How beauty hacks have gone horribly wrong

Thursday March 11 2021
Beauty pic
By Diana Elinam
By Lucy Tomeka

In Tanzania we have a proverb that says “Ukitaka uzuri, sharti udhurike” (if you want beauty you should be ready to suffer). In almost every family in Tanzania there is that one beauty guru who always comes up with beauty recipes for acne, pimples, strengthening hair or making it longer, lightening skin and many other purposes.

Currently we see so many turmeric masks and rice water recipes trending for skin and hair. Lately a trend that has been making the rounds is that of homemade concoction detoxes that are to be consumed to help with the cleansing of the skin from the inside.

When we observe worldwide history on beauty hacks that have gone wrong, we learn that during the Elizabethan era, the highest standard for female beauty was white skin.

Women who had smallpox scars, like the queen, wanted to cover the flaws on their skin with makeup. Queen Elizabeth wore makeup made from white lead and vinegar, which gave her that signature pale look.

However applying lead to her face on a daily basis caused major problems, including hair loss and skin deterioration. In addition to that, speculation has it that it is the lead poisoning that may have eventually taken the queen’s life.

The beauty industry has brought about so much pressure especially to women; the biggest being is skin lightening.


Claire Chang, MD and a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in America told Vogue magazine that skin bleaching is the process by which chemical substances are used to reduce the melanin concentration in the skin to lighten it.

“It is an ancient process that can be traced back all the way to the 1500s and continues to be a thriving business, coming in the form of soaps, creams, pills, and injectables.” she says.

“By 2027, the skin whitening industry is projected to be worth over $24 billion dollars. But it’s a business fraught with potential hazards,” cautions Chang.

There have been, and continue to be, a plethora of beauty hacks and tricks that people swear by, going ten and more generations back.

Recently, the world witnessed the sticky dilemma that Tessica Brown from Louisiana found herself in. After realising that she is fresh out of hairspray, she had the genius idea to use Gorilla Glue spray, an industrial adhesive to keep her hair in place.

Unfortunately, her hair became an impenetrable helmet but fortunately for her, plastic surgeons came to her rescue and after a long week of struggle they managed to solve her predicament.

It is important to note that sometimes, when these attemptend hacks and tricks go awry, medical assistance is almost unavailable or ridiculously expensive.

Other common beauty hacks

1. Toothpaste for pimples – tempting as this idea may be, toothpaste could lead to an even worse outbreak or inflammation.

2. Rice hair rinse – Ellyne had the unfortunate mishap when she blended together some rice in water to make a hair rinse. She however did not sieve the hair rinse and had these tiny particles stuck in her hair after numerous washes all day long.

3. Egg hair mask – Another unfortunate lady had a grandmother who swore to the benefits of eggs on hair. Blindly trusting the ancient wisdom of her grandmother, she broke a few eggs and applied them to her hair.

During her wash, much to her dismay, the eggs began to cook because of the hot water used during the wash. It took her three days to get all the scrambled eggs out of her hair.

4. Vaseline for longer lashes –It is true that women will do much for beauty. Sometimes, artificial just doesn’t cut it though, not even close. To make their eyelashes look longer and fuller, some women resort to using Vaseline (petroleum) jelly to achieve this.

Unfortunately this hack has been known to cause eye infections and clots the pores which in the long run cause dirt build-up and blurred vision.

Tanzania is no newbie to the cosmetics scene. Surrounded by everything from the painfully cheap to the royally expensive, beauty products are ever evolving and ever in demand.

Mikorogo of all sorts make their rounds amongst the circles of women ever trying to accentuate their beauty. Age-old recipes for homemade skin care and cosmetics have been passed down from generation to generation with a few tweaks here and there.

Sometimes, beauticians are faced with the challenge of fixing a client’s face or hair before further makeup or hair treatment is applied.

Life & Style spoke to a some local beauty gurus: Shekha Nasser of Shear Illusion and Kate Jumanne of BK glam.

Shekha Nasser of Shear Illusion said, “Many people get tips on YouTube or blogs about “Do it yourself” (DIY) tricks to save money or avoid chemical skin care products. I would advise people to proceed with caution because not all-natural ingredients are equal or do well for your skin.”

