Unilever Is Getting a More Inclusive Makeover

The company is trying to distance itself from Western beauty norms

Unilever is getting a woke glo-up
Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

“Normal” is out at Unilever. The British company, owner of brands like Dove, Axe and Vaseline, announced Tuesday it would be dropping the term from its branding in an attempt to promote more inclusive messaging. The move follows a survey conducted by the company that found customers feel excluded by language framing certain kinds of hair and skin as “normal.” Often, such language is used to reinforce Western beauty ideals, promoting white or white-presenting characteristics as the “norm” and otherizing non-white aesthetics.

“We are committed to tackling harmful norms and stereotypes and shaping a broader, far more inclusive definition of beauty,” Sunny Jain, Unilever’s president of beauty and personal care, said in a statement. “We know that removing ‘normal’ from our products and packaging will not fix the problem alone, but it is an important step forward.”

In addition to scrubbing the word “normal” from its branding, Unilever also announced plans to stop excessive digital alterations of its models, particularly those targeting “body shape, size proportion and skin color.” The company will also seek to expand representation of marginalized groups among its models and in its advertising, as well as increase the use of biodegradable and natural ingredients in its products.

Unilever has come under fire in recent years for poor representation of people of color. Last year, a TRESemmé ad sparked protests in South Africa for describing images of Black women’s hair as “frizzy & dull,” while white women’s hair was labeled “fine and flat” and “normal.” Back in 2017, the company also weathered controversy for a Dove ad that appeared to show a Black woman turning into a white woman.

As a major company holding several big-name beauty brands, Unilever knows it can create real change with more inclusive messaging. “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,” said Jain.

Of course, Unilever also knows that “woke” is in right now, and the company stands to make a lot of money by playing along, something Jain was surprisingly transparent about: “With more consumers than ever rewarding brands which take action on the social and environmental issues they care about, we believe that Positive Beauty will make us a stronger, and more successful business.”

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