This bottle (pictured above) is related to one of my life-changing decisions this year.
When I was buying it last year it seemed to make sense to me because: a) it was blue in colour b) it carried the words “For Men”.
But even as I picked it off the shelf of City Joy supermarket in Mbuya, I was ruing the absence of a home-made brand that I could use, and felt bad that the Ushs6,000+ I was spending was mostly going to Turkey rather than to a soap manufacturer right here in Kampala, or perhaps in Hoima or Kotido, who might end up spending some of it to send SMS messages using SMS Media or something close to me.
Which is why I am stepping back a little bit to assess more of what the marketing people have gotten us to do with our money, and find ways of changing that for our benefit.
The only things about my bottle of soap, for instance, that claims to be “For Men” are: a) it is blue in colour b) it carries the words “For Men”.
Reading the rest of the text on the back of the bottle and employing the venerable services of Google Search and its cousins Wikipedia et al gave me no indication whatsoever that it would be risky or unsuitable for women, girls or boys to use this product.
“Xtraa Care Body Wash is a combination of effective active ingredients with extracts of Seaweed revives your skin as you shower. It helps to maintain and restore the skin’s natural moisture balance.” reads the top of the paper on the back.
First of all, the damn product’s name is mis-spelt – which irritates me. Then, to my alarm, the grammar is suspect – like you find on those boxes of those shrill sounding toys made in the Far East and sold in supermarkets in Uganda.
“It helps to maintain and restore the skin’s natural moisture balance. A gentle formula to leave you feeling clean and relaxed.”
I haven’t tried bathing with Omo or Nomi or Jireh but I suspect that if I did they would leave me feeling clean and relaxed, as I have noticed over the last thirty-something years tends to happen after I bathe – even when I used to bathe using what we used to call ‘washing soap’.
If the manufacturers of ‘Kisumuluzo’ soap (is it still there?) could write anywhere that it was “a gentle formula to leave you feeling clean and relaxed”, would that be untrue?
Skipping the section of that paper that contained ‘Directions’, because I felt I would have been insulting myself by reading instructions for how to use soap, I went straight to the ingredients:
“Aqua” – this is either actual water or a colour-addition to make the soap light greenish blue in colour, and many sites explain that manufacturers of liquid soap actually mean ‘water’ when they write ‘Aqua’ on the bottle. #ThatIsAll
“Sodium Laureth Sulfate” – according to Wikipedia, “an anionic detergent and surfactant found in many personal care products (soaps, shampoos, toothpaste etc.). SLES is an inexpensive and very effective foaming agent… (it is a) surfactant used in many cosmetic products for (its) cleansing and emulsifying properties. (It) behaves similarly to soap.” Basically, it makes the soap foam or bubble up when you mix it with water.
“Cocamide DEA” – again, Wikipedia tells us, “It is a viscous liquid and is used as a foaming agent in bath products like shampoos and hand soaps…” It makes the soap foam up or create bubbles when mixed up with water.
“Cocamidopropyl Betaine” – same as immediately above. Seriously, it is “used as a foam booster in shampoos” and “to a significant degree has replaced cocamide DEA”, Wikipedia says.
There are thirteen (13) more ingredients and not enough time to google them all for the purpose that brought us here. There is also no indication of the amounts of each and the mixture made.
But let’s note that one of them is “Parfum” which is simply “perfume”. I have even less time left now for this.
Because of the quantities of all the ingredients involved, it is likely that the most expensive thing about this bottle of liquid soap is the combination of the bottle packaging, the label and the glue used to stick the labels on.
If one of these people making soap in garages in Kampala could get their packaging right, they could make us spend Ushs6,000 on 500ml of soap that is “Active” and “For Men”.
Or “For Women”. Or “For Children”. Or “For Married Couples”.
Of course, the same company probably makes other soaps “For Women”, and enough varieties of those that it is not afraid of restricting this particular bottle to only “Men”.
Technically speaking, they are not lying or misleading us when they label the bottle “For Men”, because they haven’t said it’s “Not For Women” or given us any caveats on other genders washing with this soap.
But does this soap even contain all these ingredients? We have to believe that it does – see, it’s “Mfd by Sera Cosmetics Inc, Turkey. Made in Turkey For RAA Ltd. P.O. BOX No 3355-00506, Nairobi, Kenya.”
A quick internet search of RAA Ltd. wasn’t very useful, as their Facebook Page is only a suggestion page (I think created automatically by Facebook using some web search method) with 9 Likes, and whereas the online Yellow Pages of Kenya lists them it isn’t very revealing.
So we don’t really know whether it is even genuine soap or not, or whether the mixture of the above chemicals (ingredients) is safe for our use or not? No – we don’t.
Again, therefore, if one of these people making soap in garages in Kampala could get their packaging right, they could make us spend Ushs6,000 on 500ml of soap that is “Active” and “For Men”.
So, stressing my position now: I am looking for a Ugandan soap manufacturer. Any suggestions? Just get me one who has worked out packaging, a good brand name, and the right spellings and grammar on their labelling and marketing materials.
In fact, I can help with the spellings and grammar, and may even overlook it more than I did this Turkish bottle.
Mind you, I bathe A LOT and most of us need to bathe even more than we already do, so the opportunities available here are MASSIVE and we should be serious about this!