Skin lightening is popular in many parts of the world, including South Asia and the Middle East.
In South Africa, a growing portion of the population is using skin bleaching products, hoping it will improve their job prospects and social status – in a country that has a history of racism and racial injustice.
It’s illegal to sell skin lightening or bleaching products – and yet it’s big business, with studies showing up to one in three women in the country buy them.
The reason many of these products are banned is because they contain a chemical compound called Hydroquinone. Over time, high concentrations of the substance can cause irreparable damage to the skin, and suppress the production of melanin, a pigment that affects the colour of human skin, hair and eyes – generally speaking, the more melanin in someone’s skin the darker their skin is, stalling melanin production takes away one of the mechanisms the skin has for blocking ultraviolet rays, making it easier for people to receive burns and skin cancer.
These side effects of Hydroquinone and other skin whitening compounds – have led regulators in many countries to either ban it, or limit its concentration to no more than 2-4 per cent in any product, and require a prescription for it to be purchased.
Skin bleaching products are illegal in South Africa.
— AFRICAN FACTS (@FactsHubAfrica) December 26, 2018
However, in many parts of Africa, creams with up to 15 per cent concentration of hydroquinone can be purchased in stores.
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