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Japanese beauty brand drops word 'whitening' from its products

28 Comments
By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

Beauty ideals differ somewhat from country to country, and here in Japan, one of the longstanding trends has been to lighten the skin, using all sorts of products from cleansers through to moisturisers and makeup.

It’s a beauty standard supported by the skincare industry, with the word “whitening” widely used to promote products, but now one leading cosmetics company is working to end this wording, citing concerns surrounding racial inequality as highlighted by the current Black Lives Matter movement.

The word often used to describe whitening in the Japanese skincare industry is “美白” (bihaku), which contains the kanji for beauty (美) and white (白), promulgating the notion that white is beautiful.

While bihaku is still commonly used by beauty brands, Kao is the first to take steps to address the issue by announcing it would no longer be using the word in its new products from March. The company aims to eliminate the word from all its products in several years.

Kao says they didn’t want to send out the message that one type of skin tone is inferior or superior to another, and came to the decision to drop the wording as part of their overall commitment to promoting diversity.

Despite their decision to stop using the problematic wording, “whitening” products are likely to remain popular in Japan as they’re believed to reduce the appearance of freckles and dark spots.

Kao says it will continue to cater to this demand, but instead of using terms like bihaku or “whitening”, they’ve now chosen to adopt the word “brightening“, starting with the new Twany range of products released in mid-March.

This change in language comes in the wake of similar moves taken by overseas companies, such as L’Oreal and Unilever. Within Japan, Kao is the first Japanese cosmetics company to stop using the words “whitening” and bihaku, and hopefully other local brands will soon follow their lead.

Kao’s commitment to diversity extends beyond the language used to market their products, as they’re also working to address gender issues, adding extra options of “neither” and “not sure” for responses to gender questions on questionnaires. 

The company also says it plans to release a new range of foundations this autumn with 23 shades, roughly twice as many shades as those usually offered, and it’s taking steps to deal with other concerns such as the use of words like “standard” or “normal” for popular shades of foundation.

It’s heartening to see progressive steps like these being taken by a Japanese cosmetics company with a history stretching all the way back to 1887. If a 134-year-old business is able to shake up the beauty world and bring it into the 21st century by taking a stance against inequality, there’s no reason why others can’t do it too.

Source: Nikkei via Jin

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- “Smooth Hair” poster sparks controversy in Japan

-- 4 Japanese beauty fads that Westerners just don’t understand

-- Seven Japanese drugstore beauty products loved by women abroad

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

28 Comments
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I blanched.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

OMG.......Japan is now infected with these crazy new ideas and thinking...Say it isn't so Japan

11 ( +16 / -5 )

It’s heartening to see progressive steps like these being taken by a Japanese cosmetics company...

Is it?

More nonsense if you ask me.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

 adding extra options of “neither” and “not sure” for responses to gender questions on questionnaires. 

Dear oh dear, what a world we live in.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

As a MC1R recessive, there ain't nothing desirable about white skin in the summer time...

4 ( +7 / -3 )

they didn’t want to send out the message that one type of skin tone is inferior or superior to another

That means you can't say "black is beautiful" either.

...promulgating the notion that white is beautiful...

It's more than a "notion." Many cultures since the dawn of civilization have coveted fair complexions, from the Middle East, to Asia, to Africa. It has denoted that a person is not an outdoor sunburnt laborer, among other things. .

The notion is not universal, but it's pretty close.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

For many years as a Project Manager, we do not use words that have no meaning, like STANDARD, NORMAL and many others as they are not measurable and have no meaning(s).

Also been careful about greetings etc. as team members maybe from different cultures and not to offend any accidently.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@jeffllee

So true..rhiana I think recently put out an lp called black is king. If say, metallica had an album called white is king, can you imagine the uproar? The woke left want to use language only as they see fit. Now Japan is going down that road. And this product might actually lighten skin tone making it appear whiter? What's wrong with that? It's just a description of the function of the product. Thank God I do not live in America.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

rhiana

Who?

I think recently put out an lp called black is king. If say, metallica had an album called white is king, can you imagine the uproar?

