The Ivory Coast has officially banned skin-whitening creams because of health concerns. CNN reports that the country’s health minister said that “cosmetic lightening and hygiene creams… that de-pigment the skin… are now forbidden.”
The skin lightening creams—used extensively in Africa, the Caribbean, America, and many Asian countries—have been linked to cancer, diabetes, and severe skin conditions reports the news outlet.
The real danger according to dermatologist Justine Kluk, is unregulated products, which may contain ingredients such as mercury or excessive amounts of steroids.
Dr. Kluk said the creams can cause a variety of health issues, such as “acne, thinning of the skin, glaucoma or cataracts if applied near the eyes.” Further, if they are “applied liberally to the whole body, [they can] cause high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, weight gain, mood disturbance due to absorption of large amounts of steroids.”
If other countries are any indication, however, the ban may not stop the use of the dangerous products.
Despite a ban in The Gambia the products are still used, and, in South Africa, a recent study found that more than a third of South African women still buy skin lighteners despite a ban there on hydroquinone, the ingredient used in most skin lighteners.
Nigeria is apparently the country where whitening cream use is most widespread, where more than 75% of women buy them, according to a 2008 UN Environment Programme study, says CNN.