Johnson & Johnson announced plans to stop selling skin whitening cream popular in Asia markets in the latest move by a company to respond to the global protests against racism. The two product lines, Neutrogena Fine Fairness and Clear Fairness by Clean & Clear, were advertised as dark-spot reducers, but many used them to lighten skin tone. The products were not sold in the U.S., but the American company sold them in the Middle East and Asia.
"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," Johnson & Johnson, which is headquartered in New Jersey, said in a statement to NPR last week. "This was never our intention – healthy skin is beautiful skin." The two lines made up less than 1% of the company's global beauty sales in 2019.
Although Johnson & Johnson claimed the products were not intended to lighten skin tones, that is what many consumers used them for. In India, the only country where Clear Fitness was sold, consumers posted positive reviews about using it to lighten skin, reports the New York Times. Commercials for Neutrogena Fine Fairness in Asia often said the consumer could "whiten more thoroughly" with the product.
The products were often brought up on social media when Johnson & Johnson and other companies showed support for Black Lives Matter on social media. When Priyanka Chopra and other Bollywood stars showed their support by taking part in "Blackout Tuesday" earlier this month, they were called out for endorsing similar products in the past.
There is also a Change.org petition calling on Unilever to stop making its Fair & Lovely cream, and more than 12,000 people have signed. Unilever was called out for continuing to make the product, even though the company voiced support for "racial justice" on social media. "Unilever is the largest producer and market leader for skin lightening, bleaching and fairness cream products in Asia. Y'all are a part of this," one person wrote on Instagram. "Change starts from within."
Johnson & Johnson was also recently called on to create Band-Aids in different skin tones. The company agreed to finally start doing so. "We are committed to launching a range of bandages in light, medium and deep shades of Brown and Black skin tones that embrace the beauty of diverse skin," the company said in a June 10 Instagram post. "We are dedicated to inclusivity and providing the best healing solutions, better representing you."