Vaseline Issues "Skin-Whitening" App for Facebook

Vaseline has introduced a skin-lightening Facebook application designed to allow users to lighten their skin color in the profile pictures displayed on the social network site.

Vaseline

The company has chosen Bollywood star Shahid Kapur to promote the application as well as its other skin-lightening creams for men. In the widget promising to "Transform Your Face On Facebook With Vaseline Men," Kapur's face is presented divided into dark and fair halves.

"We started campaign advertising (for the application) from the second week of June and the response has been pretty phenomenal," Pankaj Parihar from global advertising firm Omnicom, which designed the campaign, said in an interview with the Australian web site Adelaide Now.

Skin-whitening creams for men and women have proved popular in India. Still, foreign companies have been criticized in the local media for playing up a perceived preference for lighter skin color.

Last year a column in the Times of India, lampooned the introduction of "Healthy White Skin Lightening Body Milk" by Vaseline as designed to ensure "an Aryan glow from head to toes."

At the time, the piece noted that the billboard advertising included the following pitch:

When it's healthy and cared for, our skin has the natural ability to maintain a light tone and clear texture. Unfortunately, when it's exposed to the sun, the skin's natural lightening processes are interrupted. Pigment producing cells become increasingly active, tanning the skin, and leaving it several shades darker than it's supposed to be.

New, Vaseline Healthy White skin lightening body milk works with the skin to reverse signs of darkening and prevent future pigmentation. A balanced combination of vitamin B3, yoghurt serum and conditioning moisturizers hydrate and even out skin tone. Triple sunscreens help prevent future darkening and encourage the skin to lighten itself.

A spokesman for Unilever, the parent company for the Vaseline brand, was not immediately available for comment.

Update: After this story was published, a spokesman for Unilever sent the following statement to CBSNews.com.

Vaseline is committed to creating culturally relevant products that meet the needs of its consumers in markets around the world.Much like self-tanning products in North America and Europe, skin lightening products are culturally relevant in India. In India, men use these products to lighten and even out their natural skin tone and to reduce the appearance of spots while protecting their skin from the sun. The Facebook application was created for the Indian market as a culturally relevant and engaging way for Indian men to interact with this product.
  • Charles Cooper On Twitter»

    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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