By Zukiswa Khoza.
Your skin is the largest organs on your body, it serves as the first line of defence against extrinsic factors such as toxins, bacteria and viruses. It also prevents water loss, regulates our temperature and gives us our sense of touch. Skin also reflects overall health as disruption to ones health may manifest on the skin as irritation and disease. This precious organ also gives us our skin tone, melanin (pigment) is produced by melanocytes and the density and distribution of the melanin will determine your skin tone.
Melanin Is For Protection
Black or brown skin has a denser distribution of melanin. The indigenous people of areas that have very hot climates generally have brown to black skin tones e.g. Africa, South Asia, Australia. One of the evolutionary reasons of our skin tone was to protect us against the harsh climates in these areas.
Dark skins have a slightly higher protection against ultraviolet damage but we are not completely protected. Ultraviolet damage is responsible for DNA damage of the skin, decrease in collagen and elastin which causes ageing, age spots as well as cancer. All these indications do occur in brown people but may take longer to manifest hence the term “Black don’t crack”.
Melanin And Sunscreen
With lack of maintenance and protection, our beautiful melanated skin can also succumb to the indications mentioned above. This is why it is important to avoid exposure to the sun for extended periods at a time and making use of sunscreen is very important. Newer formulations of sunscreen are less greasy and ashy making then suitable for brown people. Sunscreen should be applied daily, even on grey days. Reapplication is imperative when you’re exposed directly for long periods of time e.g.on the beach. Black skin friendly sunscreens can be found in ranges such as Dermafix, Lamelle, Eucerin. These brands cater for different skin types as well which is a major plus.
Hyperpigmentation, Laser Treatments & Chemical Peels
Hyperpigmentation is a common concern for people of colour. This may be caused by hormonal fluctuations (melasma), post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) from acne or injury. Friction on area’s such as knees, elbows and inner thighs are causes of darkening in these areas. This is all completely normal. In previous years, the cosmetic world was not as inclusive to brown or more melanated skins. Treatments such as laser hair removal and chemical peels were a no go zone as they were too dangerous and risky for brown people. When brown skin is exposed to inflammation or heat, one of its inflammatory responses includes producing more melanin at the site of the injury which would result in hyperpigmentation or discoloration of the skin. Over time, newer technologies of lasers as well as better formulations of topical treatments have become safe for melanated skin.
Maintaining a healthy skin is prevention of damage caused by ultraviolet damage and using topical creams to treat hyperpigmentation. Be wary of any creams that promise skin lightening. Skin lightening is an unfortunate product of colourism and the sale of products promising skin lightening is illegal in the country – products are prohibited from making lightening, whitening and bleaching claims. Above the psychological effects of skin lightening, the physical damage to the skin can have devastating results. Skin lightening creams that are found off the black market usually contain ingredients such as mercury, steroids and hydroquinone which have very severe side effects on the skin. These include thinning of the skin (making it vulnerable to injury and scarring, redness, swelling, skin ulcers, exogenous orchranosis which is a condition linked to long term use of toxic bleaching creams which results in blue black patches on the affected areas. This condition is almost impossible to treat. Steroid acne is another side effect from creams containing steroids. Mercury may cause damage to your nervous system as well as kidney disease in serve cases. Skin lightening is extremely dangerous hence the prohibition of such products. The are no health benefits in lightening your skin. The sale of skin lightening creams is generally rife in unregulated environments as the demand is high, making black woman vulnerable to these dangerous creams
A popular skin lightening treatment that has gained popularity due to use by celebrities is Glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant found in the human body, but like most antioxidants, it does not occur in large amounts in the body. It works deactivating the enzyme tyrosinase, which helps produce melanin. There are no clinical trials yet to test the long term use of glutathione.
Love Your Brown Skin
Your skin is beautiful irrespective of the shade of your skin. When treating it, your objective should always to have a healthy glowing skin which is possible to achieve regardless of your skin tone. There’s a wide variety of treatments which is inclusive to black skin . Make sure you protect your beautiful melanin with the daily use of sunscreen, treat conditions such as acne and hyperpigmentation with the guidance of a professional for the safest and best results. All skin has pores, some area’s which are darker than others due to hormonal fluctuations and friction (such as underarm and bikini area’s). This is all okay, it’s the characteristics of black skin, it does not disrupt your skin’s health or take anything away from your hygiene.
Love your brown skin.
A Guide To Completing Your Post-Graduate Year In The Midst Of A Pandemic
We all have our dreams in terms of how and where we would like to work. My dream includes completing my post-graduate studies including my Master’s Degree, however, who knows how far I may take my academics in the future. This year, 2020, I am doing my Master’s Degree and it is challenging because we are in the midst of a pandemic and a lot of anxiety. I may not be able to control much about the environment, but I am determined to remain focused on my studies. At the time of writing this article we are just over 5 months from the end of the year, and yes we are in the middle of a pandemic and a lock down, but we can still complete our academic years with distinction.
