Race equality charities have criticised Holland & Barrett, the health food chain, for ‘exploiting racism to make money’ and have called on the group to remove a skin-whitening product from its shelves.
The company’s website describes its £9.99 Dr Organic Royal Jelly Skin Body Whitening Cream as aiding in the inhibition of melanin production and that it contains skin-lightening ingredients.
The company states that the cream is intended for those with sun-darkened skin and age spots. However, equality campaigners expressed their shock at a high street store ‘promoting a throwback to the racial hierarchies of colonialism and segregation’.
The deputy chief executive of the Race Equality Foundation, Jabeer Bhutt, said the company was acting irresponsibly by selling the product, and requested the removal of the product from its shelves. He said the mere fact that they are openly selling this product is damaging to the self-esteem of minority ethnic and black people based in the UK.
He stated that during the 1970s, the creams were sold illegally in market stalls. It contained bleach and those of Asian, mixed-race and African-Caribbean heritage used to use it. Some of these people suffered disfigurement by trying to whiten their skin. He added that he cannot believe that a company like Holland & Barrett is unaware of this, but is still prepared to link itself to that time in history simply to make money.
Holland & Barrett stated that the product did not contain ‘harsh bleaching agents’. They stated that the main ingredient was a brown algae which has proven skin-whitening attributes, particularly for use on liver spots, sun-damaged skin, blemishes, dark knees and elbows, scars, freckles and age spots, as well as for general skin brightening.
The company has not stated whether it would remove the product from its shelves.
According to Maria Sobolewska, a researcher and lecturer in race and ethnicity in Britain at the University of Manchester, the company has done market research and want to cater for an increasingly influential black and minority ethnic market.
The head of research at the Runnymede Trust race equality think-tank, Debbie Weekes-Bernard, said the company has knowledge about its target demographic and the reasons why they would buy this product. She said a product which is marketed as a skin-whitening cream is not going to be attractive to a group of blonde females, so to state that it is suitable for age spots will not make it a success.
She added that this is an insult to generations of work completed in a bid to encourage people with darker skins to be proud of it.
Image Credit: Swipp Inc