Doctors Fear Heysal Causes Cancer image image

Ivory Coast Bans Skin Bleaching Products

The government of Ivory Coast last week banned skin-whitening creams otherwise called heysal in The Gambia. The country’s health ministry blamed the reason on health concerns.

The move outlawed “cosmetic lightening and hygiene creams… that de-pigment the skin.”

For so many years, whitening creams have been popular among mostly young women in Africa. Some men also use the creams. All users claim the creams coil their beauty.

However, medical experts said the creams are capable of causing diabetes, cancer, or severe skin conditions, among others.

A member of Ivory Coast’s pharmaceutical authority explained the reasons for the ban. “The number of people with side-effects caused by these medicines is really high,” Christian Doudouko was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

British consultant dermatologist said there was concern over unregulated products which may contain mercury or excessive amounts of steroids.

“If one thinks about steroids being present in these products, they’re often present in much higher quantities than we would prescribe,” Justine Kluk told the BBC. She said the skin-bleaching creams can cause “acne, thinning of the skin, glaucoma or cataracts if applied near the eyes”.

“Or if applied liberally to the whole body, [they can] cause high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, weight gain, mood disturbance due to absorption of large amounts of steroids,” she added.

Whether the ban will make any impact is another question. The Gambia’s ban on skin bleaching products is effective only on paper, as people are still buying the creams.

Also more than a third of South African women still use the creams, despite the prohibition of the most ingredient, hydroquinone. More than 75% of Nigerian women use skin bleaching creams. This puts the country on top of skin bleaching in Africa.


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