Evaluation of the availability and use of skin lightening creams containing hydroquinone in uganda: A case of kampala district.
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BACKGROUND: Exposure to hydroquinone through use of HQ based skin lightening creams is a major public health hazard world-wide. The use of these products is associated with various dermatological or skin disorders and systematic adverse effects. Despite the official prohibition of HQ in all skin care products, the availability and use of HQ based skin products is high and on an increase in Uganda. OBJECTIVE: To determine the presence of HQ in skin care products and evaluate factors associated with availability and use of HQ based skin lightening creams in Kampala. METHODS: This was a cross- sectional study with both qualitative and quantitative aspects. Qualitative data was collected using questionnaires and key informant interviews. Hydroquinone content from skin care products were determined by thin layer chromatography. For data analysis categorical variables were analyzed using chi-square test, while the student t-test was used for continuous variables and logistic regression techniques for strength of associations and p-value under 0.05 being significant. RESULTS: Of the 320 outlets, 61.3% sold skin lightening creams, and of the 50 creams sampled, 70% contained HQ. Among the 320 participants interviewed 61.5% use SKLCs, with use cutting all adult age groups and sexes. Factors that significantly correlated with use of the products included being a female, unmarried and being unaware of the side effects of SKLC. Other factors that contribute to availability and use of HQ based SKLCs were desire for lighter skins, ineffective controls by government and profit motive by traders. Most products were labelled as originating from developed western countries with some from central and West African countries. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION: Despite the official ban against SKLCs containing HQ, the products are widely available and their use is high and cuts across various socio-demographic characteristics but is more prevalent in women than men. To effectively prevent and eliminate these products from the Ugandan market, it is recommended that the government imposes strict penalties against importation of skin care products and these products should be subjected to mandatory screening or testing for HQ. It is also recommended that raising awareness of the public through continuous campaigns and sensitization via the media can make a positive impact.