Does black crack? We ask beauty experts

There is a growing trend of black women opting for aesthetic treatments - like Botox and fillers - despite taboos and reservations about such procedures, writes Ntombenhle Shezi

31 October 2017 - 00:00 By Ntombenhle Shezi
Fillers are a popular anti-ageing treatment.
Fillers are a popular anti-ageing treatment.
Image: Thabiso Mbambo

The idea of getting aesthetic treatments comes with negative connotations for women across ethnic lines. It is sometimes assumed that getting “work done” is either an unrealistic quest for physical perfection, or a desire to stop the ageing process.

For black women, this often comes with the added misconception that these treatments are an attempt to adhere to Eurocentric standards of beauty.

Living in a society that, in many contexts, continues to be hostile towards the physical appearance of black women, some black women are getting aesthetic treatments to eradicate certain “flaws”,  but are not necessarily trying to completely alter how they look.

Dr Thobeka Cele is a general practitioner based in Johannesburg who also provides aesthetic treatments. “The biggest issues that face my clients are skin issues,” she says, especially in relation to pigmentation and acne.

The most popular treatments requested by her clients include Botox, fillers, and cellulite treatments, as well as stretch-mark treatment.

According to Cele, Botox, which is used for skin rejuvenation, the reduction of fine facial lines, excessive sweating, and fixing gummy smiles, is more popular with people in their 20s and 30s. Fillers, which help with filling in wrinkles and softening one’s appearance, are more popular with women in their 30s and 40s.

Nontobeko Zulu*, 51, a customer-service specialist from Johannesburg, is one of Cele’s patients. For her, environmental changes, such as the sun and pollution, are just some of the factors that she believes accelerated her ageing process.

“I started developing a frown and wrinkles, so I started off with peeling to remove some dead skin, and now I go for Botox and use micro-needle therapy, which helps rejuvenate the skin,” she says.

Another of Cele’s clients, Matshepo Thladi*, an events coordinator from Johannesburg, found that, with age, certain expression lines remained, and that after drastic weight loss her eye area and face began to sag, so she opted for fillers.

Both women and Cele are adamant that the process of having aesthetic treatments has nothing to do with not wanting to age.

“For me, it is not a case of wanting to look younger. I have no desire to be 25 again,” Thladi says. When she looks at herself in the mirror, Thladi says she sees a woman who is proud of who she is, and she views the aesthetic treatments as an extension self care.

“My clientele is not youth-driven, and neither am I,” says Cele, adding that everyone just wants to feel good about themselves.

Thuli Ndlovu*, 32, says after spending most of her life overweight she started to feel unattractive after losing the kilograms, due to excess skin around her face. Fillers on her face have helped increase her confidence levels, especially in her recent quest to look and feel good, Ndlovu says. She has also received Botox treatment for cellulite.

DOES BLACK CRACK?

So does black crack? To answer that, one needs to look at how ageing is dependent on race, genetics, and lifestyle.

According to beauty activist and the founder of The Matte Project, Mathahle Stofile, that term implies literal cracks, lines, and wrinkles, which are more visible from an early age in Caucasian women because of the lack of melanin and thinning around the eyes.

“For us, photo-ageing is more common, due to sun exposure over the years, leading black tones to get uneven, developing pigmentation. This leaves the skin looking duller and tired,” Stofile says.

I don’t think our ageing process is as visible, but if it wasn’t (a factor), even Angela Basset or Halle Berry would not have gotten work done
Dr Thobeka Cele

Cele agrees. “I don’t think our ageing process is as visible, but if it wasn’t (a factor), even Angela Basset or Halle Berry would not have gotten work done.”

She adds that misconceptions among black people about our skin, which include not using sunscreen, need to be unlearned from an early age, so we can have better skin for longer, and minimise damage.

While Cele’s client base is growing, she says it seems that people are still a little conservative when it comes to openly discussing their aesthetic treatments.

Zulu says: “It is really just me and my doctor who know about my treatments. There is still a lot of stigma around getting Botox.”

Thladi, on the other hand, feels more open talking to her male acquaintances, whom she finds less judgemental. “I feel like women who have not done (aesthetic treatments) are quick to see the whole thing as fake. The men I know approach it with curiosity,” she says.

The price for the treatment varies. Botox can be anything between R1,500 and R4,000, depending on how many units are used. The number of units varies, depending on the area being treated, as well as the person’s muscular strength.

Fillers tend to cost more than Botox, but Zulu sees the expense as an investment. “I only have work done on my skin every six months, and when you look at it that way then it is not much to budget for,” she says.

*Names have been changed.

• This article was originally published in SMag, a monthly magazine available with the Sowetan newspaper.

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