That is a grotesque false equivalency. There is an intrinsic difference between "black is king" and "white is king", and that difference is centuries upon centuries of white people oppressing and enslaving minorites throughout the world. This has nothing to do with being "woke", it's simple history.

That being said, not using the word "whitening" for a whitening product is inane.

-4 ( +8 / -12 )

I think recently put out an lp called black is king. If say, metallica had an album called white is king, can you imagine the uproar?

That is a grotesque false equivalency. There is an intrinsic difference between "black is king" and "white is king", and that difference is centuries upon centuries of white people oppressing and enslaving minorites throughout the world. This has nothing to do with being "woke", it's simple history.

True.

Unfortunately, one very worrying observation of playing identity politics is that all groups can do this. We have already started seeing this in more than a few white people believing they are the now the ones being discriminated against. I find this strange thinking but I suppose it was inevitable.

I’m not sure this is the best way to go.

That being said, not using the word "whitening" for a whitening product is inane.

Yep.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Japanese beauty brand drops word 'whitening' from its products

This is next level ridiculous.

Where is the common sense these days?

How far can we go with these extreme ideas/measures?

Racism is a thing, going this far is a another one.

People are over sensitive these days with everything.

Let’s not complicate the simple things and just behave naturally.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

@Jsapc

that difference is centuries upon centuries of white people oppressing and enslaving minorites throughout the world. 

You're clearly unware that from the 16th to 18th century that Africans enslaved from 1 million to 1.25 million Europeans. Look up the "Barbary Slave Trade."

The fact is, nearly everyone has been slaved by nearly everyone else during the "centuries upon centuries" you speak of. White people have been chattel goods for the Mongols, Berbers, Ottomans and a host of other non-white people. The Slavs had it really bad!

The difference is that those chapters of a very long book have been forgotten while and one chapter occupies 99% of today's public consciousness -- by a public that doesn't read history books (like I do).

5 ( +10 / -5 )

You're clearly unware that from the 16th to 18th century that Africans enslaved from 1 million to 1.25 million Europeans. Look up the "Barbary Slave Trade."

And you're clearly aware that this number is nothing but a conjecture and wildly disputed by historians other than Robert Davis, but you of course fail to mention that because it would shatter your already weak argument.

Slavery has indeed been a part of every empire throughout humanity and the basis of several of them, but you're just dealing in very basic whataboutism and drudging dishonest talking points.

The reason why we are debating in english on this comment board is because the most dominant culture in the world is anglo-american. As modern super-powers, both America and the United Kingdom are based the on slavery and exploitation of the african, indian and asian continents. The "Barbary Slave Trade" did not thouroughly exploit and completely deplete the european continent of its riches. Algeria and Tunisia are hardly now super-powers dominating the world trade thanks to said explotation. And comparing the two would only make sense if you really just needed a reason to be racist.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

I wonder why this too much overdoing is the beauty ideal anyway. They would probably all look very much prettier and more natural using those products not so extremely overdosed.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Economic inequality and environmental destruction increase day by day, and here we are discussing whether whitening makeup should be called "whitening".

The other thing with young Japanese women is that not so long ago, there was a massive ganguro/yamanba craze where they would wear thick fake tan and/or go to tanning salons to blacken up. There is even a famous tanning salon called called "Blacky" in Shibuya. God knows what people would say now if Japanese girls decided to revive that look. If you can't say bihaku or whitening, can you say ganguro?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I welcome this change. We mustn't be old fogies, the world is changing and vocabulary changes too. The pandemic has introduced many 'unused ' words so why not new words for gender, make-up even milk for babies. The young never want to imitate the old, they want to make their mark and change is how it's done

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

So they are still going to sell "whitening" products that lighten the skin color but call them by something else?

That's real progress!

5 ( +7 / -2 )

They can rebrand and appear woke, but a fair complexion without blemishes, freckles and spots will always be desirable.

White has forever been a symbol of purity and eternity for cultures and religions .

Is dentistry the next target for ‘teeth whitening’ ?

