Do you know what ingredients are used in locally made fairness creams?
On numerous occasions in the past, heavy fines have been imposed on Johnson & Johnson and other prominent pharmaceutical companies for various offences such as false labelling, poor manufacturing practices, Medicare fraud, and kickbacks. This was possible because consumer protection laws are strongly implemented around the world.
Unfortunately, here, in Pakistan, we have no such laws; everyone is manufacturing and selling products without the risk of facing any trouble. It’s in our society that edible items and medical products are manufactured without any respect for the consumers’ health.
Let’s look at how these businesses exploit people. Our society denies proper education or vocational training to girls, particularly those belonging to the middle and lower strata of society. Parents and relatives reiterate that their lives are only meant for marriage.
What happens next?
Women divert their attention to getting married.
Our culture perceives skin tone to be an incredibly perplexing matter, as it’s stereotypically believed that girls with wheatish or dark pigmented skin will be unsuccessful in securing a suitable husband. To adapt to the cultural definition of beauty, girls become obsessed with the need to manipulate their skin and choose to depend on low quality skin whitening creams without realising, or rather not caring about, the effects a certain cream can have on them. There is also no mention of these creams having been approved by the Pakistan Standard Quality Control Authority (PSQCA).
Among the abundance of locally manufactured skin whitening creams – there are many to choose from –currently, one of the most popular ones is Faiza beauty cream. Others in this category are Gipsy Amazing cream, Action-C, Face Fresh and Golden Pearl. These products either do not specify certain ingredients or vaguely mention them; they have mentioned the ingredients, but the quantity of each item is missing.
For example, Kojjic acid is listed as an ingredient on many creams, but its quantity is never mentioned. Mercury is also used in some of the skin whitening products. Perhaps the manufacturers are not aware of the after-effects themselves. Mercury can help in the overall improvement of complexion, but is equally capable of generating severe diseases if overused. A cream containing excess quantity of mercury can be fatal for a baby, if s/he happens to accidentally swallow it.
In Pakistan, the medical facilities available are unsatisfactory. Around 350,000 to 400,000 children die due to common ailments like diarrhoea every year before reaching their fifth birthday. If we are unable to provide medical treatment for curable ailments like diarrhoea, how will we even begin to provide treatment to those who may suffer from skin cancer as a result of these substandard creams?
I think it’s about time our girls raise their heads and seek fulfilment in education, instead of being subjected to cultural ideologies of beauty and empowerment. Furthermore, effective consumer laws must be established where consumer pleas are heard and matters are settled in months, instead of being languished for decades.
I hope the government empowers institutions like PSQCA and Consumer Association of Pakistan (CAP) and encourages similar bodies to operate efficiently so they can maintain a check and balance over manufacturers and prevent them from burdening consumers with their harmful products.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.