Skin ‘whitening’ creams have long been a contentious issue in South Asia and now they are making an appearance in multi-cultural Britain.
High Street retailer Holland & Barrett is facing criticism after launching a new line of Whitening Creams called ‘Dr Organic Royal Jelly”.
The cream, which retails for £9.99, claims to ‘inhibit melanin production’ and contains skin-lightening ingredients.
The company says it’s intended to help people with age spots, sun-darkened skin and other skin anomalies.
However, some campaigners have slammed the company saying it is “exploiting racism to make money” and for “promoting a throwback to the racial hierarchies of colonialism and segregation”.
Jabeer Bhutt, the deputy chief executive of the Race Equality Foundation, told the Independent: “The fact that they are openly selling this is so damaging to the self-esteem of black and minority ethnic people in the UK,” he said.
“During the 1970s these creams were illegally sold in market stalls.
“They contained bleach, and people of African-Caribbean, Asian, and mixed-race heritage used them. Some disfigured themselves trying to whiten their skin. I don’t believe a big company like Holland & Barrett doesn’t know all of this, but is still prepared to attach itself to that history if it can make money. That horrifies me.”
The company insists that the product does not contain bleach and that the primary ingredient in the cream was a brown algae with “proven skin-whitening attributes” to combat age spots, freckles, scars, blemishes, dark elbows and knees as well as general skin brightening”.
Marketing experts say the company is clearly attempting to target Britain’s burgeoning black and ethnic minority (BME) communities.
Many women, particularly of South Asian-origin, are raised with the belief that fairness equates to beauty.
The idea has given rise to a multi-billion dollar skin-whitening industry in India which has in-turn attracted widespread criticism from campaigners and feminist groups.
In 2012 one Indian company went so far as to introduce a vaginal whitening cream with the slogan “Life for women will now be fresher, cleaner and more importantly fairer and more intimate”.