Skin whitening cream to be made less racist by changing its name

Just because you don’t consider something to be about race or class does not magically make it not about race or class. People changing their skin tone is very much about both race and class and often part of serious systemic cultural violence


As someone that hasn’t experienced long held bias and racism you’re clearly well equipped to comment about other people’s “obsession” with racism right?


Racism is a serious global issue that impacts the daily lives of billions of your fellow human beings every day. It’s an evil ideology that has been used to enslave and kill millions of your fellow humans. And it’s not in the past, it’s part of our world right now. You don’t fix social problems by ignoring them, you do it by identifying them, understanding them, and then coming up with workable solutions to them.

Also, the devil does not need an advocate.


I don’t know the product, but there are a number of ways of lightening skin color, and “bleaching” is a particular approach to that. If this product does not include any actual bleach, then it’s not a bleaching product. Whether that is an interesting distinction is up to the viewer.

1 Like

“Everyone wants to be black until the police show up” A tan White person will never be mistaken for Black, they look like someone who has the leisure time.

I am definitely not saying you are a bad person for wanting to have darker skin and tanning to get it, but it is a position of privilege. I also don’t want to blame or shame people who use skin lightening products for whatever reasons. However the cultural standards of beauty as well as the simple facts of discrimination that drive people with darker skin to try to lighten it are real and serious problems that need to be addressed, and the way companies that manufacture these products market and promote them is one small part of that very large problem.


I’ve read articles in the past talking about how whitening creams are based on global and regional concepts of discrimination based on race, class, etc. Here is one i found, purposefully looking for older articles to point out that current discussions about race and changing these products are great but people have been widely criticizing these products for ages



Way to lawyer that for Unilever, though they don’t need your help to do that. When someone talks about products that “bleach” the skin it is understood what that means, regardless of the ingredients in said products. It lightens/whitens the skin.


Don’t be so fast to hit the race button. I was at a fascinating presentation from medical researchers who were looking at ways of changing skin color by altering melanin production. Their approach used an extract from soybeans.

A big part of the presentation was on the reasons and needs for their research. Some of it is medical. Some of it is commercial. They started out with the background of why people want to change skin tone.

There is a lot of classism that drives how people look at skin color, but has little to do with white people. This has been especially true in southern and eastern Asia for centuries. (A friend from India at the same presentation agreed and said it’s why he won’t go out in the sun.) Latin America is a little more race driven, but doesn’t go for changing skin tone nearly as much. Africa is a mix of class, tribal, and racial reasons and can vary by region by both reason and intensity. A nice reminder that Africa is far more diverse than we often give it credit for.

In most cultures, there is a distinction in classes between outdoor worker/farmers and indoor workers. Outdoor workers are perceived as poor and uneducated and indoor workers are middle class or rich and more educated. Things ranging from shopping to dating can be affected by the color of your skin. Poor uneducated rubes are looked down on worldwide, so nobody wants to look dark.

Well, almost nobody. It was universally true until the last century when the leisure class and the factory worker became common. Among people of European decent, the paradigm flipped. Workers were indoors and pale while a tan was a sign of living the good life.

Which brings us back to the research. White people want a tan, but are risking skin cancer or looking orange with sprays. Cultures with strong skin color/class divides clamor for ways to look more pale. The researchers were able to do it by changing melanin production. They were in clinical trials. You could see major effects in just a couple weeks.

Unfortunately, it was injection based. And in the 20 years since, I can’t recall hearing about it becoming commercial, so it must have failed somehow.


European imperialism did not create classism but it did reinforce and exploit it in large parts of the world.


Classism based on people’s looks is inherently racist even in a country like Thailand for example. Sure you can have two people of the same ethnicity, one that’s darker skinned because they do manual labor and one that is fair because they do some kind of high paying job. There is no race discrimination, just classism however what does that say about people who are naturally darker skinned? What about immigrants or people from regions where people have more melanin? At that point the issue quickly stops being about class, sure that is the driving reason for the whitening products but the end result is discrimination based on looks. That sure sounds like racism to me.


Yeah I’m not sure I see how the historic English colonial value of paler = better being encouraged in other populations of people through colonialism makes race any less relevant?


Oh, I don’t dispute that. I was just sticking to the presentation which didn’t go into European history or imperialism. The Hutu/Tutsi is tragic example of what you describe.

It says they are being unfairly lumped into a discriminated class. That does sound a lot like racism or tribalism. But the use of skin whitening agents is being driven by classism which is also supporting a sort of racism/tribalism. It existed even in the absence of race consideration (though racist stuff doesn’t help, that’s for sure).

Japan and China pursued skin whitening even when they were closed off from the West. They still do. There’s no reason to believe that eliminating all knowledge of White people would make them stop.

Personal thought: Ideally no one would give a shit about skin color. In a sense, these whitening agents are guerilla warfare on a form of classism. How can you enforce classism based on on skin tone when skin tone doesn’t correlate to class? Maybe it can help us grow up and care less about skin tone? Probably not …

1 Like

It’s central to this discussion, in fact.

Like I just said in another thread, this is why we need to better teach historical thinking, not just “this happened in the past.” Nope, with that sort of disconnected teaching, you miss that the world today is built on the past, and that everything NOW has a history. To understand the world today, you have to have a working understanding of imperialism and how it shaped the modern world. Otherwise, the world we live in makes no actual sense. :woman_shrugging:

But that’s unfortunately not how we educate kids about history. It’s all people in funny clothes who have nothing to do with us…


I disagree, i think these products perpetuate discrimination because it becomes one of those issues people don’t publicly acknowledge that it’s a problem and letting it continue. The only way to stop it is to acknowledge it like people are doing now, talking about it and humanizing others. Shaming people into changing themselves for wider acceptance is a insidious horrendous thing.


And maybe also social class? Working class people tan, rich can afford to be pale. I’m not sure how true it is.

“But white skin isn’t only about being Western. In Asia, there is a deeply rooted cultural notion that associates dark skin with poverty and working in the fields, whereas pale skin reflects a more comfortable life out of the sun and, therefore, a higher socioeconomic status.”

ETA: should really read the rest of the thread before commenting!
Also, not saying the white skin preference isn’t racist or based on racism. Just that class plays a part. Racism gets into everything like some super evil sand.


I don’t understand the chicken or egg kind of thinking around populations that experience both racism and classism… like South Asians for instance, where these products are very popular. You really can’t isolate these things like it’s some kind of taxonomy issue of race vs. class. Wherever they originated the problems of race, class, skin tone, and the legacy of colonialism are inextricably tied together in contemporary history.


And this was a key imperial strategy. If you get a class of people, the colonized elite, willing to buy into the ruling ideology and to see a path forward for themselves by assimilating, you can exploit that. Plenty of colonized elites in British colonies especially jumped at the chance to try and go from colonized subject to colonial citizen, which of course, never really happened. That last ceiling was whiteness, something they could not fully attain. That did not just go away with the end of colonialism.

We’re talking about former empires here. Class and empire are not different things, they are intersecting things.

To say that it has nothing to do with this is just ahistorical and wrong. Even in China, which was never fully a colony, some embraced western ways as a means of being a modern subject.

My objection is that we can somehow disconnect the three. We can not, I’d argue. They are interconnected.



The Great American Solution: Any problem can be solved adequately by rebranding.

There are also native Japanese ethnicities that have darker skin (i forget from what region they’re from), and from what i understand they see quite a bit of discrimination because they are not fair skinned like most Japanese. Then you have people who are mixed and they also see a lot of criticism about their looks. As you and other say, i believe it impossible to say that discrimination based on class has nothing to do with appearances. It 100% does.