“Women tend to trust natural ingredients simply because they may see them growing on a tree or their elders have used the product for centuries. It does not necessarily mean that is safe to put it on your face or skin. Some natural products can literally tear apart the skin’s hydrating layer, leaving it dry and flaky while other natural fragranced plants or ingredients can cause allergies on your skin.”

“For example, many women like to use lemon juice as an ingredient on their face masks not knowing you should only leave it on the skin for a maximum of five minutes and use once a week. Lemon, a citrus fruit, is the darling of many homemade beauty products- little do they know, it is the nightmare of most dermatologists” explains Nasser.

“Lemon is a natural skin lightener or brightening ingredient, lemons have a high pH level which can really mess up the skin because they are very acidic which eats away at our skin’s protective barrier. Moreover, excessive use or wrong use of lemon makes the skin more sensitive to the sun, which can lead to blistering or really bad discoloration that could last for months.”

“Other natural ingredients like eggs and yoghurt, if wrongly mixed can cause bacteria that can cause serious skin breakouts” she adds.

“Finally, those who are experts in concocting dangerous bleaching products at home and selling to their clients without the approval of Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) should know that it is illegal and causes skin problems or even cancer to their fellow citizens. This should be condemned and stopped” Naseer concludes.

Effects of beauty hacks gone wrong

The price of beauty is often accompanied by a hefty price tag, continuous monetary demands or pain. At least that’s the age old dictum we have in mind when we’re in the middle of a bikini wax.

Social media goes a-buzz every time a local celebrity has a cosmetic surgery to lift their bottoms, face or cut off unwanted fat and many crazed fans look for cheaper ways to look like their favourite idols.

Women are willing to suffer a bit during their pursuit of beauty, be it injecting toxins in our foreheads or running needles over our skin to look a few years younger.

Hence, the last thing you want to do is to skimp on beauty treatments or products, as unapproved and poor executed procedures can be detrimental to your health and psychological well-being.

Here are some of the most popular beauty treatments/products that require extra caution.

Cosmetic contact lens

Cosmetic contact lenses are a major trend now in Tanzania. They are relatively cheap and often misused. There is also a myriad of designs and insane colour choices all over the internet that sell at much cheaper prices than those in optical shops.

However, pretty as they are, you should consider your coloured contacts a medical device, not a toy, and handle them as such. Many fail to realise that purchasing cosmetic lenses without caution could end up causing issues of improper fit, low quality lens and poor lens care, leading to severe eye infections and even blindness.

Skin bleaching

Age spots and pigmentation are pesky problems that women start facing when they hit their late 30s.

As a result, we often turn to bleaching creams and products to lighten these sun and age marks.

Many are unaware of the harmful ingredients used in these products and how the advertised before-and-after comparisons are simply sales gimmicks.

Online bleaching creams are formulated with harsh chemicals and can cause hazardous damage to the skin.

This is because, if the ingredients are too mild, they do not produce a visible effect.

However, when they are too high in concentration, they do not get effectively absorbed and result in some superficial burns instead.

For safe and effective results, it’s always wiser to seek professional help. Pigment lasers done in place of regular facials have kept many faces flawless and clear.

The key to treating pigmentation is to embark on it early, and only choose reputable clinical grade equipment instead of salon grade lasers.

Kate Jumanne of Beauty Glam shares her unforgettable experience. “I remember I was once trying different skin care products on my skin before I was to use them on my customers. I mixed different products without reading the descriptions or even doing research on them. My skin reacted so badly and I developed tiny rashes under my eyes such that I couldn’t leave the house for one week” she says.

“I made it worse by treating it at home with lemon and other natural products and it got worse so I eventually decided to leave it alone for a while to heal on its own. I realised you can’t mix products with the same actives your skin for example your toner and your mask both have acid so your skin will react immediately which can result in slow healing or acne and you might end up in need of a dermatologist” she adds.

Women are advised to visit beauty salons that have seasoned professionals in whatever service they seek.

Beauty hacks may be cheap and somewhat effective, but it is important to remember that cheap is expensive.

The amount of damage these hacks do sometimes go beyond just the physical. Consider how your self-confidence and self-esteem will be affected in the case that the next hack you want to try goes wrong.