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J-Beauty Giant Kao to Remove ‘Whitening’ From Labels

A range of Kao Corporation products pictured on the company's website. kao.com
A range of Kao Corporation products pictured on the company's website. kao.com

Kao Corporation is the latest beauty player to pledge the elimination of words including “whitening” and “lightening” from its products.

In Japan, Kao’s home market, as well as many other Asian countries in which its products are sold, consumers have long sought out cleansers, moisturisers and make-up that claim to lighten and whiten skin. The term commonly used in Japan to describe lightening, bihaku, translates to “beautiful white”, underlining the beauty ideal of white skin in traditional Japanese culture.

Kao said it decided to drop the term as part of a broader commitment to diversity, adding that it was wrong to promote the message that one skin tone is superior to another.

The company will use the word “brightening” from now on. Kao’s move makes it the first J-Beauty giant to follow the lead of international cosmetic giants, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and L’Oréal that have made similar changes to their labelling recently.

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