By Vivian Onyebukwa
Bisi Eretan is a graduate of Business Administration from Ogun State University (now Olabisi Onabanjo University). She started her journalism career in 2000 with Daily Times of Nigeria, and for about 15 years covered areas like politics, motoring, features, beauty and style for different print media. At some point, she functioned as a chaperon in the office of Miss Nigeria. She was also an integral part of Miss Environment put together by Nabepal Ltd, and at one time, handled publicity for Now Muzik (Artistes Management Company). Today, she is into the making of beauty products such as soap, toner, etc, as well as beauty consultations. In this interview with Saturday Sun, she talks about bleaching and other fashion issues.
Why do you think some people bleach?
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I attribute it to low self-esteem. An actress once told me that fair complexion is more attractive on screen than a dark tone. This could be a reason bleaching now called whitening is a common thing especially in the entertainment industry.
Some men also bleach. What can you say about it?
Personally, I see bleaching men as unserious human beings. What is their reason for doing it? Is it to be attractive to women or they just want to ‘oppress’ their fellow men? Really, I still can’t place my finger on it. After bleaching their skin, they would start wearing socks to cover up their damaged skin.
It has been discovered that some women too are using bleaching creams on their little babies. Is it advisable?
It is wrong to use lightening, not to talk about bleaching products on children. It usually starts with I-don’t-want-my-baby-to-be-black attitude, so mothers are introduced to harmful tube creams to be added to their children’s cream. Most of these tube creams are supposed to be used for specific skin issues within a short period of time. The moment they notice that it is changing their baby skin to fair, they stick to it to the detriment of the baby’s skin. Children’s skin is supposed to be treated as normal but sensitive, so the introduction of bleaching ingredients will alter the inbuilt skin system and they would start battling issues of eczema, rashes, hyper pigmentation, etc. Then you need to know that the true skin tone of a child will manifest around two years old, so there is actually no need to panic. A simple mix of Shea butter and palm oil can do wonders to a baby’s skin.
What are the dangers of bleaching the skin?
We have been hearing of the danger of skin bleaching for a long time but few people ever listen. One of the problems of skin bleaching is that you just can’t stop, else you will go dark with damaged skin. It affects the person economically, psychologically and, of course, health-wise. Prolonged use of harmful substances on the skin can cause kidney failure, skin infections, stretch mark and even harm unborn baby. However, you should know that some people start bleaching unknowingly. When they buy organic cream that lightens within seven days, what they don’t know is that the cream is already laced with steroids and other harmful ingredients. If they stop usage, they may start going dark. Such people will panic and start looking for alternatives to keep up the skin tone which can lead to skin thinning.
What’s the best product to recommend for a dark skin, fair skin and even children?
To get the best from our skin, we should learn to ‘listen’ to it. Our skin should be treated based on the type (oily, dry, normal, combination), sensitivity and need (acne, hyper-pigmentation, etc) rather than the tone (dark or fair). Irrespective of skin tone or type, hydration is key. A well-hydrated skin will be healthy and easily glow. Products that contain niacinamide, turmeric, carrot, kojic dipalmitate, camwood, licorice root powder, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, honey, stabilised aloe gel, are good for the skin.
What’s your advice to those whose skin has been damaged as a result of wrong application of cream?
The road towards damaged skin repair may not be easy, but it takes a determined mind to do it. Those who go for skin whitening injection have to do so periodically. If per chance they can’t afford it again, the skin transformation can be very ugly. First, resolve not to go back to the harmful ingredients, no matter what happens. Invest in skin building oils and butters. Use super hydrating black soap or a mild nourishing soap. Don’t exfoliate. Take sun protection as a priority.
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How did you get into this beauty business?
Sincerely, I never knew I would go all the way in the business. I needed some coconut oil and the one I bought had a funny smell (It is either adulterated or rancid), so I decided to do it myself. It wasn’t a pleasant experience but it was worth it because before I finished it, it was sold out. I increased production and, as demand dictates, I dabbled into infusing other oils like turmeric, carrot, ginger, garlic etc. I even took part in the first Lagos State Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises exclusive fair in 2016 with just my oils.
Were you influenced to go into beauty business by virtue of being a fashion, style and beauty reporter?
My experience as a beauty reporter and chaperon to beauty queens actually helped as it pushed me further into the business. I started reading more and asking questions. What I discovered was that most people want to change their skin tone irrespective of what it would take, but I decided I want to be different. I want to practise safe skincare, healthy glowing skin.
Did you train for this?
Yes, but it was a journey. I took part in different online trainings but it was like moving around in a circle because many are just recycling or churning out unverifiable tips picked online. The irony of it is that they are mostly what we call pro-mixing with many ridiculous recipes. I finally got what I wanted and took several trainings in strictly organic practice. I did courses in skin types, black soap formulation, herbal infusion, acne treatment, care of children skin, etc.
How has it been?
The road has been rough, but I am very thankful to God. Survival of small business in this country is not an easy task. We keep hearing of availability of government loan but accessing it is another problem on its own. Some still find it difficult to even register their business name because of the cost. With everybody now doing ‘organic’, I had to put on my thinking cap. I don’t sell off the shelf, I formulate according to skin type/need, but I stay away from cream formulation because I don’t have the equipment to do a proper job. Ingredients are now more expensive but I have learnt how to effectively dry my herbs and some other oils for longer use.
What do you think is style?
Whatever you are comfortable in is your style.
What’s your advice to those who follow fashion trends not minding whether it fits them or not?
Two categories of people usually do this – the money-miss-road and the I-must-belong types. It can be very embarrassing and laughable when you see them. I can only plead with them to keep it simple and dress with their body shape in mind.