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

The Black and White minstrels are turning in their grave!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

the most dominant culture in the world is anglo-american. As modern super-powers, both America and the United Kingdom are based the on slavery and exploitation of the african, indian and asian continents

I think you'll find that the United Kingdom was a superpower before the slave trade. Being powerful already helped them become slave traders.

Anglo-American culture is the most 'dominant' in the world? Really? Slavery didn't lead to that. In fact, the opposite occurred. The sons and daughters of slaves found their voice and invented rap, so Anglo-Americans are now paying the price for their historical mistakes.

Oh, and only 11.5% of the planet is 'white.' White people are in the minority when it comes to racism. Discrimination is universal. Try going to China, Korea, India, Africa (oh, the irony), etc. You can't blame everything on bad things white people did 300 years ago....

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Lawson are introducing a new range of blackening and yellowing skin creams.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

And comparing the two would only make sense if you really just needed a reason to be racist.

It really does seem to be true that the woke never miss a chance to accuse perfectly decent people with whom they disagree of racism.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@jsapc

Quote

That is a grotesque false equivalency. There is an intrinsic difference between "black is king" and "white is king", and that difference is centuries upon centuries of white people oppressing and enslaving minorites throughout the world. This has nothing to do with being "woke", it's simple history.

What the hell has it got to do with history??

Black is gold has a very very strong inferred meaning and because a black woman says it , it's ok. Well, no it isn't ok. That's just your crew, the left liberals who promote this gender neutral oppressed minority crap . As very very accurately pointed out, black africans were involved heavily with the slave trade. You think the europeans just went over there and tools thousands by force? Nope, they were sold out by their ' brothers'. My parents are irish and told me stories of the racism they faced in london in the 60s so don't label me a right winger. The product advertised here makes skin look whiter and cradle of filth's next lp should definitely be called ' kiss my london irish ass, I'm no sad pc dimwit ( white is gold edition ).

4 ( +6 / -2 )

As an old guy, I demand any product references around "youth", "youthful", etc. be removed also. s/

Japan wants to get "woke"? How about getting rid of age discrimination when hiring?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Complete nonsense.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Silly.

Hollywood and American media, Big Tech, DC politicians, and Universities take "progressive" steps to try to prove they are virtuous people.

Kao will not score any political points with anyone in Japan, so it seems to be a hollow gesture.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The photo in this story is a good example of beauty ideals in that it is extremely overexposed and probably also Photoshopped, thereby hiding what the girl looks like in real life.

The whole industry is smoke and mirrors designed to make you buy things to overcome your inferiorities, which go way beyond skin tone.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

JsapcApr. 2  01:55 pm JST

You're clearly unware that from the 16th to 18th century that Africans enslaved from 1 million to 1.25 million Europeans. Look up the "Barbary Slave Trade."

And you're clearly aware that this number is nothing but a conjecture and wildly disputed by historians other than Robert Davis, but you of course fail to mention that because it would shatter your already weak argument.

Slavery has indeed been a part of every empire throughout humanity and the basis of several of them, but you're just dealing in very basic whataboutism and drudging dishonest talking points.

The reason why we are debating in english on this comment board is because the most dominant culture in the world is anglo-american. As modern super-powers, both America and the United Kingdom are based the on slavery and exploitation of the african, indian and asian continents. The "Barbary Slave Trade" did not thouroughly exploit and completely deplete the european continent of its riches. Algeria and Tunisia are hardly now super-powers dominating the world trade thanks to said explotation. And comparing the two would only make sense if you really just needed a reason to be racist.

Ottomans, Mongols, and others (incl. some Europreans) did enslave European peoples like Slavs. Barbary Coast pirates (mostly Ottoman and Arabic) enslaved anybody from ships they captured. That was stopped when Europeans and Americans ended the practice in the Barbary Wars. African nations enslaved other Africans, Black Africans. Imperial China had slavery at some point, in the Roman Empire there were citizens and slaves of various races and colors.

Either way, there's no reason or justification for racism of any sort. I've heard white racists howl all the time about how 'blacks want revenge for past slavery'. That's BS and a LIE, an excuse for a racist's hatred and stupidity.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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