Up to a third of South African women bleach their skin, but many South African women don’t realise how harmful skin lightening products are.
Head of University of KwaZulu Natal Dermatology Department, Dr Ncoza Dlova has been speaking out about skin lightening products all week and led a march against them in Durban last week.
She said research showed 90% of people surveyed in Durban didn’t know they were damaging their skin with lightening products. Dlova said skin-lightening was widespread, despite products being banned in South Africa in the 1970s.
Speaking this week in Pretoria, she said the marketing language surrounding skin lightening products needed to change.
“We should talk about good skin care, not brightening , lightening, fairer skin and even tone. The change in terminology has to start with us“.
In an analysis of widely- available but illegal creams, Dlova found that many contained mercury or hydroquinone, a medical drug that can cause permanent scarring when misused.
Dlova said she learned recently that a patient died in Nigeria from a side effect of a glutathione drip. Glutiathione is drug used to prevent nerve damage, but is now used widely to lighten people’s skin.
It is provided by intravenous drips at upmarket boutiques in Sandton.
A study published in the South African Medical Journal last month warned there was no long-term safety data on the use of glutathione to lighten skin.
Dlova called for a change in the way people viewed their skins.
“If I were to go to a supermarket, I would choose the darkest of skins, because they are the best skins for Africa.”
Amada Gouws, Professor of Political Science at Stellenbosch University said: “Racism makes people believe that darker people are uncivilised and criminal.”