Discover what Unilever is doing to stop using the word "Normal" as a skin type.

4 min read

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Earlier this year Unilever made the ground-breaking decision to stop using “Normal” as a description on packaging and in advertising of their hair and skin products. As well as ceasing the practice of digitally editing models shape, size and skin tone.

It was all a part of the company’s new Positive Beauty vision and strategy. The decision to remove the word “Normal” is one of many steps the company is adopting in a bid to challenge narrow and exclusive beauty ideals.  

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A cynical person may be wondering what brought all this about. Is this too little too late?  Does this really matter?  Is this just some pandering to a generation of people who have shown that the ways of the past will no longer be tolerated in a post “Black Lives Matter” era, where equality, responsibility, representation and awareness are the new accepted “Normal”?

The strategy has its roots fully backed by scientific research. A 10,000-person study commissioned by Unilever was conducted across nine countries: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabi, South Africa, UK and the US.

The results were not surprising - it was clear that more than half the people polled felt excluded by the mainstream personal care industry. People wanted the beauty industry to focus more on how they were making us feel rather than look, and 70% agreed that using the word “Normal” on product packaging and advertising had a negative impact.

Sunny Jain, President Beauty & Personal Care, Unilever, said “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. As part of this we are committed to tackling harmful norms and stereotypes and shaping a broader, far more inclusive definition of beauty.”

The good news is that Unilever appears not to be under the impression that this is any kind of quick fix solution for the problem, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. With over 200 products from brands such as Dove, Tresemmé, Sure and Impulse, they certainly have the platform to be relevant with these changes and hopefully lead other brands to review how they contribute to the self-esteem and mental health of their consumers.

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This acknowledgement, this narrative being brought to the table, is long overdue. The science can’t be disputed. Using the word “normal” will make a person feel anything but used in this situation, it is a divisive and malevolent word with micro-aggressive undertones.

For real change however, we need to see a transformation with decision makers in the beauty industry. More diverse board rooms tackling real issues rather than just pandering to current trends would be the first step to genuine and long-term change.

It’s an uphill struggle. Some of these prejudices are so deeply ingrained in the fabric of society that to unravel it will take consistent pressure and gradual evolution.

But for a worldwhere we are celebrated equally for diversity in skin colour, hair texture, the contours of our bodies and the shapes of our facial features, we think the struggle is worth it.

Until next time,

Odunayo Ogunbiyi