I have remained in Grahamstown near Rhodes University where I am studying and this has enabled me to continue my Master’s work, I do not intend of letting this pandemic steal from my future. I am drawing on my experience in 2019 when I completed my Honour’s Degree, my fourth year of University studies, and I hope sharing my approach will also help you keep going as campuses in South Africa remain closed and some classes have moved online. To complete my Master’s I have to do a dissertation again as I did in my Honour’s, and also complete coursework.
Writing a thesis or dissertation takes time and requires a lot of attention. It can be a daunting task having to write a research proposal, doing your fieldwork (this is your data collection process), analyzing the data you have collected, writing your literature review and methodology. Considering the amount of work it takes to produce a great paper, it is important to prepare yourself mentally, physically and financially if you are funding your own research of course. You need to be ready and willing to begin such a process. Writing a thesis or dissertation can take years or months for some. It took me 7 months to complete my mini thesis in my Honors year. My final paper was between 20 000-25 000 words including the Appendix. It was a challenging process. Sometimes I could barely summon the motivation to get started on some of my chapters – but I managed to. The key is to actually start! We all have different approaches to research, but I hope that you might gain some useful insight from the way I approached my mini thesis. By the way, the reason why this is a mini thesis is because I was also doing coursework. The intention behind research is to help you grow, develop, mature and maximize your skill in your desired field of study.
Find Your Research Niche
Perhaps that particular social, economic, political or scientific problem that bothers you so much, you might be the solution to it. We all have a question and an answer within us that you just need to tap into.
Your research niche is a specialized area of your field that you could potentially conduct research on where you can create new knowledge or add to the existing body of knowledge in the world. Simply put, your niche is an area of study that you are really interested in and find great purpose in pursuing. What are you passionate about? What questions do you have and want to answer? What do you want to bring to the table? Why are you doing this thesis? These are some of the questions that you can ask yourself before starting any research paper. Find something that you are interested in because it will motivate you even when the research process gets challenging and tiresome. Have fun and be creative, and don’t limit yourself!
Keep The Final Date In Mind
It was difficult for me to do both research and coursework at the same time. Having to think about my assignment due dates and my proposal or literature review due dates, for example, at the same time drove me insane. I found myself overwhelmed 70% of the time. There had to be a better way to structure my time to avoid feeling like this.
Having a calendar on my wall, where I write down all of my due dates from the first submission to the last one so as to see the spaces and time in between submissions really helped me get the hang of things. This one change probably saved my thesis. I was calmer and could work efficiently and effectively. You don’t have to keep an actual calendar on your wall, you can use your phone or any other device you know you will check regularly.
Dealing With The Stress
Some of you may be doing research for the first time, just like I was at the time, and often get stressed out or panic about how big of a task it all seems to be. That is true, it is demanding and it can be emotionally and mentally taxing, but just remind yourself that it is just a moment and that you deserve to occupy the space you are occupying right now. You are here now, do not allow the stress of it all to consume you. It is okay to have a pity party for a few minutes. Cry if you must but get up after that! There is hidden beauty that you may only realize later on when you are done with your thesis.
So, when I would start panicking, I would stop doing what I was working on and would take some time out to breathe. When I faced a problem in my research, whether I was having writer’s block or found myself getting stressed about a deadline I would take walks, jog, take a nap, listen to music, meditate, cook or bake or talk to a friend about something completely different. It is important to take the time out to think about what it is that you need to do and to get yourself in the right frame of mind to come back and deal with the problem. It helps just to stop! You are less productive when stressed out. You need to rest and silence your mind. Whatever works for you, take the time to pause and then get up and try again.
I found that changing my working environment quite often helped me keep motivated. It will help the work seem less tiresome and it will spark creativity.
Set Weekly Goals – A Work Plan
Now that you have all your dates written down on your calendar and can productively deal with your stress, set weekly goals for yourself such as having a word target for each day. Doing this helped me submit my essays and research chapters on time. Working ahead of time affords you enough time to write up drafts of your chapters to send to your supervisor or have your peers read through them for you and give you feedback. You’ll have enough time to edit your work and resubmit an improved version of it, for example, your literature review or data analysis chapters. Planning your time is so important.
Write down all the things you want to achieve at the beginning of the week and stick to that. I know, sometimes life gets in the way, but the intention is what’s important. Be intentional about your work, that way you remain motivated and as consistent as can be. Moreover, planning your time will also afford you some time to play and enjoy yourself some free time with friends.
