Gossip magazine TMZ published an ordinary photo of Beyoncé alongside press ads for L’Oreal Paris’ Feria hair dye and invited readers to compare her looks.
The American R&B singer appears to be noticeably whiter in the adverts.
Altered to whiten skin appearance?
TMZ said the ads, which appear in the September editions of Elle, Allure and Essence magazines in the US, featured “a severely Photoshopped Beyoncé.”
The online publisher even posted an online poll asking readers whether the ads were “a slap to Blacks”.
It said: “L’Oreal has some serious splaining to do about its bleached out Beyonce ad.”
L’Oreal denies the claims
L’Oreal responded quickly to the accusations with an unequivocal denial.
The company said in a statement: “It is categorically untrue that L'Oreal Paris altered Ms Knowles' features or skin tone in the campaign for Feria hair colour.”
The ads have kicked up a storm in the US with widespread media coverage of the alleged “whitewashing”.
L’Oreal has already faced accusations of racism.
Last year the company was ordered to pay a fine of €30,000 by a French civil appeals court for employing racist recruitment practices.
In 2000 L’Oreal sent a fax stipulating that employees should be 'BBR', which stands for the colours of the French flag; bleu, blanc and rouge.
Prosecutors argued that 'BBR' was racial shorthand for identifying white French people and alienating applicants from Arab, Asian or African backgrounds.