Bruce Nwachie is the head dermatologist of Lagos-based Oasis Med Spa, a luxury corrective skincare clinic. He began his career in 1984 as one of the few male esthetics dermatologists in an industry dominated by women. Nwachie produces skin care products and treatments for all skin types. For this dermatologist, most Nigerian women are ignorant of the fact that bleaching creams are high in steroids which can have dire consequences as they age. This is one of the major reasons he goes round spas, teaching them the right and proper procedure to go about skincare. Nwachie, who clocked 60 last week, shares the story of his life and skincare career with Azuka Ogujiuba
Life has taught me to appreciate what I have
Life has taught me to be open minded, to stress less, appreciate what I have instead of trying to chase what I don’t have. If you appreciate what you have, then you can value the source of what you have, always be happy. I was 60 years April 6 and I won’t change anything. I love the same parents that had me, I don’t have any regrets. I love my co-workers, my siblings, I love my life. I have learnt to appreciate life and also appreciate others.
Marriage is not a must, what matters the most is happiness
The only thing close to regret in my life will be getting a divorce, and it didn’t break my heart because the older you get you begin to realise that marriage is not for everyone and marriage is not a must, what matters the most is happiness. I’m not married. I’m divorced but my best friend is my ex-wife. We are happier now than when we were married, the first 20 years was good and after that, we started growing apart. Happiness is the key, she’s happy and I am happy and that is what it should be. We are happy, the kids are happy, she’s 55 years old. When you walk to the alter to say ‘I do’, you are trying to please the society and not pleasing yourself. Most people are married and very unhappy and some people are happy without being married. So, like I said, happiness is the key. There’s no regret. I thank God for everything that has happened in my life including the marriage, the getting out of the marriage and the kids. If there’s anything I’ll regret or would like to revisit again in my life, even if it’s for five minutes, is to see my mom and dad that are late, other than that there’s nothing I need, I’m good.
I’m a specialist in black skin
I’m a skin care specialist, specialising in black skin. Over there in United States I had so many clinics, at one point, I had over nine clinics. What drove me back to Nigeria was the divorce. After the divorce, I had to exit and come back to Nigeria. I actually came to retire.
You can bleach your skin without using cream
Yes, when it comes to skincare, there’s a lot that can be done. It breaks my heart to see what people in Nigeria are doing trying to get light skin. Most people don’t want to be their colour; they want to be the colour of others and they go about it in a very wrong way by using products that are high in steroids and thinning the skin. Later on, you start seeing them with veins and knuckles. There are proper procedures that you can do which will brighten the skin and exfoliate the skin without pumping all that steroids under the skin and who knows what will happen 20, 30 years from now? The risk of cancer and so on. So far, I go round most spas in Lagos, trying to teach them the right way, because I don’t feel like we are competing with anyone. People come here and we show them the right way to do it because the market is very open for everyone. We try to educate people, which led us to the formation of Association of Practicing Medical and Spa Therapist which is an organisation trying to regulate the industry. We are still working with the Lagos state government for all the necessary approvals. Skincare/spa is something that’s new in Nigeria and it is growing. The key thing is to have people that are qualified, experienced running it. Some of the problems we have is that you may come in here for facials and I tell you it is N50,000 and you say you can also get it for N2000 and I will tell you that you are absolutely right, because there’s a reason why you can get it for N2000, – quality is the key, good products are the keys. I can give you bunch of products that will lighten you up and thin your skin, give you the green vein for N2000 versus doing it the right and natural way.
Some people are taking glutathione injection, which is an inhibitor of melanin while some people take the pills. In Nigeria, whatever we learn, we overdo it even more than the people who taught us. So, I always tell people to make sure whoever is giving it to them is the right person that’s supposed to give it to you; make sure you get it under a medical doctor. I tell people to study it because you are working on human skin and not on a car. You only have one skin and 50 per cent of what we do here is corrective skincare, what other spas have damaged is what we are fixing.
Cosmetic surgery should only be done if absolutely necessary
If cosmetic surgery is not absolutely necessary, don’t do it. If it’s necessary, then do it. That’s my take on it. For example, you have an accident, you get disfigured then cosmetic surgery becomes necessary. If you can live with it, then why change it, that’s how God want you to be. Someone may come in here and say ‘I want to lose weight.’ First, I tell them ‘watch what you eat, go to the gym, that’s step 1, then step two, give that a shot first, then after that, you can come and we can start using machines that will melt the fats or freeze the fats and all that.’ It’s an interesting industry in Nigeria; interesting in the sense that it’s almost new. The skin care industry has been in existence since the 4th BC where the Egyptians used to take mud and all that.
Mud from the Dead Sea
Mud from the Dead Sea works for the skin, but is it a permanent thing? No, it’s temporary. Most things are temporary. In Nigeria, most people want a permanent result but I tell them the only thing that is permanent is death. Other than that, nothing is permanent, it comes and goes. My advice is ‘choose a reputable spa to deal with, choose a reputable product, be yourself, don’t try to bleach your cream, try to glow up and brighten up.’ All of a sudden, I don’t know what happened to the saying that black is beautiful. But now, it’s seems that white is better than black which doesn’t make any sense. It’s like we are losing our sense of pride. A white person is chasing the sun in the beach because they want to be black and a black person is trying to lighten up because they want to be white.
