Ghana has resolved to ban the use of skin lightening products which contain a bleaching agent hydroquinone including creams, body lotions, bath gels, and soaps.
The decision by the country’s Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) is part of a directive from the state’s Standard Authority in an effort to deter users of the cancer-causing chemical in the market.
Data from research indicates that unregulated products have higher quantities of hydroquinone and mercury than those recommended by dermatologists. Apart from increasing the risk of skin cancer due to the inhibition of the melanin synthesis (which protects the skin against ultraviolet radiation) by hydroquinone, using such products could also lead to liver and kidney failure. It also is known to cause hyperpigmentation, which is the formation of dark skin patches on the area where the product is applied.
But come August 2016, the government wants this to be a thing of the past, following the new guideline.
“Concerning skin lightening products, we are saying that from August 2016, all products containing hydroquinone will not be allowed into the country. From 2016 the acceptance of skin lightening products is going to be zero,” FDA spokesperson James Lartey told Starr News’s Lambert Atsivor in an interview.
Lightening products can also lead to hypertension and diabetes, according to Elidje Ekra, a dermatologist at the Treichville University Hospital in Abidjan.
Many African women and a few men too believe being white-skinned translates to beauty and as such, they do everything possible to look lighter so as to get more recognition and possibly success.
These products have been popular in the European Union, Japan, Australia and the United States, but due to hydroquinone which may act as a carcinogen or cancer-causing chemical, they were banned in these markets, a couple of years ago.
Last year, Ivory Coast banned the sale of the dangerous whitening products, with an aim of promoting physical public health among its citizens. Many months down the line, the outlawed bleaching products remain on shop shelves and in salons, and the practice does not seem to dwindle.
According to the World Health Organization, Nigeria remains Africa’s largest cosmetic market with 77 percent of women reportedly using the products to whiten their skin. Togo, South Africa, and Mali followed with 59, 35 and 25 percent respectively. Despite stringent measures, a third of South Africans still use the illegal creams.
What can be done?
One of the reasons why many women and men are resorting to the skin-whitening products is peer pressure. Moreover, advertisements on television and billboards are full of light-skinned men and women further compelling young people to do the same.
Celebrities are also blamed for endorsing skin-lightening products, thus taking a larger following into their fold.
Take for example a recent declaration by Bukom Banku, Ghanaian professional boxer, that he had been bleaching so as to gain a national assignment as Ghana’s ambassador to Germany. The former dark-skinned boxer is now white although he has speckles of dark skin around his kneecaps and elbows.
And he is not the only one.
In 2011, Mshoza, real name Nomasonto Mnisi, a South African Kwaito artist declared that she wanted to look like Michael Jackson, and with that, started the long journey to whiten her skin. In her argument, Mshoza said she was tired of being ugly (black) and wanted to be more attractive by being white.
There is a need to bring women and men with dark skins on board to encourage young girls and boys that being black is beautiful.
Lupita Nyong’o, Alek Wek are some of the world celebrities that are black and proud. Although Lupita admitted to feelings of unattractiveness when she was growing up, she learned to love herself and her body. She is an example of what confidence in one’s skin can do. Unlike Banku who believes being white will give him the position he desires; Lupita Nyong’o is an ambassador already, in spite of her skin color.
African men especially need to appreciate their women, daughters and sisters the way they are without pointing out skin color as a definition of beauty. Women on the other hand and a couple of men too should love themselves the way they are without the madness of yellow-bones.
The issue of color is not skin deep. It is mental and emotional deep. There is a need to address the situation from that point of view and not just focusing on the physical problems only.
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