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ghana is cracking down on the skin bleaching industry

The West African nation has announced a strict ban on all products that contain the dangerous chemical hydroquinone.

by Hannah Ongley
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Jun 3 2016, 9:05pm

The multi-billion dollar skin bleaching industry is about to get slightly less lucrative. In the West African nation of Ghana, the government has announced a strict crackdown on the sort of potentially dangerous lightening products that are startlingly popular across the entire African continent. About 75 percent of Nigerian women, 27 percent of Senegalese women, and 33 percent of South African women regularly use skin-lightening products, reports the Washington Times. While other countries including Australia, the United States, and Japan have cracked down on bleaching, the legislation in Ghana is particularly significant given the popularity of such products. 

The reason for the ban, according to officials, is hydroquinone — a chemical found in many bleaching products. This chemical can cause women to suffer side effects like skin irritation, blistering, uneven skin tone, and even cancer. It can also cause ochronosis, a condition in which the skin becomes darker and sometimes disfigured. Because of this, the FDA has issued a ban on any imported products that contain hydroquinone. The zero-tolerance crackdown will begin as early as this summer. "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 for skin lightening products is going to be zero," James Lartey told Starr News

Though physical health concerns are cited as the reason for the ban, the issue isn't just skin deep. As Ghanaian-British model Philomena Kwao emphasized through her charity initiative The Lily Project last year, colorism is a serious concern in parts of the world where bleaching products are advertised on towering billboards while darker-skinned celebrities are regulated to the sidelines. "I wanted to be lighter like all the celebrities and beautiful women I knew as I didn't see one black female celebrity who was dark skinned and beautiful," she said. Banning products certainly won't solve this complex cultural problem, but it's a big step in the right direction. 

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Text Hannah Ongley