Rwanda enforces ban on skin lightening products

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KIGALI, Rwanda

The Rwandan government is sending officials across the country to enforce its ban on skin lightening and bleaching products.

Speaking to CNN, a spokesman from the Rwanda Standards Board said that Rwanda will lead a campaign against skin bleaching and substandard cosmetic, particularly products that contain hydroquinone.

 “It is been implemented by the Ministry of Health and the Rwanda Food and Drug Authority and the Rwanda Standards Board,” said Simeon Kwizera, the public relations and communications officer for the board.

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

Last year in November, the President Paul Kagame sparked discussions on the need to ban the sale of skin “whiteners” on social media.

On his twitter account, the President said that bleaching creams are unhealthy, and he called on the country’s ministry of health and police to rein “this in very quickly.

According to Local media reports, government officials and police are now patrolling markets in the capital, Kigali, and in different provinces across the country, seizing skin-lightening and bleaching products from vendors.

Last month, the country’s Standards Board warned the public about the alternative names for hydroquinone, one of the prohibited ingredients in ordinary commercial cosmetics.

“All the ingredients that can help in body bleaching, skin bleaching, are banned,” said a government spokesperson.

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

Local media also reported that police seized more than 5,000 banned bleaching products including lotions, oils, soaps and sprays from beauty shops across the country last month.

According to a report released by World Health Organization (WHO), 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.

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

In Africa alone, 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.

In 2015, Ivory Coast implemented a ban on skin lightening products with Ghana following suit in 2017.