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Dermatologists warn Nigerians on dangers of skin bleaching

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The Nigerian Association of Dermatologists (NAD) has raised concerns over the influx of skin bleaching products in the country.The professional body of medical doctors specialised in the field of dermatology: the branch of medicine concerned with disorders and care of the skin, hair, nails, mucous membranes, and sexually transmitted diseases has noticed in recent times, an increase in the variety of skin lightening products and procedures flooding the Nigerian market, all promising a fairer or lighter and purportedly more beautiful skin.

According to NAD President, Dr. Grace C. Okudo, these products and procedures are advertised and marketed by people who claim to be skin experts or sometimes calling themselves dermatologists.

“They advertise these products and procedures as safe to use and undergo with no harmful side effects. Some products are promoted and sold in the guise of being all natural (or organic), thus presumably harmless. Adding that these products, procedures and promoters are unfortunately not well regulated in the society.

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She informed that some of these marketers even administer oral drugs or intravenous injections in addition to applying various noxious substances directly to the skin. Ominously we see these products and procedures been administered to children and babies who unfortunately have no say in what is being done to them.

She said: “The dangers of such products and procedures on our healthy black skin has been highlighted and publicized by the organisation NAD over the years in various fora such as scientific conferences /annual general meetings (AGM), frequent community outreach programs and our yearly WSHD (World Skin Health Day) activities held across the various geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

“In July 2018 at Ile-Ife, the 12th Scientific Conference and AGM was themed ‘Skin advocacy: the role of arts, culture and media’ with focus on the good and harmful cultural skin practices. We discussed. The harmful effects of skin bleaching practices, rising patronage by Nigerians, including the ease of purchase and increasing availability of supposedly controlled skin bleaching agents.”

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Okudo informed the organisation had engaged the Nigerian people and governments at various levels over multiple platforms in the print and electronic media in the form of interviews and health programmes. We have also been active in the social media space.

The body reiterated that a dermatologist is a qualified medical doctor fully registered and licensed to practice by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) who has undergone postgraduate training in dermatology. The NAD is the only national association of dermatologists in Nigeria. It is duly registered with affiliates in all the geopolitical zones of the country and international dermatology societies worldwide.

On the way forward, Okudo said there is the need to encourage and train dermatologists and other allied health care professionals, increase interest in dermatology by continuous sensitization of students and resident doctors about the scope and range the specialty, unrelenting advocacy and increased public enlightenment by dermatologists on the menace of skin bleaching, government needs to enforce the regulations on the use and illegal sale of skin bleaching/lightening agents, partnership between dermatologists and other stakeholders such as cosmetologists to improve and enhance skin care practices in the country and need for inclusion of dermatologic services in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).”

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