Adapting To Change and Thinking On Your Feet
Having to finish my thesis in 7 months forced me to adapt and act decisively. I had limited time, and so I had to make a few tough decisions. Towards the end of my writing, I had to let go of some things and focus on perfecting what I had already written. There were a few loose ends, but I made sure that I tied up most of them. Half the time, I did not know what I was doing! It was my first time after all right?! Also, remember that not all readings, books or journal articles that you have access to should be read. It’s not about the quantity (the number of journal articles or books you can reference in the end) but the quality of your work. 7 months is not enough time go through every single reading. So, pick what is important and relevant and try understand what’s going on there.
My fieldwork was the worst and most exciting part of my journey. Asking people to be your research participants is no joke! Presentation (how you present yourself and your wok) is everything as you recruit people. Not everyone is going to understand your research objectives, so it requires you to think on your feet. Basically, have 10 different ways you can explain your topic and the purpose of your research. You have to improvise when necessary. If you are doing your research in a country that has linguistic diversity like South Africa, you have to be willing to meet your participants halfway and speak their language if you can. Some people relate better to you when they can see or hear something they resonate with. They feel more comfortable and relaxed when answering interview questions, which is a bonus for you in your data collection process. Note that there are many other methods that you can utilize when collecting data, interviews were just my research method of choice.
Make sure to do all your brainless tasks at the end of the day when you are feeling tired. This means editing your work and checking grammatical and spelling errors. Lighten up your mood and listen to some music when doing this so it is not so tiresome.
Let A Draft Be Just That!
We get so caught up in trying to perfect our drafts, be it your research proposal or your data analysis chapter. You will never finish if you wait for perfection. I only had 7 months to start and finish my paper, so everything went by so fast. I had a short period of time to get so much done. Do what you can and do it well. You can perfect everything in the last few months when you are now just writing and putting everything together.
Your Relationships Are Important
Maintaining a good relationship with my peers, supervisor and department helped me get through my research, especially when it got really tough. We never really know everything, and the next person is an asset – use them. Keep healthy communication with your supervisor. Of course, every relationship is different, but make it work for you because you need their support.
I often broke down into tears when things got tough. There would be times when I had an entire page just full of comments and red markings. A piece of advice, don’t just put that paper away, read through it and then plan on how you are going to approach the correction (comments made in your draft). You do not have to get started on it that very same day, take the time to reward yourself and rest. Then start again tomorrow with a clear and rested minded. It’s important to pace yourself and develop a proper routine to avoid crashing.
One of my favorite speakers, teacher and author – Bishop T.D Jakes says that “taking one step in the right direction towards your destiny right now does not equal you seeing your future in all its glory tonight.” Everything that we do, especially things such as research take time and require patience. If we abort the development process that comes with doing research, then we will fail to reap the benefits that come after it’s all done. It is such a fulfilling journey and I hope that yours will be the same.
Local or International…
There are infinite opportunities and advantages from studying or living abroad but that is already a given. Why do many young people leave their home countries to study or live abroad?
We are young and we know that there is so much more out of our own borders. Opportunities present themselves frequently as compared to South Africa. The Apartheid regime has left an imprint on the youth of South Africa. Parents are unable to afford their children’s education. Internet access is limited unless you have deep pockets, the price of data is unrealistic. Those lucky few, who do have access to the internet, are able see the greater opportunities that are beyond our borders.
Imagine getting a good degree from a university like Harvard, that will definitely assure you a good job and better living conditions. In South Africa, we have young people with good degrees but are sitting at home with no job or are working as shop clerks, a job that requires no qualification. The job market is extremely tough and technology is replacing some human skills that were required long before Jacob Zuma knew what an underscore was. So why not go abroad if you were guaranteed better living conditions and a higher chance of actually getting a job but not just a job, a good paying job.
- Studying abroad helps you learn different languages. Learning a foreign language in a globalized world, like the lovely one we already live in, is a great benefit.
- You learn to appreciate different cultures. You understand and respect those cultures. You’ll find yourself doing more research to understand the culture and prevent culture shock. You’ll also learn to the overcome challenges of living in a different country and you gain a greater understanding of the world.
- You learn independence and you fend for yourself. You can’t always run to your family because they might be flights away. This forces you to work your way around your problems. You become less dependent on other people and this is an important life skill to develop. So many people are dependent on significant others and this always proves to be a disadvantage when you are trying to build a name for yourself or be your own person.
