By Omotunde Alawode
A German board-certified pedagogue and member of the German Chamber of Commerce (IHK), an international associate with American Academy of Micropigmentation and BABTAC/CIBTAC, United Kingdom, Patience Johnson is the founder/CEO of Derma Contour Global. With its headquarters in Germany, Derma Contour is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and counting, as an active player in the world’s beauty, aesthetics and healthcare industry. Johnson is consulting at Derma Contour Aesthetic and Beauty Clinic, Abuja, treating all kinds of skin issues.
Globally, you have been in the business of external beauty and aesthetics management in the past 20 years as a cosmetic dermatologist, with your Nigerian operations about five years old, are there peculiar health issues in Nigeria that you have observed that could hinder beauty therapy?
For the past one year, there has been a massive increase in liver and kidney dysfunction and PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). This is going to be the next pandemic for African ladies, especially. I diagnose according to what I see on the skin, so, if there is hair growth or acne, which was never experienced during puberty, that’s when I am pushed to go deeper. PCOS could be genetic, could be in the system until triggered by some chemicals or change of environment. Hypo-pigmentation sometimes is also a good sign that something is wrong with the liver.
Indeed, I am enjoying my stay in Nigeria because it is another university for me. The skin diseases I see here are different from what I know in Europe but because I am solution-motivated, I go all the way to the root of the problem by treating both in and out, instead of just the outside. It is also good to know that it is not all skin problems that can be solved with creams.
Talking about creams, whitening the skin has become a fad among Nigerians, especially celebrities, men and women. What are the dangers of these whitening (bleaching) creams to the skin and health generally?
Whitening cream is dangerous. Unfortunately, we are living in a generation where it is all about money and not about safety. I tried campaigning against that when I returned to Nigeria, but it was a waste of energy because people do what they want to do after all. I see such people every day because the cream always leaves them with patches, scars or dark knuckles usually exacerbated by PCOS, which some of them are not even aware that they have it.
Some are already so addicted that even though they come with stretch-mark damage caused by the cream and I try talking them out of the habit, they usually counter that they will become dark again, which they don’t want, and then I would start my preaching on self-identity and love. I think most of the people using these creams think that, if they are fair, they get more attractive to men but, in the end, they will damage their skin, which will result in their spending huge amounts of money they would have used to establish themselves in repairing their skins.
There are more disadvantages, which include liver, kidney, ovary damage (which can cause infertility) and, in the case of PCOS, can disorganize one’s hormones, affect one’s heart, lungs and even brain. There are chemicals that are not supposed to be found in one’s system; unfortunately a lot of people are not aware that whatever they rub on their skin permeates into the bloodstream.
Where do you derive your inspiration from?
My inspiration is and has always been from God. I have an authentic Christian foundation; I take no step without God going with me. Even my coming back to Nigeria was more of a mission than business. I heard the voice three times telling me to go back home. I believe that, after coming back home, God allowed me to go through all the disappointments so that I could understand what it means to practice in Nigeria, and I am grateful for all the experiences, both the good and the bad ones. It’s got to happen at the beginning as a warning. So, for every achievement in my life, all glory goes to God.
I have also reached a level in life that I can look back and say “If not for God…” To tell the truth, 70 per cent of all treatments I have done since I started the company were never taught me in any school or university. I build upon problems and I am always excited when there is a problem, because that is when my craft is needed. I am grateful always to God for what he is using me to do for my generation.
It is said that you design and build the equipment you use yourself. Would that be part of the inspiration from God that you said undergirds your professional activities?
I started building medical, aesthetic and cosmetic beauty machines when I decided it would be fun treating people with my own machines and innovations, even as that would also sell my treatment better. I started with permanent make-up in Germany, which was the first work that gave me world recognition, before I even ventured into aesthetics. Yes, most of the laser machines in our clinic are my own innovations, these make the work easy for me and quicken the result of anyone that comes to us with skin issues. We have so much in the market that we don’t depend on one but many to be the best in the market.
You said you have encountered a lot of health issues relating to the liver, kidney and the like. To what extent do you think misuse of drugs has contributed to these ailments, which have become quite common among the active population even with prevalence of self-medication in Nigeria?
Indeed, self-medication is very rampant in Nigeria, too rampant, in fact. Drugs are meant to be taken in doses, not just on the basis of how one feels. When you take drugs based on how you feel, that’s how drug abuse starts. Drugs taken inappropriately can reverse and cause more damage.
I noticed that in Nigeria, people engage so much in self-medication, which is dangerous to your system. One thing to take note of is that one medication does not work for everyone and that is the more reason people should allow the professionals to take care of their health, instead of consuming what they do not know, thereby causing more harm than good to themselves. For instance, antibiotics taken wrongly can damage one’s liver and kidney.
Where will Derma Contour be in another 20 years?
In the next two decades, I believe that my children will take over while I go to rest. There is so much we can still achieve. The first 20 years was not easy but I think the next 20 will be much easier because we have learnt a lot in the journey – we have more than enough experience that can help us solve any problem that we may come across. There will be challenges but what matters most will be how we face and manage them. Derma Contour has come to stay – that I know for certain.
Derma contour in Germany, United States and United Kingdom also includes an advanced training centre for people who are already in the field for their continuous education. I am not thinking of retirement yet, what will I do if I go on retirement? The first 20 years is just the beginning of the journey. We are yet to unfold our packages. Like I said earlier, Derma Contour is a tree with many branches; we are working hard to continue to water and prune that tree.
Successors are already on ground but I will still hang around to assist whenever my advice is needed. We don’t tend to stop only in Nigeria for the mission we have for Africa. Our next target in Africa is South Africa, Uganda, Ghana and Ivory Coast. My dream is to build as many entrepreneurs as possible who will be ready to go “through the process” not just pursuing money. I wish to produce people who will be ready to sacrifice and not just to consume. We need more producers in the world especially in Africa.
How do you relax? And what are your favourite dishes?
I relax by studying, reading books, doing research – there are so many diseases in the world that need solution. I innovate better when am alone and that helps me get deeper in my world. I like to swim, do aerobics and iron my clothes. I found much peace in ironing my clothes myself and cleaning my house; they are ways of relaxing my mind and brain.
I actually love every dish – being an international person has exposed me to tasting different dishes – African, Asian, American or European dishes. In Germany, we don’t really have much variety like in Nigeria but I enjoy it anytime it’s served. My Nigerian favourite is ‘swallow’; my latest darling soup is fisherman soup with okro, and bitter leaf soup. I cook by myself – don’t forget I was a housemaid, so kitchen work is part of my favorite, CEO didn’t stop it.
How do you sow seeds or give back to God in return for His enormous favours upon you?
Job creation is part of how I show gratitude to God. I wouldn’t want to blow any trumpet on my philanthropic works because I just want only God to take the glory. I am just a vessel that He uses to transfer his blessings to this generation; I don’t really need any praise, let all praise go to God.