Here is why ‘normal’ is now forbidden in Unilever’s beauty, personal care products

Unilever, the bath and beauty products conglomerate said it will stop using the word “normal” to describe skin type or hair texture. It will also stop making digital alterations to the bodies and skin color of models used in its advertising.

This is in reaction to feelings of exclusion among respondents of a global poll. More than half of about 10,000 people polled felt using “normal” to describe hair or skin made people feel excluded. And 70 percent said using the word in advertising had a negative effect.

Globally, more than a hundred Unilever brands will replace ‘normal’ with terms such as “grey hair” for shampoos or “moisture replenish” for skin creams by March next year.

Unilever is one of the top advertisers in the world. It has faced backlash for some of its advertising campaigns.

Last year, Unilever was pushed to rename its top-selling skin-lightening brand in India to “Glow & Lovely” from “Fair & Lovely” after facing consumer anger over negatively stereotyping darker skin tones, according to Al Jazeera.

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.

More recently, it had to pull all its TRESemmé haircare products from South African retail stores for 10 days due to a backlash over an advertisement.

“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,” Sunny Jain, the president of Unilever’s beauty and personal care division told the Reuters news agency.

The research looked even deeper into people’s experiences of the beauty and personal care industry.

60 percent of the people surveyed said the industry creates a singular ideal of who or what is ‘normal’. And that made them feel they should look a certain way.

In the research, 74 percent said they want to see the beauty and personal care industry focusing more on making people feel better rather than just look better.

Participants also wanted to see a more inclusive range of people reflected by beauty and personal care brands.