Economy

Timeless Beauty Cream: At 100, Germany's Nivea Is Looking Better Than Ever

Cosmetics that have become iconic have three things in common: a strong character, useable on face, hands and body, and they never leave celebrities' make-up bags. Here are the secret of creams passed down from mother to daughter.

Clotilde Briard

Nivea's circular blue tin can sits in many bathrooms around the world. Nivea cream is indeed a global best-seller: 100 million units are sold each year. Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, it has engraved a long-lasting success. The original composition of the cream remains the same a century later, with the only visible change is the container. It used to be a yellow, with an ornament inspired by Art Nouveau. Still, already by 1925, it acquired its present colors and basic design.

"It is the first modern cream," affirms without hesitation Sébastien Blaise, France's marketing manager for Beiersdorf, the holding company that owns Nivea. When the cream was created, it was sold in pharmacies, and people were first surprised because it could be preserved for longer periods of time than the other cosmetics thanks to an emulsifier called Eurecit, and without the need for artificial preservatives.

Today, the 100-year-old product styles itself as one of the oldest cosmetic offerings, while the cosmetic branch launches new products one after the other praising the latest technical innovations. But Nivea Cream is far from being the only cosmetic product that still exists without aging. Nutrix, a nourishing and conditioning cream created by Lancôme in 1926, is another.

Long-lasting successes are often due to a great storyline, with Eight Hour Cream by Elizabeth Arden, launched in 1930, a perfect example. The woman who invented this product first used it as an ointment for her racehorses' legs. And the legend says that a regular customer applied it on her child's scratched knee and she noticed that 8 hours later, the sore was healed. That story earned Elizabeth Arden's Eight Hour Cream, made out of salicylic acid, vitamin E and petrolatum, the nickname "miracle balm." Since then, the cream is part of a whole range and its small pink-colored container was replaced by an portable tube.

A great classic must also know how to stand out. Dior's Apricot Cream, which encourages nail growth and improves nail strength since 1963, has a nourishing texture as well as a unique color and fruity scent.

These leading products of today and yesterday have one thing in common: an ability to cut across generational divides. "People have always bought these creams, especially families. These products have a touch of secrecy, as well as a motherly and tender side", argues Martine Leherpeur, a top manager for luxury and beauty group Hélène Capgras.

"Nivea Cream is a product that is very often passed down from mother to daughter", confirms Beiersdorf France and Belgium's chairwoman Helen Willems. And that explains why 2 out of 3 households in France buy it. Moreover, this year's limited series is illustrated with close-ups of groups that feature parents, children, men and women. "That blue can does not age because it reminds us of the episodes of our lives, it evokes a ritual and it shows some complicity," says Dragon Rouge agency's sociologist Sophie Grenier. "Everyone has known it forever and it symbolizes our link with the past."

Read the original article in French.

Photo - Brian

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Geopolitics

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.


But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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