Kemi Ajiboye of Crystal Shine Skin Clinic’s mission to fix Nigeria’s bleaching menace

8 min read

The name Crystal Shine struck a nice note with me. It reminded me of porcelain clear skin, or in my case, more like ebony wood or onyx. What I am saying is the name inspired thoughts of naturally beautiful skin.

So when I got to the Opebi office of Crystal shine beauty care I knew I was going to learn more about skin than I had ever known.

I mean, you don’t give your outfit that kind of name without knowing what you are doing, do you?

My conversation with Mrs. Oluwakemi Ajiboye, who is the Founder and CEO of Crystal Shine was quite the eye-opener. The mother of three daughters has extensive experience in skin care therapy. Armed with a first degree in Biochemistry and post graduate degrees in Aesthetic Medicine, Cosmetic Chemistry, Skin Therapy and Clinical dermatology from India and England.

After reeling out these impressive academic accomplishments, we started our conversation with discussing whether there was a point she came to when she thought she had studied enough and it was time to start applying what she had learned

“I love to be the best in whatever I do, I want to be among the best. I just came back from another course. I never came to that point where I thought I had studied enough, a lot of new technologies are evolving everyday in medicine, so I keep studying to stay abreast of these new methods.

Would you say you are a perfectionist

Yes, I am.

Is that a good thing?

Yes, if you don’t take it to the extremes. For example, right now I am the only one at the office because three of my staff have had to be excused for the day, one has a sister in the hospital and the other lost her father.

So here I am working as the receptionist and therapist. Not all CEOs can do that, while they were leaving I even paid them upfront.

This is because I have been able to rationalise it and think that it could be me. I was away for three months and they kept the business running fine while I was gone.

So, while I am a perfectionist, I am not an extreme perfectionist.

Why did you start this business and when?

I started about four years ago. I started from Ikorodu. Started from what was a small room and after a year we moved to a bigger apartment in a highbrow area of Ikorodu. At this time I started a program at Lagos Business School.

One of the things I learned at LBS was that you can start small and grow your business.

Our vision is to minimise the use of hazardous chemicals on the skin. There was a WHO report from a  couple of years ago that said 1 out of every 7 women in Nigeria bleach their skin either knowingly or unknowingly.

I’m shocked people are entrusting their skins to someone who never studied skin. We are trying to minimise the use of hazardous chemicals in skin lightening creams by providing healthy alternatives. There are a lot of things you can use in healthy ways to get rid of scars.

For example, when I was at the university, maybe because of nonchalance, I had brown dentition, so there was a time when it was carrot season and I ate a lot of carrots and my teeth became very white. This piqued my curiosity, I thought if there is something like this that works for the teeth, there must be one that works for the skin too, so that started my journey into skin therapy.

A couple of experiences that inspired me to explore dermatology. First, I lost an Aunt who used to be very dear to me to skin cancer, although the cause wasn’t really known, there was speculation that it was a result of accumulated use of bleaching creams.

Also, my last baby, she’s five years old. She had a lot of scars on her legs, she used to tell me that her sisters think her legs are ugly. These scars were from insect bites. So I was compelled, to come up with a solution for insect bites, something that was going to moisturise the skin and repel insects and also something that would get rid of the scars.

So those two stories are like my brand stories and they have helped me stay focused to my cause and I’m pursuing it and I believe in no time I should be there, because I am focused.

Wouldn’t it have been easier to just sell the products rather than make them yourself?

I love to create solutions to problems. I have identified bleaching as a problem in Nigeria and I am attacking the root source of this problem. I am providing solutions to that problem. I know one of the reasons is for aesthetics, but also from my experience in the field, there are other reasons like harmful chemicals for getting rid of scars.

I’ll tell you about another experience. My daughters rarely go out of the house to get their hair done. However, one time the stylist said she couldn’t come to the house, so my daughter had to go to the shop and she got boiling hot water poured on her.

