Unilever gets woke about beauty norms, challenges ‘narrow beauty ideals’ to help end discrimination.
Skin looking a little blotchy today? Or is your hair feeling greasy? Don’t ask Unilever to categorize it. The multinational food and household products brand announced today that it’s doing away with the word “normal” on its packaging. The company says the decision comes as global research into people’s experiences of the beauty industry “reveals that using ‘normal’ to describe hair or skin makes most people feel excluded.”
One of the largest companies in the retail space, Unilever owns mainstream beauty brands including Dove, Vaseline, and Axe. Unilever supplies products to more than 190 countries with a customer base of more than 2.5 billion.
“The decision to remove ‘normal’ is one of many steps that we are taking to challenge narrow beauty ideals, as we work towards helping to end discrimination and advocating for a more inclusive vision of beauty,” the company said in a statement.
The company says it will no longer use digital altering technology to change a person’s body shape, size, proportion, or skin color across all advertising mediums. It is also increasing its diversity representation in advertising.
The move came after a 10,000 person study in nine countries found that more than half of those surveyed felt the personal care industry can make some people feel excluded based on assumed standards of normalcy. More than half are also considering a company’s stance on societal issues before making purchases. Seventy-four percent of survey participants said they want a beauty industry that’s focused on helping people feel better, not just focused on improving the way they look. More than 70 percent also said the word ‘normal’ has a negative impact; that number increased to 80 percent for consumers between the ages of 18-35.
‘Tackling Harmful Norms’
“With one billion people using our beauty and personal care products every day, and even more seeing our advertising, our brands have the power to make a real difference to people’s lives,” said Sunny Jain, President Beauty & Personal Care. “As part of this, we are committed to tackling harmful norms and stereotypes and shaping a broader, far more inclusive definition of beauty.”
The move comes after Unilever’s sustainable business strategy, Clean Future, launched last September. It also launched Future Foods last November. That initiative is focused on bringing more sustainability, like plant-based offerings, to its food and refreshment division. Unilever is the parent company to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which has nearly two dozen vegan flavors. In 2018, Unilever acquired Dutch plant-based meat brand, the Vegetarian Butcher. Unilever also made a €1 billion investment into a Climate & Nature Fund to help tackle environmental issues including water preservation, landscape restoration, reforestation, and wildlife protection. In May, it will let its shareholders vote on its climate targets.
Part of Unilever’s Positive Beauty vision, removing ‘normal’, the brand says, is part of its global commitments to build a more equitable and inclusive society.
“We know that removing ‘normal’ from our products and packaging will not fix the problem alone, but it is an important step forward,” Jain says. “It’s just one of a number of actions we are taking as part of our Positive Beauty vision, which aims not only to do less harm, but more good for both people and the planet.”