By Martinne Geller
LONDON (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson has decided to stop selling skin-whitening creams popular in Asia and the Middle East, it said on Friday, after such products have come under renewed social pressure in recent weeks amid a global debate about racial inequality.
Johnson & Johnson will stop selling its Clean & Clear Fairness line of products, sold in India, a spokeswoman told Reuters. It was reported earlier this month that it would drop its Neutrogena Fine Fairness line, available in Asia and the Middle East.
"Conversations over the past few weeks highlighted that some product names or claims on our dark spot reducer products represent fairness or white as better than your own unique skin tone," Johnson & Johnson said. "This was never our intention – healthy skin is beautiful skin."
The healthcare company said it would no longer produce or ship the products, but that they might still appear on store shelves until stocks run out.
Creams that promise to lighten or brighten skin are marketed primarily to women by the world's biggest personal care companies, including Unilever, Procter & Gamble and L'Oreal under their respective brands Fair & Lovely, Olay and Garnier. Those companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
About 6,277 tonnes of skin lightener were sold worldwide last year, according to Euromonitor International, including products marketed as anti-aging creams targeting dark spots or freckles.
(Restores dropped word "Johnson" in first paragraph)
(Additional reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Dan Grebler)