairness products are, in fact, not restricted to foreign brands. Several Indian skincare companies such as Biotique, Lotus Herbal, and Himalaya also have a dedicated range of fairness products that fly off the shelves just as fast.