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4 In 10 African Women Bleach Their Skin. Rwanda Has Banned Skin Whitening Products

4 In 10 African Women Bleach Their Skin. Rwanda Has Banned Skin Whitening Products

Rwanda has become the third country in Africa to ban skin whitening products.

Particularly for women, lightening their skin through skin bleaching products has become increasingly popular — although dangerous.

The Ivory Coast was the first African nation to ban skin-lightening creams in 2015. In 2016, the government of Ghana banned hydroquinone, the main chemical component used in numerous skin-bleaching products, however, lots of different beauty brands are still promoting a lighter tone or a clarifying effect after its use, The Root reported.


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Now Rwanda has followed suit. As of December, Rwandan police started patrolling markets and seizing bleaching products. So far they have confiscated more than 5,000 banned products.

A 2011 report by the World Health Organization found that about 25 percent of women in Mali, 77 percent of women in Nigeria, and 59 percent in Togo use such products to lighten their skin, according to CNN.


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South African Cape Town Langa Township Woman braais goat heads for sale. Image: Anita Sanikop

Rwandan President Paul Kagame asked the Ministry of Health and Rwandan parliament to take up an issue that is not politicized in many countries in Africa.

Dangers of skin whitening products

 The skin lightening products are not safe because mercury is frequently used to make them. The World Health Organization issued this warning:

“The main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage. Mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections. Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy.”

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