Unilever to remove ‘normal’ from its beauty products and ban excessive photo editing

International conglomerate Unilever, which is behind brands such as Dove soap and Sure deodorant will ban excessive Photoshopping of models and remove the word “normal” from beauty product advertising, in an attempt to be more inclusive.

Unilever said it would eliminate “all digital alterations to body shape, size, proportion and skin colour” from its advertising. The Photoshop ban will cover Unilever adverts as well as influencers paid by the company to promote products.

Unilever was forced to rename its top-selling skin-lightening brand in India to “Glow & Lovely” from “Fair & Lovely” last year after facing consumer ire over negatively stereotyping darker skin tones.

In 2017, the company faced a social media outcry over an advertisement for Dove body wash, which showed a Black woman removing her top to reveal a white woman.

Sunny Jain, the president of Unilever’s beauty and personal care division told Reuters on Tuesday: "We know that removing ‘normal’ alone will not fix the problem, but we believe it is an important step towards a more inclusive definition of beauty."

Globally, more than a hundred Unilever brands will have the word “normal” removed to describe skin type or hair texture, and replaced with terms such as “grey hair” for shampoos or “moisture replenish” for skin creams by March next year.

The FTSE 100 consumer products company said it would also aim to use “more natural, biodegradable and regenerative ingredients across our product portfolio”.

The company also vowed to increase its activist marketing, “taking a stand on the issues we know consumers care about and communicating that to consumers”.

Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream brand has embraced social issues as part of its marketing.

Last summer Ben & Jerry’s criticised the UK government’s policies on refugees crossing the Channel. In January the company said it would launch the Crown Fund UK, an initiative aimed at stopping discrimination around black hairstyles.

Unilever’s beauty and care division is one of the world’s largest advertisers, spending between $4bn and $5bn annually. 

The move to outlaw unrealistic photo editing comes eight years after some of Unilever’s brands highlighted the issue.

Meanwhile, Unilever said a poll it conducted of about 10,000 people globally showed that more than half the respondents felt using “normal” to describe hair or skin made people feel excluded, while 70 percent said using the word in advertising had a negative effect.