CASE STUDY 1 — The long road back to healthy skin
All Ntuli wanted was to enhance her beauty.
The 41-year-old mother of two from KwaMashu in Durban noticed that the faces of some of her friends were looking brighter and more beautiful. She asked them what they were using and they told her about the skin lighteners sold in most cosmetic shops in the Durban city centre.
It wasn’t long after receiving this beauty tip that Ntuli, a community healthcare worker, began using a skin lightener called Dovate. A year later, she moved on to Hypoderm, as well as several other skin-lightening products.
“The products worked well, or at least I thought they did. My facial skin became brighter and more radiant every day,” she told City Press.
“I have never had skin problems, so for me it was just to enhance my beauty and that’s all. For months, I got what I wanted and I was happy – until I crossed paths with Dr Dlova.”
Ntuli had taken her daughter to Dlova in Durban to seek treatment for the child’s severe acne.
“We went in with my daughter for an examination, but Dr Dlova also diagnosed me. She asked me what I was using on my face and I told her the names of different creams. She asked if I was using any skin lighteners and I said yes.
“She told me that these products, though they may make me look good at first, will damage my skin and I should stop using them.”
At the time, Ntuli was in the early stages of ochronosis, a severe form of hyperpigmentation that develops on the skin of the face.
Fortunately, she heeded the doctor’s advice and started treatment. She continues to use sunscreen to prevent further damage. She was lucky.
CASE STUDY 2 — ‘To say that I was not happy would be a lie’
As a teenager, Mkhize had severe acne. She thought she would outgrow the condition, but never did.
The acne often broke out and then disappeared, even when she was an adult. Sadly, the flare-ups left her with dark spots, a reminder of this persistent dermatological condition.
Two years ago, Mkhize (33) was advised by an acquaintance to use Movate, a skin-lightening cream containing mercury and steroids, to treat the acne. She did, and the results were amazing – at least for a while.
“The acne cleared, the marks faded and my skin started looking beautiful. To say that I was not happy would be a lie,” she says.
But Mkhize’s happiness was short-lived. The acne came back with a vengeance a few months later, and it was worse than before.
Mkhize, a mother of one and a qualified electrician, became even more conscious about how she looked and her plunge in confidence prompted her to use heaps of make-up to cover her imperfections. But the make-up just seemed to make her situation worse.
People took pity on her and advised her to use over-the-counter products, which they claimed would put an end to her misery. She tried several, including Top Gel and Betasol cream.
At some point, she started using Elocon cream, a potent corticosteroid that can only be prescribed by a doctor. Mkhize was illegally buying this cream from a pharmacy in Durban that sold it to her without a prescription. The cream cleared the acne, but also brightened her complexion.
“My intention was not to make my complexion lighter, but to remove acne,” she says.
“I had suffered a lot and I would use anything that people suggested would help.”
A few months after using Elocon religiously, Mkhize suffered a severe acne breakout on her face and neck. The breakout is what dermatologists refer to as steroid-induced acne.
In September last year, Mkhize decided to seek medical treatment from a dermatologist, and she visited Dlova. Five months later, she is on the slow road to recovery, and her skin is clearer.
“I am more confident now and I no longer wear heavy make-up like I used to,” she says.