Medicines authority flags unapproved skin lightening creams over health dangers

HARARE – The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) has warned the public to be wary of the health dangers posed by unapproved skin lightening products being sold by some beauty salons and wellness shops.

The products often come in the form of oral or injectable glutathione and injectable vitamins.

MCAZ, mandated to ensure all medicines and medical devices on the market are safe, said the untested beauty products pose a danger to people, especially when non-medical practitioners administer the treatments.

In a statement, the medicines regulator warned that unapproved skin lightening products could affect the liver, kidneys, nervous system, cause severe skin reactions, hives or allergic reactions, weight gain, losing pigmentation of hair, eye infections and disorders.

The illegal skin lightening products, according to MCAZ, contain harmful ingredients with toxic effects whose potential risks include transmission of infections agents such as HIV, hepatitis C and B.

Acting MCAZ Director, Richard Rukwata said the authority has not approved or registered any injectables or oral products for skin lightening.

“To date, there are no published clinical trials that have evaluated the use of oral or injectable vitamins for skin lightening products. There are also no published guidelines for appropriate dosing regimens and duration of treatment,” Rukwata said.

“The Authority has noted with concern that several beauty salons, wellness and beauty shops are offering all kinds of beauty enhancement services and skin treatments.

“It is alarming also that these also offer services such as intravenous drips or infusions using lightening agents including glutathione tablets combined with injectable vitamins. It is an offence to sell unregistered medicines without authorisation,” said the regulator.

A study done by African Health Sciences in 2021 shows that skin bleaching seems to be a common practice among women living in Zimbabwe and can cause serious threats to the health of the users.

The practice seems to be rooted in colourism.

The cosmetic industry is capitalizing on that colourism, producing skin bleaching products which promise the consumers the revered light skin while hiding the potential dangers which result from these products.

Most skin lightening creams sold on the streets are not authorized by the Medicines Control Authority’s licensing and regulatory board, which tests products for banned substances, but there’s no legislation that specifically targets the cosmetics sector in Zimbabwe making it difficult to regulate the illicit trade of skin bleaching products.

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