The Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia (PSZ) is concerned with the rampant abuse of skin bleaching and lightening products that contain potentially harmful ingredients such as Mercury, Hydroxyquinone, and Steroids sold indiscriminately in beauty stores, supermarkets, groceries, local stores and markets throughout the country.
Some of these products are useful when prescribed for certain medical conditions associated with hyperpigmentation, to apply usually in recommended areas for a short period of time. However, the same products are also marketed as skin lighteners, anti aging products and to remove dark spots, blemishes, freckles and wrinkles to the general public leading to abuse.
These products when used for prolonged periods have serious side effects to the skin and internal body organs. For instance prolonged use of Hydroxyquinone can cause skin cancers, adrenal dysfunction and liver disease. Long term exposure to Mercury can lead to psychosis, depression, kidney and nervous damage, while very potent steroids are useful for treatment of psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis for specified period of time (usually few days or weeks), members of the public are using these products for prolonged periods to lighten the skin. Indeed steroids will slow down melanin production and lighten the skin, but the negative effects include thinning of the skin increasing the risk of skin damage and delayed healing, visible veins and interferance with hormonal levels.
Based on the above reasons and more, the PSZ is asking the general public to avoid cosmetics with such ingredients as they have the potential to cause irreparable damage to the skin and the body.
We further urge authorities to consider restricting the supply of these products or imposing a ban on selected products as a long term and permanent measure (a move many countries have taken), and as a short term and immediate action, move in and confiscate such products sold in undesignated premises.
While we appreciate that these products may be useful and prescribed for a wide range of conditions as highlighted above. Authorities should ensure that access of these products is strictly limited to designated places such as registered Pharmacies to ensure rational use.
Finally, we wish to urge the members of the public that whatever your skin complexion, it’s very important to use products that will help the skin and not damage it.