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Skin Whitening Nightmare: Illicit Injections Fuel Health Worries in West Africa


Skin Whitening Nightmare: Illicit Injections Fuel Health Worries in West Africa
PHOTO — Milton Keynes

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The Dangerous Rise of Illegal Skin Bleaching Injections in West Africa

A concerning trend of illicit skin bleaching injections is on the rise in West Africa, , driven by societal pressures linked to beauty standards and social status. Individuals seeking lighter skin tones are falling victim to scams promising quick results, leading to serious health risks and prompting urgent attention from health authorities.

The allure of fair skin is deeply ingrained in West African culture, with many associating it with higher status and beauty. This societal preference has fueled a booming market for skin bleaching treatments, which is projected to reach $16 billion by 2030. However, behind the promise of “uniform whitening” lies a web of deceit and danger.

Injectable skin bleaching products have gained popularity among young people seeking faster and more uniform results. Despite the documented risks associated with skin lightening creams, the dangers of injections are less understood, with little oversight over their ingredients and manufacturing processes.

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Dermatologists warn of the potential health consequences of these injections, which often contain strong anti-inflammatory substances, presumed to be steroids. Prolonged use of these injections can lead to depigmentation, diabetes, hypertension, and other serious health conditions. Wealthier individuals opt for expensive injections of glutathione, a potent antioxidant, despite the associated risks.

Reports from healthcare professionals in countries like Ivory Coast and Cameroon highlight the alarming cases of skin problems and organ failure resulting from illicit injections purchased online. Ghana has issued public health alerts, warning of the toxic side effects of glutathione injections on the liver, kidneys, and nervous system.

Adding to the concerns is the illegal practice of administering these injections by unqualified individuals, often at market stalls or stores. This lack of regulation poses significant health risks and undermines efforts to curb the dangerous trend.

The World Health Organization has labeled skin bleaching as a global health problem requiring urgent attention. As the demand for skin lightening treatments continues to grow, there is a pressing need for comprehensive regulations, public awareness campaigns, and access to safe and affordable alternatives to combat this hazardous phenomenon in West Africa.

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