Growing up during the Nigerian civil war
My formative years were quite interesting, growing up happened to be during the Nigerian civil war. My mom was a nurse and my dad was working with the rail road. After the war, I went to St Patrick’s College in Asaba. Those were the days I can never forget, what made me to be who I am and what I am was my secondary school days.
As a child then, watching so many people getting killed during the civil war, remains indelible. At a point, you get used to it and accepting like it’s normal to the point that you can actually kill if someone gives you a gun because your heart is hardened and it’s either you kill me or I kill you. So, it makes no difference and also hunger but all those helped to make me to appreciate life. I tell you, people give not because you have but because you know what it is not to have. That should be enough reason for you to give because if you never had before and you finally get it, then make sure you give because you know what it is when you don’t have it. The war was a terrible sad experience; a lot of people died, thank God, none of my siblings died during the war. I have a lot of family members that died; the hunger, the starvation and all that, it was really a sad experience. I don’t have any regrets in life because I leant how to survive during the civil war. You see an eight or nine years old kid without the parent trying to survive then. It makes you grow overnight. Today, I look at our societal values and look at the kids, the kids these days are so smart, they have book sense but are street bound. Their values are completely different. Growing up, I was always looking forward to taking care of my dad. The kids we have these days, I don’t know if they’re going to take care of us, because then, when your parents take care of you, you do that in return. Those values are some of the things we learnt from the war, from the dormitory while we were in school because we formed a brotherhood while we were in school. On my birthday, I mostly invite all my class mates that are in Lagos. Friends are not the ones you meet now but the ones you grew up with and haven’t spoken to in one or two years but immediately you meet that person you can start conversing like you people saw yesterday. Those are your friends, they know you inside outside. So my secondary school years, I won’t trade it for anything. After the secondary school years, I joined the Nigerian Defense Academy. I left the defense academy and went to the USA. In the USA, I thank God that I met some of my very good friends again from secondary school. It was like another reunion in Los Angeles. Most of us are back now and we still remain friends and have each other’s back. I thank God for everything.
My best gift as a child
The best gift I can remember as a child was a bicycle and that was when I turned 10. If you give me a Rolls Royce and a bicycle, I would have taken the bicycle as a kid then.
I don’t think I have made any mistake in my life
I thank God for everything; I don’t think I have made any mistake in my life. I am so happy with my life like I said earlier, I wouldn’t change anything when I have the same family, siblings, friends and in terms of friendship. Sometimes you grow together then you grow apart some people. I have grown apart from them but the good true friends sometimes you value them more than your own blood brothers because you do things together.
I have treated over 10,000 people
There was a time I was counting it and that was way back 20 years ago. For me to have treated over 10,000 people and I can tell that that 9000+ are happy. They come back to tell me thank you, that’s a big joy to me. When you make someone happy automatically you are happy. My whole life revolves around being happy, after work I go out every day to have fun. Some people are saving to buy a car and to build a mansion, that’s not my goal. My goal is that I can have money and go somewhere and say give me the finest drink you have, give me the best food that you have, eat, drink, relax, enjoy, and be merry.
I fear getting old and not being able to do things that I do
My biggest fear in life I would say is getting old and not being able to do things that you used to do. I fear that more than death. Death is something I welcome with open heart, any day even now but being old and not being able to do what you have to do, being old and you need someone to clean you up, you can’t drive or eat by yourself, sometimes we try to cling to life when there’s no life left in you anymore. I always tell God that when it gets to that point that I can’t do the things I used to do for myself, I’m ready to go.
The most important thing that I desire is happiness
Definitely, I desire a whole lot of things. The most important thing that I desire is happiness. I would do anything to be happy, that’s my number one desire. I desire for all my kids to be graduates thank God all my kids are graduating this year. I desire for my daughters and sons to get married if it’s their choice. I would never push them or encourage them but if that’s what they choose to do, then it’s fine. People tell me ‘won’t you like your daughter to have a child so you can be a grandpa.’ Not really, I have so many kids. In this office, Oasis, all my staff are like my kids. Kids are not just the ones you have. There are good people out there looking for love and if you can share your love with them and make them happy, that what matters to me.
Life has taught me to be humble
Life has taught me to be humble; you have to learn how to forgive, instead of stressing yourself over nothing. Life has taught me that life is a very short journey and the older you get, you realise that you are closer to where you are going than where you came from like me. I don’t see myself in another 60 years that will be a cause in my life. I don’t look 60, and I don’t feel 60. The things that I do while I was 35, 40 years old, I still do them. I still run the Lagos State Marathon. I still go to the gym, I still go out, I still do things that 30, 40 year olds can do. To me, age is just a number. It depends on your mindset, what you think you are and how you’ve lived your life. When people ask me my age and I tell them, they don’t believe, because I go out and I still do the dance steps that kids these days can do, the shaku shaku, the zanku, just name it.
If you are happy within yourself, your life will be so much easier
A man or a woman will not make you happy, all those are companionship. If you are happy within yourself, your life will be so much easier. Today, people think that money makes people happy. Money doesn’t make you happy, though money is good to have, but it doesn’t bring happiness. Some people have so much money but they are in the hospital, some people have so much money but they cannot move, some people with the whole money they aren’t happy then what’s the essence of having money? You have to be happy, you have to be healthy. Those are the two key things, happy, healthy and live your life.