Dr Organic, a Swansea-based firm which sells an array of natural products including coconut oil and snail gel.
This particular cream is described as helping to inhibit melanin production and contains skin-lightening ingredients, intended to help people with age spots or sun-darkened skin.
According to ‘shocked’ equality campaigners, Holland & Barrett is “promoting a throwback to the racial hierarchies of colonialism and segregation” by stocking the product.
Deputy chief executive of the Race Equality Foundation, Jabeer Bhutt says the product is "damaging to the self-esteem of black and minority ethnic people in the UK" and is “hugely irresponsible” of the company to put it on its' shelves.
“During the 1970s these creams were illegally sold in market stalls. They contained bleach, and people of African-Caribbean, Asian, and mixed-race heritage used them. Some disfigured themselves trying to whiten their skin. I don’t believe a big company like Holland & Barrett doesn't know all of this, but is still prepared to attach itself to that history if it can make money," says Bhutt.
Skin whitening in the U
Following the accusations, Holland & Barrett released a statement that the product did not contain “harsh bleaching agents” like bleaching chemicals or steroids which have caused other whitening creams to make headlines, and that the core ingredient was brown algae that “has proven skin-whitening attributes for use on age spots, liver spots, freckles, sun-damaged skin, scars, blemishes as well as general skin brightening”.
Company reps refused to say if the brand would be taking the product off its' shelves.
Skin whitening has long since been a booming trend in Asia, where pale skin is culturally desirable, causing the market becoming over-run with products that claim whitening properties.
Europe has been slower on the uptake, with tanned skin notably the more desired skin tone for most consumers.
Indeed, many consumers do not necessarily feel that having white skin conveys 'beauty', but are attracted to the overall tone that skin whitening products give.
According to data from market research analysts Mintel, the US and Japan have seen the most activity, however, the UK has also been targeted as a launch pad for many manufacturers keen to capitalise on the growing trend.