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Skin bleaching popular in Uganda

Shirley Hawkins | 9/3/2008, 5 p.m.

According to Ugandan government officials, Ugandans continue to bleach their skin despite a government ban on skin bleaching products.

Although skin whitening or bleaching products are used for treating pigmentation disorders like freckles, pregnancy marks, blotchy uneven skin tone, patches of brown to gray skin and age spots, the practice of skin bleaching is common among adults with dark skin in Uganda, especially women.
According to officials, Ugandan consumers feel that the bleaching cosmetics will enhance their beauty. One user said, "One has to look good by having fair, lighter skin."
One woman who had used bleaching products had developed multi-colored skin that was marred from inflammation and scarring. The skin on her knees, toes and joints of her fingers remained black.
Dr. Misaki Wayengera of Makerere University Medical School told the website Women's International Perspective (WIP) that the skin of Ugandans using bleaching products gets inflamed, turns red, enlarges and begins to lose function as the cells fail to produce melanin.
"Such a person (who uses bleaching products) lacks self-esteem, has low self-efficacy and a perception that she or he looks ugly," said Robert Wandera, coordinator of the Psychology Department at Makerere University in Uganda. "It is common among women who are not educated."
Doctors reported that after finding that the skin bleaching doesn't work, many users develop low self-esteem that in some instances could lead to suicide.
Due to ineffective enforcement of the ban, the bleaching cosmetics are easily accessible anywhere in Uganda and remain in high demand.