The Price Women Pay for Beauty

There are the good, the bad and the downright ridiculous things women do in search of beauty. Some women go out seeking for cheap plastic surgery to enhance body parts. But one woman was not lucky. She ended up in the hands of a quack doctor who filled her buttocks with cement, mineral oil and flat-tire sealant.

According to online beauty experts, there’s a new page in the ever-growing book of bizarre beauty procedures. Joining the list of treatments like extreme buttocks implants is gum tattooing – more specifically-tattooing your gums black to achieve a more beautiful smile, piercing of body parts and bleaching among others.

Women in Senegal have been doing gum tattooing for years. They inherited the custom from their ancestors and believe it will help women attract men.

“In Rwanda, I have noticed that very many people have dark gums. And to be honest, it is very attractive. However, it is ridiculous to tattoo your gum, all in the name of getting darker gums. Other than the fact that it is so painful, I doubt it looks natural,” says 27-year-old Elaine Uwera.

“People need to appreciate the way they are. God created you like that so accept it and be grateful,” she adds

Skin lightening creams

Yvonne Mwiza (not real name) says she was fascinated by the skin complexion of her roommate at university. So she decided to pick the secret behind that- and that was to use the same type of lotion her roommate was using.

“After using the lotion for three months, it seemed to work and I was happy that my skin was getting the kind of glow that my roommate had. But after a year, I started developing huge pimples, especially on my forehead, and then I stopped using the lotion. Some of my friends started suggesting that I use facial cleansers but it was all in vain,” Mwiza reveals.

Even after the 25-year-old graduated and got a job, she spent a lot of money on several creams to treat the pimples.

“I bought a variety of expensive lotions because I could not stand the sight of my face in the mirror. At some point it affected my self esteem because people would stare a lot,” Mwiza says.

Mwiza had to seek medical assistance eventually.

Dr Francoise Gahongayire, a Senior Consultant Dermatologist at King Faisal Hospital warns that people should not just pick creams prescribed by shop attendants instead of seeking services of dermatologists.

“Women go to the market for beauty products and when they reach there, they start asking the shop attendant what is the best lotion to buy. The shop attendant will then recommend the most bought lotion. That’s a very dangerous act,” Dr. Gahongayire says.

She adds: “We have dermatologists in the country though they are not very many. I always get women who come here saying they decided to use a product because a neighbour or friend recommended it. It’s better to come to the doctor for consultation and that way you will know your skin type and the best lotion to use.”

Dr. Gahongayire also says that beauty product manufacturers are partly to blame.

“The manufacturers are not honest enough regarding the compositions or ingredients used in most beauty products. They use medical components which are not supposed to be used for a very long time. Components such as steroids, methylisothiazoline, diethanolamine and many others,” Dr Gahongayire says.

The doctor adds that the most common side effects of the improper usage of cosmetic products that are not recommended by a dermatologist include allergies, skin burns, acne, itching, pain, scarring and skin cancers.

“Women need to know that skin types are different because of many factors which revolve around genetics and lifestyles, therefore they should avoid jumping from one lotion to another. This is dangerous because the lotions have different components which will make your skin become thin thus leading to skin sensitivity and its related dangers,” the doctor advises.

However there is hope for those who have already suffered these side effects. “Some individuals with scars, blemishes or acne/ pimples on the face undergo derm abrasion. In this procedure, the entire skin of the face and neck is scraped off. The person rests in a quiet room avoiding strong light, dust and germs till a new skin comes. It is done in the hope that the new skin coming will be free from the problems and the individual will get a clear good complexion,” Dr. Rachna Pande, a specialist at Ruhengeri hospital says.

Artificial nails

Noella Mutoni has used artificial nails, for as long as she can remember. But the pain that comes with it is the least of her worries.

From using artificial nails fixed using super glue to acrylic nails, a trend that is not about to go away, many women are obsessed with this old age beauty enhancing habit.

“But whereas acrylic nails are pretty and stay on for a long time, the damage they do to your actual nails can only leave you with one choice, to keep wearing acrylics,” Mutoni says.

But 29-year-old Joanna Kaitesi says that sometimes people try to remove the acrylic nails without following a proper procedure.

“There is a simple procedure done to remove those nails well. If you just try to rip them off then of course they will damage your natural nails,” Kaitesi says.

According to online reports, the chemicals used to apply acrylic nails are notoriously unhealthy and include such chemicals as resins and formaldehyde, which cause cancer. Exposure to these chemicals through your nails over a long period of time can result in complete nail loss by destruction of the nails.

Allergic reactions have also been reported with acrylic nails, resulting in serious inflammation and thinning of the beds. The healing time, resulting in pain and sensitivity, can last more than a year.

Body piercing

From time memorial, in Africa body piercing and tattooing was part of body art. Although the body piercing was initially done using thorns and needles, the most current instrument used for both body piece and tattooing is the pin-gun.

In the name of beauty or for the sake of looking fashionable, women have fully embraced the tattooing and body piercing despite of the pain one has to endure.

Innocent Ninsiima, Co – Founder and C.E.O Think Africa reveals that tattoos have become a fashion trend for the last ten years.

“There are things that men do that in the past were for only women and there are things that women do that in the past were for only men. Due to these changes; I don’t mind women tattooing or piecing their body parts. Usually when one has a tattoo, it’s because it means something special to them. So if men can have tattoos; so should women. The piecing of body parts like the tongue; I have no problem with it either as long as it has no health implications,” Ninsiima discloses.

He said: “In Rwandan, it’s an upcoming trend which is picking so fast and is being embraced by both the young and old.”

However an article published on titled “Health Risks of Tattooing and Ear or Body Piercing” warns that Tattooing and ear/body piercing may increase the risk of contracting a number of serious blood-borne diseases.

The article further states that as a result of tattoos and body piercing bacteria or viruses can easily enter one’s body through the skin when your skin is pierced. Therefore minimizing the risk against disease and infections is to carefully choose where one obtains the tattoo or piercing for example the instruments to be used should be cleaned and sterilised.


As women keep with the ‘who is the fairest of them all’ routine, men are struggling to figure out what the fuss is. 34-year-old Peter Atuhaire is one of them. “My wife likes to go for waxing. But when I listen to her complain about the pain every time she gets back, it just baffles me. Why does she still go?”

Olivia Kananura says waxing is one thing you will never find her doing. “I was told waxing is so painful, you wouldn’t even advise your worst enemy to try it. So yes, I love beauty, but I think I will just skip that one.”

According to, waxing is not completely without risk. However, Dr. Michael Libman, director of the division for infectious diseases at McGill University, says you are highly unlikely to end up in hospital from waxing. More common risks include dermatitis, skin irritation and folliculitis (an inflammation of the hair follicle), particularly in the pubic area, “where it tends to be warm and humid,” says Libman.

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