(An ad for skin bleaching cream in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images)
The use of skin bleaching products is unfortunately quite common all over the world, from the Caribbean, to Asia, and Africa. Many of the products contain heavy metals, unregulated chemicals, and unknown quantities of Hydroquinone, one of the main components of skin bleach.
While lightening products can be used under the supervision of a physicians or in limited applications to treat skin discoloration, hyper-pigmentation, and other skin ailments, many bleaching consumers purposefully seek out these products as a way to dramatically change their appearance and alter their racial identity.
Several countries and grassroots organizations have started campaigns to fight back against the prevalence of skin bleaching creams. The creams are seen not only as a threat to self-esteem but also a threat to public health. Bleaching creams imported from Africa have been outlawed in the EU, and many African nations are also taking a stand against the products and the practice of artificial skin lightening.
As The Guardian reports, the Ivory Coast has become the latest country to ban skin bleaching creams. The country’s ministry recently released a statement on the decision, citing public health risk.
“Cosmetic lightening and hygiene creams … that depigment the skin … are now forbidden,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ban affects whitening creams and lotions containing mercury and its derivatives, cortisone, vitamin A or more than two percent hydroquinine, a lightening agent that is used to develop photographs.
“The number of people with side effects caused by these medicines is really high,” said Christian Doudouko, a member of Ivory Coast’s pharmaceutical authority, warning that they could cause skin cancer.
Lightening products can also lead to hypertension and diabetes, said Elidje Ekra, a dermatologist at the Treichville university hospital in Abidjan.
While many are applauding the move, it’s important to remember that since skin bleaching is big business, such creams are still widely available online and on the black market.