Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) today said it will stop using the word 'Fair' in its 'Fair & Lovely' skin cream, in a move that comes after years of protests that it promotes prejudice over skin colour.
The company said it was "taking forward the brand’s journey towards a more inclusive vision of beauty".
The new name is awaiting regulatory approvals and will be adopted in the next few months.
First introduced in India decades ago, Fair & Lovely became a bestselling product -- racking up sales of about Rs 4,000 crore last year -- as it tapped into the perspective that equated fairness with beauty.
That positioning was criticised by many for promoting colourism in a country where a large part of the population is brown-skinned.
"Over the last 18 months, the brand’s communication and packaging has moved away from promoting fairness," said research firm Investec, adding that the change in the brand's positioning would impact near-term sales even though it was "necessary from a longer-term and social perspective.
A still from the movie Gully Boy, which takes aim at the perception that white skin equates beauty.
Soon after HUL's announcement, Emami, which owns the 'Fair & Handsome' brand said it values "consumer sentiments and take cognizance of the holistic approach that is required to be taken to address their needs".
"We are studying all implications currently and evaluating internally to decide our next course of action," Emami said.
Fair & Lovely's journey has not been without controversy. It once reportedly claimed that "90 percent of Indian women want to use whiteners because it is aspirational, like losing weight. A fair skin is, like education, regarded as a social and economic step up."
The brand, going forward, will be more focused on representation of women with different skin tones, the company said. It added that the rest of the skin care portfolio will also reflect the new vision of beauty.
“We recognise that the use of the words ‘fair’, ‘white’ and ‘light’ suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we don’t think is right, and we want to address this. As we’re evolving the way that we communicate the skin benefits of our products that deliver radiant and even tone skin, it’s also important to change the language we use," said Sunny Jain, President Beauty & Personal Care, HUL.