I Went Downtown Kampala To Shop For Better Skin And This is What Happened

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If you are one of those people born with perfect skin and have never had to worry about a brutal acne outbreak  this story is not for you. But you can stay and read on, it might offer some education, or at the very least, amusement.

If you have troublesome skin, you have no doubt, loitered here and there and tried this and that, in the hopes of finding a cure. You have been offered myriad options. ‘Have you tried aloe vera, ghee, blue washing soap?’ And slightly bizarre ones like urine. So when you hear of the new wave of skin mamas around town, you might well be tempted, especially when you hear and see people who have testimonies.

A friend and I took a walk around town and visited some popular mamas who advertise the end to ‘bad’ skin. What happened is a cocktail of shock and amusement.

First Stop

Our first stop was on Mabirizi plaza, where we met this lady whose radio adverts had taken our attention. The fact that she had the foresight to advertise like this was like a stamp of approval. Her ads promised that she was all natural, avocado was dropped in there, and she would get rid of all pimples the natural, non-chemical way.

Her parlor was spacious and “classier” than most arcade shops. There were potted plants about, cushy sofas and an aura of ‘Yes; these guys know what they are doing.’ Unfortunately, that was the only good at this place, we would later find out.

It’s only customary to ask what you are getting, especially if you are a skin skeptic who has tried a gazillion options. But this lady did not see it that way. She considered our questions a sign of lugezi gezi, (know it all) something we found shocking, considering the high endish nature of her establishment. Our expectation was that this beautiful lady (yes she was really beautiful and with flawless skin) who turned up in a white doctor’s coat was going to take us through the steps of how she transforms people’s skin and welcome questions after.

Nah, all she said was, “we shall start with a facial of 150k, ‘remove’ all those pimples. After a week, you’ll come back and then I’ll tell you what’s next.” The comfort level was absent, and if you have ever bought anything for your body, you must feel that you can trust the person who is issuing it. The attitude was very dismissive and ‘take it or leave it’, so we decided to not take her on.

Questions like, ‘do you make this kizigo’ or ‘is it a brand name we know?’ Or ‘How do you “remove”?’ were all met with, “Leave it to me. You just do the facial”. After 5 minutes, she concluded our consultation with “I can see that your skin is old and that, you have used many many things on it yet you are young.” Expectations were tempered at the next location.

Second Stop

The second mama’s card touted the fact that she did a lot of things, from skin care to Ssenga services. She had been referred to us by a friend of a friend who convinced us that this particular lady’s products have no bleaching effect. Yes, she has bleaching creams, but can only apply them on your skin after you consent.

The welcome at the Gazaland parlour was warmer than our experience at Mabirizi Complex. Let’s call it Parlour B. There were about three girls there. Two of them had suspect black patches at the knuckles especially. The parlour was smaller and seedier but the lady was very nice and we had an in depth conversation on skin. She pointed out how a lot of the products we buy have bleaching agents that we are unaware of. She pointed to the third girl, who was an “even yellow” and said, “Now that is bleaching. We can’t do it without your consent.”

This revelation surprised me because my initial thought was that, it was her natural colour. She had no dark patches and her skin was even head to toe. This made it all the more surprising when the mama gave us a bill with a product named something like chemical ‘x’. She pointed out that the skin colour of the body always under shirt, the one not in constant contact with the sun is our the true colour.

“Can you remove the pimples and spots without dealing with colour?” I asked. She explained that an even skin colour tone would be best and that chemical x (which she was offering), would not bleach but rather ensure that the skin colour was even from head to toe. We had to make a choice.

“Choose which of the two colours on your body you want. The one on your arms or the one on your chest.” She offered. And we had to part with 700k each for this treatment. She gave us the option of paying in installments though. Contacts were exchanged with the promise to follow up. We decided against going back because so many questions were left unanswered and the confidence that chemical x was safe or had no side effects on the skin absent.


The search for the real cure of my skin continues. I’ve been offered a number of other remedies with the promise that “it works”! I’ve still chosen to not take any of them because much as I have issues, subjecting my skin to more damage scares me. There many women out there looking for answers too, but falling prey to this new wave of skin mamas is not the solution.

My search for a cure continues, so feel free to share your tips and leads in the message box below.

Cassandra is an ordinary Ugandan woman living and working in Kampala.

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