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'Racist!' Equality activists blast UK health food giant for selling skin-whitening cream

'Racist!' Equality activists blast UK health food giant for selling skin-whitening cream
Anti-racism activists are demanding health food chain Holland & Barrett remove a skin-whitening cream from its shelves, calling the product a “throwback” to “the racial hierarchies of colonialism and segregation.”

The product in question is stocked in a number of the retailer’s 620 British stores and its online shop.

Described as helping to inhibit melanin production and containing skin-lightening ingredients, the company says it is intended to treat age spots or sun-darkened skin.

Activists, however, claim the product is a “throwback” to “the racial hierarchies of colonialism and segregation.” They say the existence of such products demonstrates underlying racism in society and its standards of beauty.

“The fact that they are openly selling this is so damaging to the self-esteem of black and minority ethnic people in the UK,” Jabeer Bhutt, the deputy chief executive of the Race Equality Foundation, told The Independent.

“During the 1970s these creams were illegally sold in market stalls. They contained bleach, and people of African-Caribbean, Asian, and mixed-race heritage used them. Some disfigured themselves trying to whiten their skin.

“I don’t believe a big company like Holland & Barrett doesn’t know all of this, but is still prepared to attach itself to that history if it can make money. That horrifies me.”

Bhutt said such products raise a wider issue about skin colour that could prove damaging to young people’s perceptions of beauty.

In a statement, Holland & Barrett said that the product did not contain “harsh bleaching agents.”

The main ingredient is a brown algae that “has proven skin-whitening attributes especially for use on age spots, liver spots, freckles, sun-damaged skin, scars, blemishes, dark elbows and knees as well as general skin brightening,” the firm said.

The chain has so far refused to remove the product from its stores.

Whitening creams are used worldwide, with particular prevalence in India’s Bollywood film industry.