Fresh warning to dealers in skin bleaching products

On 13 June 2021 at 08:15

On Friday, June 11, Rwanda National Police (RNP) arrested three people in Muhima Sector, Nyarugenge District where they were selling banned skin whitening creams commonly known as Mukologo.

Those arrested are Wellars Dushimimana, 30, Assoumpta Byukusenge, 35, and Vincent Ukwizagira, 25. They were found in possession of combined 491 pieces of assorted lotions including Caro light, Miss White, Princess Clair, G.G and Hypprogel.

At least 254 pieces of assorted creams were found in the shop owned by one Daniel Dushimiyimana, who is still at large.

The arrest of the trio came few days after three other three dealers in skin whitening cosmetics were also arrested Kigali Sector, Nyarugenge District with 156 pieces of assorted skin whitening creams including Caro light, Eclair 600, Extra Clair, White Max and Beauty.

On June 1, Police also arrested two people in Kigarama and Gikondo sectors of Kicukiro District with combined 1,451 pieces of assorted creams and oils worth Frw768,100.

Late last month, RNP recovered 90 boxes of skin bleaching products worth over Frw9 million from the house of one John Hakizimana (also arrested) located in Ingenzi Village, Kivugiza Cell of Nyamirambo Sector, Nyarugenge District.

The boxes had been trafficked into Rwanda from DRC, through Rubavu before sneaking them into Kigali.

Earlier in March, four people were also arrested in Kicukiro District with 36 types of bleaching creams worth about Rwf3 million.

The cosmetics are among the 1,342 listed cream and oil brands with hydroquinone and mercury, which are prohibited in Rwanda.

The skin bleaching products are labeled illegal under the ministerial order determining the list of cosmetics, whose use is prohibited in Rwanda; law relating to offences and penalties in general, the law on organization, functioning, and competence of the Council of Pharmacists; and the law relating to the regulation and inspection of food and pharmaceutical products.

“The existing good collaboration with the public is playing a big role in identifying those dealing in these outlawed creams and oil brands, and these are continuous operations. We can only advise anyone still involved in such unlawful acts to stop before they are arrested,” CP Kabera warned, while parading Dushimimana, Byukusenge, and Ukwizagira on Saturday, June 12.

According to one of the suspects, Byukusenge, they were buying the skin bleaching creams from street vendors at cheap prices. Byukusenge added that she started selling the outlawed cosmetics last year.

Wellars Dushimimana, who operates a shop in Downtown taxi-park, said he started selling the banned skin whitening products eight months ago.

“We have heightened operations against shops and other people selling these products, which have ill-effects on people’s health. We call upon the public to continue reporting dealers,” said CP Kabera.

Side effects

The outlawed creams and oil brands contain chemicals such as mercury and hydroquinone, which can cause liver damage, reduce resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, and increase anxiety, according to the World Health Organization.

If it enters the bloodstream, it also results into fatal liver and kidney damage, although medics say the most immediate visible side effect is skin scarring.

Health experts confirm that prolonged use of corticosteroid creams and lotions can also decrease levels of collagen in the skin.

Collagen strengthens and supports the skin, and a reduced amount can increase the risk of striae commonly known as stretch marks.

Legal framework

Article 266 of the law determining offenses and penalties in general, states that any person, who produces, sells, or prescribes harmful products; cosmetics or body hygiene substance or any other products derived from plants, commits an offence.

Upon conviction, he/she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and not more than two years and a fine of not less than Frw3 million and not more than Frw5 million or one of these penalties.