Fortunately for me, my husband was in the neighbourhood. To make it worse the stylist was rubbing the burn. I was in the Ikorodu clinic then, so my husband brought her to the clinic. You need to see her now, the skin is as good as new. If she didn’t have someone like me she might want to bleach the skin to remove the scar.

So I am providing healthy alternatives for removing scars rather than using hazardous chemicals.

Also, I love exploring, I don’t like doing things the conventional way, I always want to stand out in whatever I do and I always want to be the best in whatever I do. Maybe a little of pride too, I want to be the focal point.

You treat different kinds of skin ailments, what’s the most common complaint you get?

Scars and tan.

Tan? I thought most Nigerians are too dark to get a tan

Not exactly, In the Fitzpatrick skin type classification index, we (Nigerians) fall under skin type 4 and 6, and according to this classification we rarely burn but we tan easily.

There is a difference between tanning and burning. Tanning occurs when there is a temporary conversion of tyrosinase, which is the enzyme responsible for the production of melanin the colour pigment.

So when the skin is exposed to UV rays – which isn’t necessarily sunlight, it could be light from electric bulbs, mobile phones, laptops and others- when the skin is exposed to this, there is a chemical reaction that activates tyrosine and tan is formed,  this is a process that can be reversed.

The difference between tanning and burning is that tanning happens at the basal layer of the skin (innermost layer of the skin), while burning happens at the first three layers of the skin, so essentially burning causes damage to the external layers of the skin.

Very dark skin is often a result of a dark tan. So whatever product one wants to develop for the Nigerian market, one has to consider this skin type classification.

What about the regulation of skin care procedures such as tattooing and lip lightening, is there enough control by government?

I was with one of the dermatologists at Yaba skin clinic and this was the same complaint I made. I think the dermatologists’ council should rise against this menace, because it is indeed a menace.

It is wrong that professionals like myself can study to improve themselves yet someone sits somewhere and mixes chemicals and applies to people’s skins without any knowledge of what they are doing.

One common result with patronising these people is what is known as refractive hyper pigmentation. When this occurs, there is nothing that can be done to repair the skin. What happens is that the skin has been conditioned to want these harmful chemicals, and they can’t stop having them.

Which is why when some people stop using these harsh chemicals they start developing rashes, they start itching.

So they tell you that after baths they get itchy because it is yearning for what it’s used to. So it can be like an addiction. Before it gets to that stage, it is best to stop whatever hazardous chemical you are using, the earlier the better.

I hope someday there will be better regulation. NAFDAC isn’t helping. If they were really working you shouldn’t even be able to get creams without prescription, which is as it should be. Even for production, they should regulate acquisition of raw materials.

How long have you been on VConnect.

Vconnect came when I was still at Ikorodu. I am still there and it is doing well. We are just getting established in Ikeja. We have been on the platform for about three years. It’s been good. This year especially has been much better, I don’t know what you did. But you are not where you used to be.

There are some value-added services you’ve put in place and you are so keen on your customer feedback. For that, I doff my hat. Your follow up is awesome, you keep checking to see how to serve the clients better; I think that’s a plus.

The products you are working on, are you manufacturing here in Nigeria.

Yes, I am. I’ll keep you in suspense because we are working towards a launch. I have had to travel to different countries to compare similar products, to make sure what we are putting up meets with international requirements.

Are the ingredients locally sourced

Yes, they are locally sourced, but not all organic. However,  there will be safe chemicals in there. At the moment, we are already working on extracting the organic materials for the products.

Looking forward to seeing those products on store shelves soon.

Thank you.


Crystal Shine Skin Clinic is a Nigerian owned derma care company with speciality in medical skin care services and skin aesthetic services. They are at 51, Lagos Road, Ikorodu, Lagos, and 13b, Osho street, Opebi, Ikeja, Lagos.




Usman is a content developer and screenwriter. Bizarrely, he has never been seen in the same room with Batman, leading many to believe he is indeed the Dark Knight. He refuses to comment on these claims.

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