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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Rwanda Becomes 3rd African Country to Ban Skin-Whitening Products — But Some Customers Are Upset!

Black woman using skin whitening cream

Rwanda — Skin-whitening products are starting to be banned in some African countries, and Rwanda is the latest nation that is taking aggressive actions to do a nationwide ban of it due to its harmful ingredients. However, many are concerned that it will only boost the illegal market of unregulated whitening products.

In Africa, skin-whitening products, which reportedly has a market worth billions of dollars every year, has been a trend for women who want to lighten their skin despite the health risks. Many believe having lighter skin would be more attractive.

Starting November last year, the Rwandan government introduced the ban and started confiscating thousands of skin-whitening products. It made them the third African country to follow the steps of Ivory Coast, first to enact the ban in 2015, and Ghana, which followed in 2017, in prohibiting such products.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, alongside the World Health Organization, initiate the ban noting the harmful effects associated with such products. Its active ingredients, mostly hydroquinone, pose health risks that range from liver and kidney damage, and cancer to “anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy,” according to WHO.

However, despite the good objective of the ban, many have been upset that they cannot buy skin-whitening products anymore. There are also others who are skeptical of its outcomes, fearing that many women would only resort to buying from the black market, which sells unregulated knockoffs that would be even more harmful.

In connection to that, Francois Uwinkindi, the director of the cancer unit at Rwanda’s Ministry of Health, ensured that they are also trying to address that issue. He told Reuters, “We are now putting much effort, like educating people, going around and seizing those illegal products.”