NAFDAC cautions Nigerians against skin lightening products

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The Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC), Mojisola Adeyeye has cautioned Nigerians on the use of bleaching and other skin-lightening products.

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Adeyeye noted that just as the agency would discourage eating unwholesome food, it was also committed to stopping the use of bleaching creams because of their harmful effects on health. She deplored their pervasive use by Nigerians, especially women, despite the dangers associated with them.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, skin lightening or skin bleaching is a cosmetic procedure that aims to lighten dark areas of the skin or achieve a generally paler skin tone. While people use it to have lighter skins and appear more attractive, health experts have established lethal negative side effects from prolonged use, ranging from minor to long-term health hazards.

Used by dark-skinned people around the world seeking to look lighter or “white,” alarmingly, Nigerians are the largest consumers of these cosmetics.

Skin bleaching preparations inhibit melanin production within the skin cells. They block the formation of the enzyme tyrosine, which helps produce the amino acids of melanin. When melanin is no longer being produced naturally to replace skin cells that slough off, the result is a lighter skin tone. But because melanin also protects the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays, bleaching products that stop melanin production invariably pose a greater risk of provoking certain skin cancers.

Adeyeye repeated expert warnings that skin-lightening products could cause cancer, damage to vital organs of the body, skin irritation, allergies, skin burns, rashes, wrinkles, premature skin ageing and prolonged healing of wounds. She said NAFDAC had been carrying out raids on manufacturers, stores, and retail outlets in fulfilment of its mandate on safeguarding the health of Nigerians. These efforts must be intensified.

Experts say bleaching could also complicate surgical procedures. Therefore, there should be stricter regulation of the domestic manufacture, importation, distribution, and marketing of the products.

The Director, Chemical Evaluation, NAFDAC, Leonard Omokpariola, stresses that most of these bleaching cosmetic products are endocrine disruptors, adding that they could lead to early puberty and low sperm count in men due to high estrogenic activities.

A World Health Organisation study revealed that skin bleaching creams use was prevalent among 77 per cent of Nigerian women, which is the highest in Africa, compared to 59 per cent in Togo, 35 per cent in South Africa, and 27 per cent in Senegal.



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