The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s head of dermatology Professor Ncoza Dlova has called for a ban on the sale and use of skin lightening products.

Professor Ncoza Dlova claimed that her “recent research on the use of skin lightening products — including leading South African brands revealed that nine out of 10 users of the creams were unaware of the dangerous side-effects‚ including skin cancer”.

Contrary to what we have on cigarette packs, she also observed that none of the top 10 South African or internationally produced skin lightening products in the market contained a warning for women to use a sunscreen when applying a skin-lightening product as required by law.

The findings of Dlova’s research stated that only 21% use sunscreen in conjunction with skin-lightening products. This is very dangerous because it exposes the skin to possible damage from the sun thereby compounding the risk of skin cancer.

The professor noted that more that one-third of women associate a lighter skin tone with self-esteem‚ socio-economic class‚ better job opportunities and marriage prospects. Some woman Actually feel that you need to be fair-skinned before you can be beautiful.

Even more worrying she observed, is that “while 23% of African women and 11% of Indian women reported that their skin had been damaged by the use of a skin lightening product‚ 90% were still happy with the result of a lighter skin tone”.

Dlova listed among the other side-effects an irreversible thinning of the skin‚ stretch marks‚ skin infections‚ pimples‚ permanent dark marks and skin cancer as some of the problems that accompany skin lightening products.

The KZN university department of dermatology and Women Dermatology Society‚ which Dlova also heads‚ are to launch a campaign warning women against the use of skin lightening creams‚ as their use “is not only a psycho-social burden but also a major public health issue which needs development of targeted interventions aimed at changing perceptions and educating consumers about the dangers of this practice”.

“The post-colonization inferiority complex and media advertisers promote being fair and thin as desirable goals and this needs to change‚” Dlova said.

“Our campaign will not only call for government action against these skin lightening products but also more consumer awareness of the banned chemicals being used recommendation of the correct use of products which are allowed on the market.”

We hope that ladies will listen and stop using these skin lightening products to save them a lifetime of regret and disease.