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India’s largest packaged consumer goods firm Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) said it will drop the word ‘fair’ from its more than four-decade-old skincare brand Fair & Lovely, India’s largest selling face care brand. This is part of the company’s attempt to rebrand its skincare range as consumers seek more equitable forms of beauty.

Fair & Lovely, which accounts for 40% of the face care category in India, will be marketed under a new brand name and identity, which is still awaiting regulatory approval.

HUL joins a long list of brands looking to market products that are more “inclusive", instead of perpetuating socially desirable stereotypes on the idea of beauty, which is often equated with fairness.

“We now announce that we will remove the word ‘fair’ from our brand name Fair & Lovely. The new name is awaiting regulatory approval and packs with the revised name will be available in the market in the next few months. The brand is committed to celebrating all skin tones," the company said on Thursday.

The move will be extended to other skincare brands sold by HUL, with words such as ‘fairness’ and ‘skin lightening being dropped from any marketing promotions, said Sanjiv Mehta, chairman and managing director, HUL.

“The reason that we have dropped ‘fair’ is because consumer research clearly indicates that women are now looking at a much more holistic definition of beauty," Mehta told Mint on Thursday.

Last week, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) said it will stop selling the Neutrogena Fine Fairness and Clean & Clear Fairness product line in India as “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 unique skin tone". The company’s move was triggered by conversations around race and colour that have gripped the world.

The rechristening of Fair & Lovely was not triggered by J&J’s decision to withdraw its skin lightening brands, Mehta said. The company, which also sells other beauty products such as Lux and Dove, has been making changes to the Fair & Lovely brand since 2019, he said. The company had applied for a change in the skincare brand’s name last year, he pointed out. “You don’t change the proposition of the brand overnight. This is not something which we have done now. The proposition was changed last year," he said.

The brand will undergo similar changes in other markets where it is present, Mehta said. “After we have gained confidence we will extend it to other parts of the world," he said.

As of 2019, the facial creams market in India was estimated at $1.08 billion (excluding anti-ageing and luxury creams). Of this, whitening creams are nearly 80% of the market, according to Euromonitor estimates.

In response to a Mint query, a spokesperson for Emami Ltd, which sells the Fair & Handsome range of products for men, said on Thursday it was “studying all implications...and evaluating internally to decide our next course of action". An email sent to L’Oreal did not elicit a response.

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