Rwandan government bans skin lightening cosmetics

Rwanda’s government has banned cosmetics used to lighten the skin saying that chemicals in the controversial creams and ointments are harmful to the health of their users. Okwi Okoh reports.

KIGALI, RWANDA (Reuters) –

Ointments like these – used to lighten or ”bleach” skin – have been banned in Rwanda.

They often contain powerful and prohibited toxins like hydroquinone and mercury – and present a serious health risk.

Despite that, many Rwandan women resent the ban, like Sifa Godance in Kigali.


“I am very sad that these products have been banned. We will just use what is locally available, but the people who made that decision need to know that these products make a woman feel beautiful.”

Like Sifa, Agne Awimana has been using skin lightening cosmetics for seven years.

She says she does so to make herself more attractive to her husband.

She also used to sell her own skin lightening ointments.

But now she must look for another source of income and quickly use up her remaining stock.

Otherwise, her supplies may be seized by police who have been confiscating thousands of products since the end of 2018.

According to the World Health Organization, four in every 10 African women use skin lightening products.

And countries which already have prohibitive laws, like Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa, have seen that there’s still strong demand

– meaning that a ban won’t necessarily come between the willing buyers and smugglers operating in a global industry worth billions of dollars.

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