‘Normal’ shampoo to go in divisive move


Consumer goods giant Unilever has been slammed for scrubbing the word "normal" from its shampoos, soaps and beauty products by claiming the exclusion will make it more inclusive because "normal doesn't exist".

In Australia, familiar brands such as Dove, Tresemme, Sunsilk and Simple shampoos and soaps will have the tag axed.

Many shampoos and beauty goods use labels such as "normal", "fine", "oily" or "dry" to help consumers choose the right product.

The London-based conglomerate says it wants to "tackle harmful norms and stereotypes" and that "saying no to normal in ads and on packs across all our beauty brands is just one way we're taking action".

Unilever Australia's beauty care manager Markus Rehde said "normal doesn't exist we think … we don't think it means anything to anyone".

Dove Normal to Fine Hair shampoo. Supplied
Dove Normal to Fine Hair shampoo. Supplied

But the reaction to the news has been mixed, with ridicule online and criticism that it is only alienating the majority of customers who have "normal" hair, although some hairdressers say there are so many hair types it's hard to say what is normal.

Unilever says it surveyed 10,000 people across nine countries and seven in 10 believed the word normal on beauty packaging had a negative effect.

It will now use alternative terms such as "grey hair" for shampoos or "moisture replenish" for skin creams.

Hairdressers of Australia's Cassandra Hooper, who runs a social media website taking a lighthearted look at the industry, asked if the move "was a joke?"

"Nothing is normal anymore including hair," she joked. "So why the hell not remove it from shampoo bottles?"

Tresemme normal hair shampoo.
Tresemme normal hair shampoo.


The IPA think-tank's Dr Bella d'Abrera, who specialises in the study of Western culture, described the move as "ridiculous".

"Being 'normal' and ordinary is not triggering for anyone except for the Unilever marketing department," she said.

"By desperately trying to be 'inclusive' Unilever is alienating the majority of its customers who fall into the 'normal' hair category.

"The folk at Unilever are clearly on another planet and completely out of touch with mainstream Australians who consider themselves normal and ordinary."

But Australian Hairdressing Council chief executive Sandy Chong says her personal view is that any form of labelling can be a negative, and "everyone's interpretation of normal is mixed and normal isn't a great word".

"What is normal?' she said. "Someone thinks they have oily hair if they wash it every five days and that's not oily hair to us.

"Oily hair is if you wash it in the morning and it's oily by the afternoon and we say that's not normal, yet everyone's interpretation is mixed."

At the popular Kiti Katto Hair Salon at Darlinghurst freelance stylist Elyston Hayden asks "what is normal in 2021?"

"It does make some sense to take out the word normal because everyone's got such unique profiles, curly people need more moisture and so on," he said.

"And people really do want something specific to their needs these days and they look at the products on the shelves and think is this for me?

"We all have so many different hair types and we want that to be catered to."






Originally published as 'Normal' shampoo to go in divisive move

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