The husband kept his distance, not wanting to be seen together with his wife Neema Mushi. Despite enduring attempts of the newly wed wife to be seen in the company of her husband, there were many excuses that made such a relationship impossible. At first the wife would not realise the mistake she made in her new life.
Meeting Neema you will realise this relationship developed barely a few months of their matrimony. “You can liken my face to that of a beast… a leopard. What with the black, red and green marks. It is not normal for a human being to have different colours on the face,” she says with bitterness.
A resident of Mabibo Relini, Dar es Salaam, Neema adds: “I got married in August 2010. An aunt had advised me to use a body lotion, saying it would make me look bright, a perfect thing for my wedding day. I started using the lotion three months before the wedding. Indeed, I looked very pretty and I liked myself that way.
“After the wedding I continued with the lotion, called extra Claire. My husband said nothing, I think he was happy seeing me that much more beautiful. In 2011, I started developing pimples but thought it was a normal thing as many other women had pimples,” she explains.
Within a week the pimples increased on her face. “Oh my God, I started to see more changes because as I also observed some redness. I knew it was abnormal for me to look like that.”
She kept using extra Claire again and again. Then a neighbour advised her to buy other creams - movate, diproson and mediven - to mix with extra Claire. The three are strong cosmetics.
In March 2011 she realised she was pregnant. Meanwhile, she applied the new mixture on her face as advised by her neighbour. However, her husband, a taxi driver, was not happy with the way she now looked. She complains that he kept avoiding her, even when she went to the taxi station to say hello.
“I used to go to the taxi stand but since I became this way things changed, his fellow drivers knew me. It was not normal but I remained quiet. On his part, he would say nothing about her changed skin. This made me worried the more,” she reveals.
However, she wanted to cause no trouble. The marriage was still new although the husband was no longer comfortable with her. “Even if there were occasions that demanded we should be together, my husband always told me to remain home - to rest. I think that was a way he chose to punish me.”
Neema feels that was only a polite language: that he would take care of everything although she says she understood what he meant. She was deeply hurt, she notes, but admits it was her fault. Yet it pained her more to see him keeping aloof.
“Now my face was having three layers of black, red and green. I was also ashamed of that skin of mine and I was uncomfortable wherever I went. In April I started to visit clinic every month to receive counseling for pregnant women.
One of the subjects the nurses shared with clinic attendants was to avoid using chemical cosmetics because they would harm the child inside the womb. “I was not that much aware using strong cosmetics you would harm the kid. They also told us that we would end up with disabled babies because of the chemical cosmetics. I was shocked to hear that,” she says.
“I remember one day when I was at the clinic a woman helped me with good advice about my skin telling me that she would help me recover my appearance otherwise it would reach a time when even washing my face would be hard because it would be painful even to touch.
“That woman asked me to use coconut oil because the oil does not have any cosmetics; I started to us it because I wanted to be cured and she gave me a warning that I should not continue to use any chemical cosmetics during pregnancy time.
“She assured me that coconut oil would help recover my composure as it was before, and following the instructions I started to use coconut oil. A week after I started using it I noticed changes on my face, and it was not hard for me even to wash my face when I needed to.
She used the coconut oil everyday without applying any chemical cosmetics and now her skin is back to normal and I am comfortable everywhere I go. She gave birth in December 2011 to a healthy baby. She got cured although there are still some marks showing on my face.
“Now my husband is happy because he has a son and we’ve called him Emmanuel. I can see the difference on my husband’s attitude. He doesn’t avoid me anymore and whenever I want to go to clinic he is the one who drives me there for regular check ups.
She is aware that many women damage their faces with fake cosmetics, saying she would like to help them. “But I remember the day I met the woman who told me to mix the body cream with some other creams. She is my neighbour, of course she, was shocked to see me like that.
“I was blacker than my natural colour. She asked me why I stopped using the creams and the only answer I gave her was ‘those creams were not good for my skin and my health. I was trying to tell her that she should also stop using those chemicals.”
But she has not responded positively after telling her she should also to stop using the cosmetics, saying everyone have their type of skin.
The public relations officer for Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA), Gaudensia Simwanzi has warned women to be careful about using cosmetics stating that some of these products can cause cancer, mental derangement, skin problems as well as kidney and lungs failure and some effects on the bloodstream.
TFDA is an Executive Agency under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare which is responsible for the control of quality and safety of food, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices for the purpose of protecting public health. It is established under Section 4 (1) of the Tanzania Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 2003 and became operational on 1st July 2003.
It is vested with the control of advertisement for cosmetics and drugs in a bid to crackdown on fake products. By controlling promotion of products such as food, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices the authority expects that only reliable information will be disseminated to consumers.
The authority blames rapid change in technology, globalisation and market liberation for increase in fake cosmetics in Tanzania. As a result of trade in counterfeit products many people particularly women have suffered from toxic effects of this products.
Neema concludes: “I advise fellow women to stop using chemical cosmetics because most of them are not genuine and you cannot even recognide them. Everyone is beautiful in this world all women should accept that they are nice looking instead of damaging their skin by being convinced or for their own interest.”