KZN Health Department warns against skin lightening products

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A beautician who works on Nairobi's River Road illustrates how to apply skin-lightening cream, on March 18, 2015.

DURBAN – KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo has urged people to avoid using dangerous skin lightening and bleaching products.

Such products can cause skin cancer and even premature death, Dhlomo said in a statement on Saturday.

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“Over decades we have seen people blemished and disfigured, especially among the African and Indian groups, due to the use of skin lighteners,” he said.

“Wrong notions were being promoted to the effect that to be black, especially if you were particularly dark, was loaded with negative stereotypes. Several products promising miraculous transformations were then manufactured and marketed specifically to the black community.

“Consequently many black women and black men have mutilated their bodies and have even died because they used products containing harsh chemicals that promised peace of mind in a bottle,” he said.

The department officially launched an anti-skin lightening and bleaching campaign in Durban on Friday.

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Scores of people braved the rainy weather to attend the march, which also featured testimonials and warnings from people injured by these products.

Dhlomo called on law enforcement authorities to ensure that illegal skin whitening products were taken off the shelves, destroyed, and not imported again.

“We also call upon them to play their roles in enforcing legislation and monitoring of illegal importation of banned skin creams. The business sector associations also has to show its caring and progressive ethos, calling upon all their members to remove of all the banned skin lightening creams from their shelves in supermarkets, vendors, pharmacies and spice shops.

“To the manufacturers, we demand that they stick to the strict guidelines and legislation that governs the sale of products which are meant for treating pigmentation.”

South Africans had to realise that these products often contained harmful chemicals. Adverse effects included skin cancer, skin infections, skin thinning, uneven skin tone with increased pigmentation, stretch marks, ochronosis (irreversible greyish pigmentation), and kidney and neurological problems caused by mercury in the products.

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