The Indian arm of consumer giant Unilever said Thursday it will rename its locally marketed "Fair & Lovely" skin-lightening cream in the face of global anti-racism protests. The new name of the brand is not known yet.

Celebrating all skin tones

The Anglo-Dutch firm - which reportedly raked in some US$500 million in revenue from the product in India last year - said it would stop using the word "Fair" in the name as the brand was "committed to celebrating all skin tones".

India’s obsession with fair skin is deeply entrenched, with lighter tones assumed to reflect higher social class within the country’s complex caste hierarchy.

"We are making our skin care portfolio more inclusive and want to lead the celebration of a more diverse portrayal of beauty," Sanjiv Mehta, head of Hindustan Unilever, said in a statement.

Introduced to the market in India in 1975, Fair & Lovely is also available in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and other parts of Asia.

Global protests

Several companies - including French cosmetics giant L’Oréal - have been criticised recently for skin-lightening products after the global rise of the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing in the US of African-American George Floyd. Criticisms pointed out “colourism”, the belief that lighter skin is somehow better. A a belief that Unilever and other cosmetic brands have been accused of perpetuating with their products and marketing practices.

Johnson & Johnson said last week it would stop selling some Neutrogena and Clean & Clear products, advertised as dark-spot reducers in Asia and the Middle East.

Skin-lightening creams in India have long been endorsed by major Bollywood stars - including Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

Chopra Jonas, married to American singer Nick Jonas, has been pilloried on social media for apparent hypocrisy in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement as well as having served as an ambassador for lightening products.