When Conrad was 12, puberty hit him with a face full of acne and led him into the rollercoaster world of skincare. 15 years later, he’s found a steady routine and fully accepted that he’ll probably never have clear skin.
But just how much does it cost to maintain this manly beauty?
This is Conrad’s journey of beauty, as told to Steffi O.
I woke up one morning and puberty hit me hard. I was 12 and suddenly had a shit tonne of acne all over my face. It got to a point where my nickname was “Pimples” at school. And I was pretty much the only one going through that phase of puberty in JS2. Everyone else experienced it in JS3 or SS1.
I tried everything I could to release the hold acne had over my life. My first stop was an Igbo guy who had a cosmetic store near my house. And omo, the things I tried there? The most random cleansers and toners were like ₦700 each. The day I paid ₦3500 for one of the toners, I almost lost it because that was big money in 2007.
I didn’t even know the difference between a facial wash and a cleanser. I just knew there was something that needed to be on cotton wool, and I applied everything on my face.
I saved up my daily ₦100 pocket money and collected extra from my uncles. I used these savings to try every kind of ointment I could find from the man’s store. From Royallux to those products with Asian women on their packs — I tried everything. My primary concern was not having those huge-ass pimples anymore.
In hindsight, I wish I didn’t use all those products. Maybe If I did some research, I would’ve gotten rid of the acne earlier, but who was doing research back in 2007 and 2008? After washing my face with my Dettol or Septol soap (anything with “tol” was my go-to), I kept using the random ointments the man gave me.
Patience was another thing I didn’t have. I didn’t know how to use a product for more than a month. Sometimes, it wasn’t up to a month before I’d decide, “It’s not working,” and go back to the Igbo man’s store. And the guy wasn’t even telling me to calm down. Of course, he was trying to make money, so he would always give me something new to try.
My skin was also really fucked up because I wasn’t using sunscreen or moisturiser after everything the guy gave me. I assumed my Dettol soap and ₦2k ointment routine would work. Then I started to have white patches on my face.
One of the seniors at school called me in front of a group of seniors in his class right after assembly. He asked me why my face had different colours and assumed I was bleaching. I hadn’t noticed how bad it was until then. And I don’t really look at my face in the mirror unless I’m actively applying a product. All the other seniors started laughing. It still ranks as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.
After the incident, I ditched that particular ointment. We also moved to a different area in 2011, so I’d moved on from my first cosmetic seller.
I still stuck to my rudimentary skincare routine of over-the-counter products and antiseptic soaps. When I got into university, I was trying not to fail, so skincare was the least of my problems. And I wasn’t conscious of skincare until I became a lot more active on Twitter out of boredom in 2016. I was done with university and finally had the time and more money for skincare.
I was almost always on the Black American side of Twitter — I don’t know how I found myself there, but I’m still there today — and they talked a lot about skin. That’s when I started to learn about things like three-step routines, sunscreen and toners that didn’t need to be applied on cotton wool and serum.
Access to money after university made me more dedicated to trying out the skincare routines I saw online. My initial budget for an entire set of products was ₦10k, but with a job, I could go for a ₦12k face wash or ₦18k toner without flinching.
Getting better information about skincare also delivered me antiseptic soaps and over-the-counter products from my secondary school and uni days. I understood the cleanser, toner, moisturiser and exfoliation routine better. Because skincare wasn’t that big in Nigeria before 2016, I had to get my products from friends and family travelling abroad.
The first “real” skincare products, I bought were Thayers Witch Hazel toner and Clean ‘n’ Clear face wash. And now that I think about it, they were the ghetto. My face didn’t get the hydration it really needed for the dark spots and acne. Later, I wrapped things up with a Nivea moisturiser.
Some “natural” skincare hacks were a miss
I still wasn’t using sunscreen. Yeah, it’s important, but I felt it was an unnecessary expense for a dark-skinned man.
I also had a natural skincare products phase, either using turmeric and lemon to exfoliate or ordering a black soap from Ghana that cost ₦6k — mostly because I was worried about the quality sold in Nigeria. I also used shea butter on my face — blame Black Twitter — but it didn’t work for me b. I’d forgotten that shear butter only made you glisten and sweat under the hot sun.
By 2018, I found with CeraVe face wash, glycolic acid toner and salicylic acid from The Ordinary products, and stuck with them. A friend told me I was wasting my time with all these products because I still wasn’t using any sunscreen. So I decided to try Neutrogena’s sunscreen, but it made me look like a corpse. A little more of it and I would’ve looked like Liz Benson from Diamond Ring. I eventually switched to Missha in 2020 and it didn’t give the same ghost vibes. Since then I’ve been consistent with sunscreen.
2019 was the year I got into serums like Vitamin C because they’re meant to help with hyperpigmentation from acne. I tried one from The Ordinary product and switched to Naturium — It costs ₦18k and it still blows my mind how expensive it is, but it works. So, my whole routine since then has cost roughly ₦58,500 monthly. And in the months I only replace a few products, I spend ₦40k.
The thing is, I have a bad habit of not noticing changes in my body unless they get really obvious, just like working out. When I’m losing weight, I don’t notice until my clothes start looking noticeably oversized. But I notice when I add weight even without my clothes. People always tell me how much my skin has improved, but I don’t really see it, mostly because I still have hyperpigmentation and still get zits here and there.
So to avoid being too obsessive, I look at skincare as a way of life, not necessarily a means to an end. And as long as I’m not breaking out, I’ll stick with whatever product I try out.
Trying out micro-needling and accepting my acne
The newest thing in my routine is micro-needling, which I started in February mainly to get rid of a scar on my face after a barber cut too deeply into my skin in 2010. The cut wasn’t obvious because I had a ton of hair and I didn’t really feel it. It only became a thing when it got infected and became this white line on my head.
The procedure which costs ₦80k per session is meant to make sure the scar completely disappears. I have four more sessions left. Right now, other people have noticed the improvements on the scar, but I’ll have an opinion on how well it works after the last session.
Micro-needling is a painful process. It’s like multiple needles piercing your skin repeatedly. The aesthetician applies a numbing cream to reduce the pain but it still hurts. So after all that, I need the scar to be completely gone from my face.
Men love their skin too
At this point, I’m not chasing clear-as-day skin. I’m just happy the acne is no longer as horrendous as when I was 12. Now, skincare is part and parcel of my life. It’s a routine — just like going to the gym.
Luckily, I’m also surrounded by guys that get it — only one person in our circle has refused to renounce Irish Spring. But the rest are even more obsessed with their skincare routine — dedicated to the point of spending $30,000 on one face wash. So yeah, men love their skin too.
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