Kigali: Operations against skin bleaching cosmetics heightened

On 1 December 2021 at 05:36

On Monday, November 29, the Rwanda National Police (RNP) Anti-Smuggling and Organised Crimes unit (ASOC) arrested five people in separate operations conducted in Nyarugenge, Gasabo and Kicukiro districts, who were selling banned skin whitening cosmetics commonly known as Mukologo.

Those arrested are Albert Niyonsaba, 35, Aaron Bigirimana, 31, Eugene Mutabaruka, 28, Valentine Mukamuruta, 43, and Jean Claude Ntawinanirwa, 29.

They were found in possession of combined 487 pieces of assorted lotions including Caro light, Mediven, Epiderm Crème, Beauti, Coco Pulp, Éclair 600, Extra clair, Infini Clear, Extra&White and Rapid Clair.

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

Eugene Mutabaruka, one of the suspects, said that he started selling the cosmetics last year and that he buys them from the street vendors.

“I was arrested in Masaka, on Monday at about 10am after Police officers found banned lotions in my shop," Mutabaruka said.

Aaron Bigirimana who also runs a shop in Kabuga, admitted that he was aware that the cosmetics he was selling are illegal, but asked for leniency.

RNP spokesperson, Commissioner of Police (CP) John Bosco Kabera said that the suspects were arrested due to the good collaboration with the public, who share information.

“We urge those dealing in cosmetics to sell only products that are allowed in Rwanda. A list of outlawed lotions, oils and creams was published and anyone selling them is breaking the law and will be arrested," CP Kabera warned.

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 (WHO).

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 Rwf3 million and not more than Rwf5 million or one of these penalties.

The suspects were found in possession of combined 487 pieces of assorted lotions.