Ghana’s Food and Drug Authority is set to ban the skin-bleaching agent hydroquinone later this summer
Hydroquinone, used in the treatment of freckles and brown patches on the skin, as well as cosmetic applications, has been linked to cancer. The African government’s agency has associated the chemical with ochronosis, which can darken and damage the skin.
“Concerning skin-lightening products, we are saying that from August 2016, all products containing hydroquinone will not be allowed into the country,” James Lartey, head of communications at Ghana’s FDA told Starr News. “From 2016, the acceptance for skin-lightening products is going to be zero.”
Because of its status as a possible carcinogen, hydroquinone has been banned in several countries including the United States, Japan, Australia and parts of Europe.
Ghanian FDA member Geoffrey Arthur said hydroquinone was particularly dangerous, telling TV3 Network Limited Ghana News that “The hydroquinone looks cheaper as compared to the other skin toning agents that (are) relatively safer to use.”
Skin bleaching is a common practice in Ghana. According to the African Safety Promotion Journal, about 30 percent of women in Ghana admit to skin bleaching. Ghanaian boxer Bukom Banku admitted to bleaching his skin in an interview with Radio Gold, saying that he bleached his skin in order to receive a political position. “If you see me now, I look fresh,” Banku told the radio station.
The use of hydroquinone is a worldwide issue as well. The World Health Organization reported that about 75 percent of Nigerian women, 33 percent of South African women, and 27 percent of Senegalese women regularly use skin lightening products. According to a report by market researchers ACNielsen, India’s whitening products were worth more than $432 million in 2010. The World Health Organization also reported that, in 2011, more than 60 percent of the dermatological market included skin lightening agents.
Colorism has plagued the African American community for years. In 2012, the documentary “Dark Girls” examined skin tone discrimination in the Black community and the plight that women with darker complexions face.
Ghanaian-British actress Ama K. Abebrese became a spokesperson against skin lightening by creating the I Love My Natural Skin campaign. Through a series of videos, photoshoots, inspirational quotes, and social media use, Abebrese along with other celebrities encourage Black women of all skin tones to embrace their natural skin color.
“This whole campaign is most first and foremost about confidence,” she said in a promotional video for her campaign. “Loving your natural skin tone, what you were born with, and not tampering it with chemicals.”