Skin-lightening products are being removed from shop shelves in Rwanda following a government ban.
The creams and soaps, whose sales in Africa are worth billions every year, were banned on November 2018.
Since the ban came into effect, thousands of bottles have been seized from shop shelves in a government-led crackdown.
Responding to concerns raised by a Rwandese national on twitter regarding the state of bleaching in Rwanda, President Paul Kagame urged the nation’s ministry of health to take action immediately.
“I think @rwandastandards and @RwandaHealth should start a campaign against skin bleaching, a BIG one because this is getting out of hand!” wrote the user, to which President Kagame responded by stating “quite unhealthy among other things. Includes use of prohibited chemicals. MoH and RNP need to reign this in very quickly...”
How it works
One of the common ingredients found in skin-lightening soaps and creams is mercury.
When applied onto the skin, the mercury in the products inhibits the formation of melanin, resulting in a lighter skin tone.
However, the use of products containing mercury poses a health risk to the consumers as it could lead to kidney or liver failure, skin cancer and the formation of dark skin patches.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 4 out of 10 African women bleach their skin.