Government Bans Skin Lightening Products Over Mercury

  • The bleaching debate has taken a frontline in the Kenyan beauty industry following a feature that aired on Citizen TV on Sunday night.

    Revelations made include skin lightening products that have been banned by the government for containing mercury and its compounds.

    Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) has listed dozens of creams, gels and liquid products which, when used unregulated, have cancer-causing effects.

    The products which most people go for in a bid to lighten their skin despite the known side effects are acquired in beauty shops along River Road.

    Some of the skin lightening products banned by KEBS.

    The pills have no KEBS sticker and proper expiration date and the cream is also in an unlabelled container. Also available is a yellowish fluid which is used for injections.

    The ‘mkorogo’ mixture identified as a perfumed body cream is found to contain high quantities of hydroquinone - a banned carcinogenic agent.

    Investigative journalist Asha Mwilu spoke to a vendor who upon selling the product issued a warning.

    "Lazima nikuambie ukweli…usiseme hao madame hawakukuambia. Itakulighten vizuri lakini ile siku utapata accident ama kidonda, inakuwa ngumu kushona na kupona kwa sababu hiyo sindano inachange kila kitu kwa mwili. So mwili yako inakuwa nyepesi kabisa.

    (I must tell you the truth. Don't say we didn't warn you. The product will lighten your skin but the day you will be involved in an accident or get a bruise, you may have complications because of the effect the drug may have in your body)" the vendor warned the journalist.

    A Nairobi resident, Irene Njeri, who has used skin lightening products on her skin, explained that injections are more effective than the creams or gels.

    "Difference ya mafuta na sindano; ukidungwa sindano, unakuwa mbrown kila mahali. Huku kwa knuckles, mtu hajui kama umejibleachlakini mafuta ya kujipaka, lazima utafute mafuta ya knuckles. Ukishakuwa mbrown unawachana nayo.

    (When you use injections, you will become brown everywhere. Even the knuckles will turn and nobody will know you have bleached. But for creams, you have to get one for your knuckles and when your skin turns, you stop using)" she told the journalists.

    Here is the video: