Nairobi News

LifeWhat's Hot

Losing it all in pursuit of the curves

Women are going to the extremes to enhance their body image.

Desperate to have the ideal curves where it matters, they have resorted to popping pills, using steroid injections and applying creams that contain high levels of cancer-causing chemicals such as lead and cadmium.

The ‘beauty enhancers’ are readily available in many downtown Nairobi stalls and are flying off the shelves faster than they can be restocked, NairobiNews discovered. 

One store stocking the harmful substances is on River Road — in a dingy building known as ‘Mombasa Rest House’.

This is where we purchased a cream, for Sh1,200, that promises to enhance one’s hips, gradually, if used for some time.

For instant results, however, we were informed that there was a stronger, injectable drug going for Sh5,000. 

Hot cake

Another curious item that several eager customers were queuing for was a rock said to tighten one’s private parts for sexual pleasure enhancement, if used in bath water.

This is cut according to the customer’s budget — with the smallest piece going for Sh100.

Among the women who patiently queued for the ‘magic rock’ was Catherine, a salon owner in Embu. She had come to Nairobi to buy the rock, and other skin lightening lotions to sell to her customers. 

“This is a hot cake in Embu. Women come to my salon and we talk about sex and husbands. Many are desperate to rein in their straying spouses. I decided to help them by supplying this rock that tightens the crucial parts for better sex,” she said. 

We also managed to purchase herbal tablets for Sh6,500 which are also said to increase hip and bottom sizes. The herbal pills have no side-effects, the sellers explained, as they were purely herbal and thus the higher pricing. 

Also available for Sh3,200 was a six-inch tampon-like stick called the “Madura Stick’. This, the stall owner said, worked similar ‘magic’ to that of the ‘magic rock’.

Women are going to the extremes to achieve the body shapes they think men want, but doctors warn some drugs and chemicals used could be disastrous. File, AFP
Women are going to the extremes to achieve the body shapes they think men want, but doctors warn some drugs and chemicals used could be disastrous. File, AFP

Tested by the Kenya Bureau of Standards, tablets and injectables were found to be laced with extremely high levels of lead and cadmium — two notorious cancer-causing agents. 

Deputy Chief Pharmacist and Consultant Toxicologist at Kenyatta National Hospital, Dr Tom Menge, explained that lead is a heavy metal used as an additive in paints, fuels and ceramics.

“Lead affects every system in your body including the physiological system, gastro-intestinal, nervous system, and especially the blood since lead replaces iron in the body. Their use will make your body dysfuctional,” he says.

Skin specialist, Dr EN Kamuri, said lead also causes poisoning that leads to liver problems, kidney failure and photosensitivity. 

“While people react differently to such kind of heavy metals, common harmful results include stomach problems, diarrhoea, stunted bone growth and it also affects a woman’s libido,” said Dr Kamuri. 

Women using such medicines are not only pre-disposed to cancer, but also vaginal scarring, a common problem, Dr John Ong’ech said he has seen with women.

Dr Ong’ech is the head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Kenyatta National Hospital. 

Common contraceptive

During his many years of practice, Dr Ong’ech said he has encountered women who tried the ‘magic rock’ and failed in the long-term. He has also delivered women with badly scarred vaginas as a result of such medications.

“Scarring of the vagina could come as a direct reaction or as a result of dry cells forming around the vagina. Such women also have problems during childbirth because the vagina, which is supposed to be elastic has become stiff and could tear badly and even result in fistula,” he says. 

The injectable drug, which cost us Sh5,000 was easily identified as Depo Provera, the common three-month contraceptive that is available free of charge in most public hospitals.

Normally, Depo Provera retails for about Sh400 in local chemists. 

Doctors, however, highly discourage its use because it has a lot of adverse side effects.

“It affects hormonal balance, metabolism of the body, weight gain and it is very difficult to return to fertility after using it for a long time,” says Dr Ong’ech. 

Dr Gidraph Wairire, a sociology lecturer at the University of Nairobi says women — especially the married ones — were continuously succumbing to societal pressures based on positive comments about those who have ‘the curves’ because that is what men consider beautiful and attractive. 

Market forces

“Traditionally, women wouldn’t go to such lengths because what mattered most was the morals, relationships and respect. Today, looks matter most,” says Dr Wairire.

Society is to blame for all this because it no longer seems to cherish integrity, inner beauty and warmth of an individual.

“When a society prioritises the external features of a woman at the expense of her virtues, morals and integrity — all of which mark the inner beauty of a woman — then all has gone wrong,” he says.

But Pastor Muriithi Wanjau of Mavuno church blames the fashion industry and market forces for the insecurities that women harbour today.

“The fashion industry preys on women, making them feel inadequate by setting unattainable standards,” he says. 

Pastor Wanjau says that the decadence of culture and lack of proper understanding of our identity is also to blame for the desperate measures.

“Women need to feel confident in who they are and what God created them to be,” he says. 

They need to feel beautiful on the inside because it is how they see themselves that really matters,” he said.