‘Glow’ to replace ‘whitening’ in some L’Oreal skin products

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L’Oreal will gradually replace “white” or “fair” with “glow” or “even” for some products designed to help even out skin tones, the cosmetic group’s chief executive said on Tuesday.

The French company – the world’s biggest manufacturer of beauty products, including brands Maybelline and Garnier – said last week it would change its labelling after a similar move by Unilever.

Unilever and L’Oreal are two big players in the global market for skin whitening creams used in many Asian, African and Caribbean countries where fair skin is often considered desirable.

Unilever had come in for criticism for its “Fair & Lovely” brand at a time of worldwide focus on racial injustice following protests prompted by the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody in the United States.

L’Oreal CEO Jean-Paul Agon told investors on Tuesday that the rethink was targeted at specific products, especially treatments sold in Asia and countries like India aimed at protecting skin from the sun and avoiding dark spots.

“For a long time these products were called whitening, or fairness, and these labels are increasingly contested and less and less appreciated by local consumers,” Agon told the shareholder meeting, conducted online. “We’re simply adapting our vocabulary, to meet changing expectations and attitudes.”

Agon said “glow” and “even” were more appropriate words for these products. He said it was not a question of a blanket eradication of the words “white” in all campaigns and products.

L’Oreal’s announcement last Friday that it would drop words such as “white” from certain products made big headlines across the media.

“There’s no need for all the media hype on this. But I recognise we should have explained it better,” Agon said.

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