Does Fair and Lovely Cream actually work

The cream has been in many drugstores on the Indian subcontinent for decades. The package says: "Fair & Lovely" - bright and wonderful. The product from the manufacturer Hindustan Unilever promises beauty through a lighter face. It is selling rapidly. The contents of the tubes represent the longing to lighten one's skin - or the perceived compulsion. Now the well-known brand name is changing, as the manufacturer announced at the end of last week. In future, the package will read: "Glow & Lovely" - radiant and wonderful. Whether this small correction will curb the growing criticism of the creams is questionable. Cosmetics have become an object of contention, fueled by the racism debate in the USA and the "Black Lives Matter" movement. Activists want to remove the stigma of darker skin, which they see as an Asian variant of Western racism. Prejudices that affect people with dark skin divide many Asian societies, humiliate and marginalize people. Hindustan Unilever came under pressure, especially on social media. Two petitions publicly denounced the group. The company benefits from an "internalized racism", complain critics, the cream conveys the message that something is wrong with the skin color of many people. The group was repentant and assured that it did not want to support a false "singular image of beauty", but rather "celebrate a greater diversity" in the future. Activists speak of fraudulent labeling as long as the product remains on the market. The cosmetics companies L'Oreal and Johnson & Johnson also want to delete terms such as "bright" or "white" from their product names or even stop selling them.

In India, light skin is often considered a sign of higher status, while darker tones evoke negative associations for many: backwardness, poverty, lack of education. The stigma, in which the sorting of people by caste also plays a role in India, affects many millions of people who are denied dignity and recognition.

The cosmetics industry is fighting with allegations that it is taking advantage of feelings of inferiority. In addition, there were repeated warnings of possible damage to health. The Reuters agency recently reported that numerous creams from smaller manufacturers with potentially dangerous mercury levels are still available online.

"We have a long history of open discrimination"

Activists in Asia want to use the global dynamic against racism to initiate change. It is uncertain whether this will also become a major movement in India. "We have a long history of open discrimination against dark-skinned people," writes Indian journalist Anuradha SenGupta. She reported on how different skin tones are said to have shaped prejudices about supposed character traits.

In doing so, she cites Indian market researchers. Apparently they found out that fair-skinned people are classified as more honest than those with dark skin. "Most of us don't really believe that people with dark skin matter," says SenGupta.