Black is Beautiful: Rwandan Government Bans Bleaching Products

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The Rwandan government has banned the importation of skin lightening and bleaching products and is sending officials across the country to enforce its ban against skin bleaching and substandard cosmetics, particularly products that include hydroquinone.

Rwandan Government Bans Bleaching Products

Rwanda has followed Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa in cracking down on skin bleaching products that contain chemicals like hydroquinone and mercury, which have been linked to skin cancer and kidney and liver damage.

According to the World Health Organisation, skin bleaching is a multibillion-dollar global industry and at least four out of every 10 women in Africa bleach their skin. The market is projected to reach US$31.2 billion by 2024, up from US$17.9 billion in 2017, especially in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, according to Global Industry Analysts.

Medical experts have said that in Africa the widening phenomenon is laden with health risks because the continent’s regulations are often lax or scorned. However, governments are steadily fixing this by banning skin bleaching products en masse, as well as products that contain the harmful chemicals that lead to long-term organ and skin damage.

The Rwandan government has banned the importation of skin lightening and bleaching products and is sending officials across the country to enforce its ban against skin bleaching and substandard cosmetics, particularly products that include hydroquinone.

Reports say that government officials and police are now patrolling markets in the capital, Kigali, and in provinces across the country to enforce its ban on skin lightening and bleaching products

“Operations are being conducted by technical people,” he said. “The police is there to oversee only and make sure that all operations are being conducted in a safe way.”

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“We are now putting in much effort, like educating people and going around seizing those illegal products,” Francois Uwinkindi, director of the cancer unit at the Ministry of Health, told Reuters news agency.

According to The New Times newspaper, Rwandan police said they have so far seized more than 5 000 banned bleaching products – including lotions, oils, soaps and sprays – from beauty shops across the country.

Skin-Lightening Products

Rwandan Government Bans Bleaching Products

Skin-lightening products contain chemicals such as mercury and hydroquinone, which can cause liver damage, reduce resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, and increase anxiety, depression and psychosis, according to the World Health Organization.

The global market for skin-lighteners is projected to reach $31.2 billion by 2024, up from $17.9 billion in 2017, especially in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, according to Global Industry Analysts.

Around 25% of women in Mali, 77% of women in Nigeria, and 59% in Togo regularly use skin-lightening products, according to a 2011 report by the World Health Organization.

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Ghana implemented a ban on skin lightening creams in 2017, following Ivory Coast’s ban in 2015.



Uzonna Anele
Anele is a web developer and a Pan-Africanist who believes bad leadership is the only thing keeping Africa from taking its rightful place in the modern world.

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