(This latest message from L’Oréal prompted a response from Munroe Bergdorf model who claimed that in 2017, the company “took me out of a campaign and threw me to the wolves for speaking out against racism and white supremacy.”)
For the beauty industry, promoting and selling lighter skin tones is a multibillion dollar business, especially $ 8.3 billion in 2018. In 2009, Indian consumers alone spent 432 million dollars to seek clearer skin. And while America doesn’t see the types of mainstream marketing used in other parts of the world, these types of products aren’t hard to find in local drugstores and beauty stores. In addition, the internet has made available a mind-boggling range of skin lightening products.
A quick Google search sent me almost immediately to an Amazon page shamelessly titled “Skin Whitening.” And while many of the items on the page are disguised as dark spot correctors, scar reducers, or “lightening” products, there are many other creams, serums, and supplements that are more cheeky about their purpose.
While some products are undoubtedly safer than others, America has known for decades that skin lightening products can be dangerous. In 2010, the New York Times reported that: “Dermatologists nationwide are seeing women of Hispanic and African descent, among others, with serious side effects (…)
In that same article, dermatologist Dr Eliot F. Battle Jr said, “This is happening more because the internet has been a great source for these patients to get pharmaceuticals or prescriptions. “
The fight against lightening products has already started in other countries. In 2015, they were banned on the Ivory Coast. In 2019, they were banned in Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa and Sudan. However, despite a Europe-wide ban on skin lightening products containing dangerous ingredients (such as hydroquinone and mercury), consumers are still looking for them.