Colourism & Cosmetic Claims Part 1: New Insights why consumers use skin lightening products


Theresa M. Callaghan1, Carys Smith2*, Susan Ayton2
*Corresponding author
1. Callaghan Consulting International, Hamburg, Germany 
2. Ayton Global Research, Bath, United Kingdom


Claims for skin lightening/whitening cosmetic products have achieved notoriety, finally coming to a head with the anger of the Black Lives Movement. This has forced cosmetic companies to face up to the fact that they have been deliberately or non-deliberately fuel-ling colourism. Ayton Global Research and Callaghan Consulting International executed a consumer-use market research across 6 countries into the usage of these product types, and exactly what consumers thought of them and why they used them. The prelim-inary findings are presented with ‘even skin tone’ and ‘beautiful skin’ being the key driv-ers and not ‘skin lightening or whitening’. Care must be given to the choice of wording when it comes to creating claims for these types of products and more consideration to the consumers who use them, providing for better claims compliance in terms of product ‘honesty’, ‘fairness’ and ‘informed decision.


As in nature, our human race exhibits a wonderful array of skin colours, from almost snow-white to blue-black that glistens spectacularly in sunlight. Our skin colour is nature’s way of protecting us from the damaging effects of sun exposure, and so where there is more sunlight on our planet, humans tend to have a darker skin. Yet, of all the cosmetic products sold, none are more controversial than those which claim to ‘lighten’ or ‘whiten’ the skin. Whitening and lightening products range from addressing skin pigmentary conditions, smoothing out the complexion in paler skins, to those products that actually whiten the skin of darker people (1). Worryingly, these products are extremely popular to the extent that discrimination abounds in favour of paler skins over darker skins, in many countries such as India. Where there is an ever growing desire for paler even whiter skin, because it is (wrongly) considered ‘superior’ and even more ‘intelligent’, colour discrimination or colourism will be embedded in those societies.


The enormity of the global cosmetic skin lightening market (pre-Covid), is estimate ...