Nivea Sparks Outrage With Skin Lightening Ads In Africa

Nivea Sparks Outrage With Skin Lightening Ads In Africa
Photo: Getty Images

How are beauty companies still creating advertisements that degrade and diminish people of color? This time, Nivea is back in the hot seat after apologizing for a “white is purity” ad earlier this year.

The new campaign for their Natural Fairness Moisturizer in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Senegal has spurred anger and disgust for showing a dark skin woman applying lotion to make her skin lighter.

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The image, which features Miss Nigeria, Omowunmi Akinnifesi, reads, “For visibly fairer skin,” thus implying that darker skin is not desired or seen as beautiful. Even though the brand thought this ad was perfectly acceptable, people are standing up for Black women all over the world, but specifically in Africa, using the hashtag #PULLITDOWNNOW on social media.

User @J_Akuamoah wrote on Twitter, “Dear Nivea, too many people are ruining their skin because of ads like this. COLOURISM is not a myth. #PULLITDOWNNOW”

Instagram user _keesh_n_cali responded to Nivea’s photo, “Dear Nivea, Kindly take down these billboards you have placed all over our beloved countries in Africa. I saw this one with my own eyes today in Ghana and we love our complexion the way it is. And if you don’t take these down. We will.”

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The problem with skin lightening products is not only the damage they can cause skin and internal organs, but the reification of white beauty ideals that have been around since colonization. There’s an unrealistic norm that white skin, beauty, and beings are more valuable and viable in society’s eye, which is flat out wrong. When beauty companies continue to sell whitening or bleaching products in places like Africa, India, the Middle East, and Latin America, women and men are being told their skin is not acceptable or beautiful.

Cosmetic companies like Nivea, Vaseline, L’Oréal, Neutrogena, Dove, Pond’s, and Garnier all brand products in foreign countries that promote skin whitening, while modifying their labels in the United States as color correctors and tone eveners. Acknowledging and stopping their role in the promotion of colorism would be ideal, but at the very least, can we see ads that don’t promote white supremacy? Is it really too much to ask for?