Nivea's controversial skin-lightening advert places highlight on the historical past of white supremacy

The skincare firm Nivea makes dozens of merchandise for men and women world wide.

However what you most likely did not know till earlier this week is that Nivea additionally sells skin-lightening cream to customers in Africa.


Oh look, one other insensitive, wannabe ‘woke’ advert marketing campaign.

Whereas it isn’t the one firm to market such merchandise — L’Oréal(opens in a brand new tab) and Pond’s(opens in a brand new tab) have their very own whitening traces — a Nivea advert for a skin-lightening lotion known as “Pure Equity” went viral this week after black London-based entrepreneur William Adoasi shared it on Twitter.

The advert aired in Ghana as a product that “visibly lightens” pores and skin shade. It is the newest little bit of magnificence advertising known as out for racist themes or messages. A couple of weeks in the past, Dove printed a GIF on Fb that featured a black lady eradicating her high over her head to disclose a white lady. The corporate dropped the advert and apologized(opens in a brand new tab). Earlier this 12 months, Nivea was criticized for a Fb advert geo-targeted to Center East customers with the slogan “white is purity.”

The brand new Nivea advert unleashed each outrage and debate. Some discovered the advert’s message racist; others argued that Nivea is simply serving its prospects’ wants.

However the story of skin-lightening merchandise in Africa goes again to the Victorian period, which coincides with the peak of colonialism in Africa, says Yaba Blay, the Dan Blue Endowed Chair in Political Science at North Carolina Central College.

“Colonialism was an ideological struggle,” says Blay, who’s from Ghana and has studied the follow of pores and skin bleaching extensively(opens in a brand new tab). “How do you come to regulate individuals’s minds? You management how they see themselves, significantly in relationship to you. White, white, white turned the metaphor for all issues good.”

Certainly, European girls started exaggerating and emphasizing their whiteness with make-up and cleaning soap as a means of convincing white males that they may produce “purely” white youngsters.

When European merchants started exporting cleaning soap and different whitening merchandise to colonies, they thought of it a part of their “civilizing mission.” And when Africans rejected these items as ineffective, the perceived disrespect typically price them their lives.

“The colonial second when pores and skin bleaching merchandise turn out to be widespread and in style was about, ‘We’re civilized and also you’re barbaric,’” says Blay. “That market was created.”

A spokesperson for Beiersdorf AG, the corporate that owns Nivea, instructed Mashable that the product and promoting marketing campaign are a part of a enterprise technique designed to handle customers’ “various skincare wants”:

“We acknowledge the response and issues raised across the marketing campaign in Ghana for our NIVEA Pure Equity Physique Lotion and take the suggestions significantly. This advertising marketing campaign was by no means meant to offend any customers.

As a world firm, Beiersdorf gives a variety of merchandise which are aimed to handle the varied skincare wants of our customers world wide. We acknowledge each shopper’s proper to decide on merchandise in line with their private preferences, and we’re guided by that to supply them with high-quality skincare product selections.”

Whereas debate in regards to the advert has concerned blaming girls for utilizing lightening merchandise, Blay says she rejects the concept of concentrating on particular person customers.

“Due to white supremacy and the methods girls have internalized many messages, even should you take the merchandise off the market, they’re not going to cease bleaching,” she says.

What angers Blay extra is that among the energetic brokers in lightening merchandise are thought of dangerous and but are nonetheless offered in locations like West Africa. The pores and skin bleaching ingredient hydroquinone(opens in a brand new tab), for instance, is banned within the European Union as a result of it might act as a cancer-causing agent, however firms can nonetheless manufacture merchandise with it, export them to overseas markets, and promote them in communities of shade.

Blay additionally would not consider that “haphazardly” telling individuals to follow self-love and cease utilizing whitening merchandise is an efficient technique.

“We’re dwelling in a context the place the entire society tasks photographs that do not appear like me and calls that stunning,” she says. “We’re telling individuals to like themselves, however how?”

Originally posted 2017-10-20 21:22:28.