The White elephant in the room : the role of the consumer protection regulatory framework in Kenya in regulating the increase of hazardous skin lightening cosmetics
This study is an initial attempt to investigate the effectiveness of the current consumer laws in Kenya , in protecting consumers from the exposure to unregulated skin whitening products. Thoughresearchontheimplication ofconsumerlaws inothersectors oftheeconomyhasbeen conducted, less focus has been placed on the cosmetic industry. For this reason, the author sought to bridge that gap with the aim ofstimulating further development on the topic. Using intemational resolutions, published literature, statutes, interviews and surveys, an exploration was made in understanding the health risks attached to the use of unregulated whitening cosmetics and the factors influencing their continued presence in the Kenyan market. The paper initially gives a recap of the possible historical underpinnings of what is known as skin whitening today, highlighting the notions of White supremacy, as expressed in colonialism and slavery, as plausible influences. It then goes on to assess the current obsession with skin lightening in different continents, specifically Africa and Asia, as backed by the impetus of trending media ideals of beauty. An overview of how toxic whitening cosmetics make their way into Kenya is then put forward and an identification is made of the areas in Nairobi that host the presence of the same. Accordingly, the potential side effects of these products are expounded upon and an analysis of the state oftheKenyanlawsinregulatingtheir presence in the country is made. This insight is particularly important in understanding whether the problem lies in the inadequacy of consumer protection legislation or its parallel implementation.