Crackdown on skin bleaching products goes countrywide

Skin bleachng products at a NYC beauty supply store. Net photo.

A joint operation to seize skin bleaching cosmetics from the market is yielding positive results, Rwanda National Police (RNP) said Thursday.

The operation, launched Monday, is jointly conducted with the Ministry of Health, Rwanda Food and Drug Authority, Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), and Rwanda Standards Board (RSB), among others.


“So far, we have seized 5,606 assorted pieces of banned bleaching products, including lotions, oils, toilet soaps and sprays,” Commissioner of Police John Bosco Kabera, the police spokesperson, said.


“The illegal products were seized from beauty shops in Kigali, and Eastern, Northern and Western provinces where the operations have been conducted so far,” he added.


Up to 4,470 pieces were seized in Kigali, 574 in Northern region, while 445 and 117 were confiscated from shops in Eastern and Western regions, respectively, according to the report.

Among the products taken off shelves include Maxi-White, Skin White, Fair Light, Secret White, and Diamond White.

Others include Carotene, Diproson, Caro Light, Clear Men, and Epiderm Crème.

These bleaching creams are on the list of 1,342 prohibited brands in Rwanda.

They contain hydroquinone often described as the ‘biological equivalent of paint remover’ in construction, and causing skin cancer.

If it enters the blood stream it also results into fatal liver and kidney damage, although medics say the most immediate visible side effect is skin scarring. 

Police said although similar joint operations will also be extended to the Southern Province, they will continue across the country.

“This is a continuous operation that will not only get these illegal and harmful products from the market but also to fight trafficking of such,” Kabera said.

“Right now the focus is getting them off the shelves and educating the people both on the law and dangers they pose to users, but at the same time strengthening operations on traffickers of these toxic skin whitening substances,” he explained.

The skin bleaching products are labelled illegal under the ministerial order determining the list of cosmetics whose use is prohibited in Rwanda; law on organisation, functioning and competence of the Council of Pharmacists; law governing narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors in Rwanda; and the law relating to the regulation and inspection of food and pharmaceutical products.

Kabera warned traders against flouting the law and “poisoning people.”

He also appealed to the general public to facilitate the fight by both desisting from buying these harmful products and reporting traffickers and sellers.

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