The Health Department may ban skin lightening creams later this year. They may ban skin lightening creams because these creams can poison your skin. In March this year, The Health Department sent out forms to skin doctors. The Health Department wants to know what skin doctors think of skin lightening creams.
Some doctors have sent the forms back. Other doctors will send back the forms soon. “We will decide what to do after we get all the forms back”, says Dr. Piet Swanepoel from the Health Department.
Learn and Teach decided to find out what skin doctors think of skin lightening creams. We spoke to 11 skin doctors from all over South Africa. We spoke to skin doctors who help black people.
Ten doctors said the Health Department must ban skin lightening creams. Only one doctor said the Health Department must not ban skin lightening creams.
The doctors say shops must only sell skin lightening creams to people with a doctor’s note. They say only skin doctors must decide who can use skin lightening creams. Doctors sometimes give skin lightening cream to people with skin diseases. But doctors only give skin lightening creams to a few people.
Doctors say skin lightening creams are bad because they are made with a chemical called hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is the stuff that makes the skin lighter.
But after a while, the hydroquinone poisons the skin. Doctors call this sickness hydroquinone poisoning. People with hydroquinone poisoning get dark patches on their skin. And they get lots of little lumps on their skin.
Doctors cannot help people with hydroquinone poisoning. Some people with hydroquinone poisoning only get better after 5 years. Some people with hydroquinone poisoning never get better.
Two doctors in South Africa warned about the dangers of skin lightening cream in 1975. Their names are Professor Findlay and Dr. De Beer. They warned people again in 1980. They said thousands of black people damage their skin with skin lightening creams. They said people who use skin lightening creams will get hydroquinone poisoning after a while.
In 1980 the Health Department made a law. The law says skin lightening creams must have only a little bit of hydroquinone. Skin lightening creams must not have more than 2% of hydroquinone.
Many doctors were not happy with this new law. They said people will still get hydroquinone poisoning. They said people will just use more skin lightening creams than before.
The Health Department promised to look at the law again. Dr. Swanepoel said: “We will look at the law again after a year. If the 2% law does not work, we will not let people buy skin lightening creams without a doctor’s note”.
Now the time has come. The Health Department is looking at the law again. And nearly all skin doctors still say the Health Department must ban skin lightening creams.
Black people in South Africa spend over R25 million on skin lightening creams every year. Already thousands of people have damaged their skin. The Health Department must ban skin lightening creams before more people damage their skin. Will the Health Department keep its promise?
A domestic worker in Johannesburg is taking the makers of a skin lightening cream to court. This person used skin lightening cream for 2 years. Now her skin is badly damaged. The woman is very angry. She has suffered a lot. She wants to get money from the people who make the skin lightening cream. Legal Resources Centre in Johannesburg is helping her with the court case.
Have you had problems with skin lightening creams? Write and tell us. Or write and tell us what you think of skin lightening creams.