One thing that I do know is that, not all students are mature enough to study abroad but judging by the type of economy we are in right now, situations force us to. It has also been said, that the number of South Africans leaving the country this year will rise sharply as crime, politics and job security are at risk. In 2017, 7300 people emigrated from South Africa to the UK and this trend will seem to continue this year after the COVID pandemic. This should actually give the government more reasons as to why they should invest more into our education as the future leaders of this country. In a world full of uncertainty, the youth’s creativity to creating a sustainable economy is very essential and important. The empirical study shows that under 30’s make up 51% of the global population but only 2% of them are members of the parliament, why can’t the government give young people a seat on the table? This is a very concerning pattern to me as a young South African youth member.
Just like Nelson Mandela had noted at a speech he gave in 2003, “We understand and promote the notion that while children need to be guided they also have an entrenched right to be whatever they want to be and that they can achieve this only if they are given the space to dream and live out their dreams”. Most of he’s wise words about the youth seem to go unnoticed unlike all the other speeches about freedom and politics. Yes, South Africa is a free and a democratic country but is the youth free? Are we given the “space” to express ourselves the best way possible about the direction we would love for our country to go in? The sad truth is, NO we are not! Until our country realizes and decides to take a stand against who knows what, maybe South Africa’s economy will be singing a different tune than it is at the moment. Until then, consider studying or working abroad. The opportunities are far much greater!
LEARNING AND PUTTING SELF DISCIPLINE BEFORE MOTIVATION AND PROCRASTINATION
I have big dreams for my life, even as a 15 year-old in Grade 11, I have ideas of the things I want to do and achieve, and I am not about to let this prolonged school holiday/lockdown, trip me up. And unlike my younger siblings, my parents are not checking up on my school work or keeping track of it, they just pass comments that show they expect good grades from, eek! This period has been a test of my self-discipline.
Self-discipline, a few people have it, a lot need it and some can’t do without it. All successful people have it. It is habit. It is that voice you programme into yourself that wakes you up in the morning from your cozy bed when you are tired (from watching movies past midnight) and lazy, pushing you to go study and work.
One of the first mistakes I made in my early high school life was to confuse DISCIPLINE with MOTIVATION but eventually, I got lucky enough to realize early that there actually is a very big difference between the two when my school marks started reflecting those “homework not done” stamps and yet I thought I had enough motivation. Yes motivation and discipline work hand in hand but you will not always be motivated which, is why you must learn to be disciplined. I am working to be disciplined.
Discipline. It is one of those things in life that are very hard to achieve and once you do, it is as good as unlocking the next level on Candy Crush the game. It gives you the freedom to achieve even much greater things in life, so I am learning. I hate it when my father is right.
School has always been relatively easy for me when I keep up with schoolwork, do my homework and don’t fall behind. Grade 11 is an important year because it is used to get early acceptance into university instead of waiting until Grade 12 results are out, I don’t want that stress. I don’t know if I fear that stress from myself, because I have big plans, or from my father! Either way, I want to make sure Grade 12 has less pressure by making sure I do very well in Grade 11.
We all hit a wall at some point and might end up losing motivation to pick things up where we left them and continue, but if we try to create healthy habits and discipline ourselves to follow through we will achieve 10 times better in results. That is why when we were told school was going to be cut shorter and our holidays extended longer, I most definitely knew that there was a catch which, was sort of like one of those tests that will tell with our June exam marks whether we studied and stayed disciplined or chose to be a bag of potatoes that did nothing but sit and watch TV.
To be honest, the first week of my initial holiday, I was that bag of potatoes, there was nothing in the pantry that I didn’t eat, the TV remote buttons even stopped working to show how much time I spent watching TV!
And my books probably started getting dusty as I didn’t even bother with them. I would wake up…look at them on my study table and look the other way as if I never saw them. That was normal, I mean, I was still on holiday after all.
Then the second week came when schools were supposed to open. That tense, nervous drum in my heart started beating. (du Dum du Dum du Dum). That moment we all haven’t been waiting for was finally here but guess what, PROCRASTINATION also rolled in. That form of stress relief that occurs when we feel overwhelmed, it is just a pattern or habit and as such, it can be broken…or CAN IT?
‘’I will do that chapter tonight as I burn the midnight oil’’ I’d say to myself.
“WHAT MIDNIGHT OIL?” the Good Angel on my right shoulder would ask?
“Yea all the snacks and fatty stuff I have been eating during the day while chilling in the sitting room, UHM sure. “
When teachers started sending online work, and the class WhatsApp groups started getting active as my classmates and teachers interacted, my nerves got really shot. All the work started being sent to us through email as promised by the teachers got received, and it was a lot, I realized I have dug a very deep hole for myself by losing discipline. The teachers were committed to ensuring they keep on their teaching plans, and from experience, I know that once I fall behind my grades will suffer. I had totally ignored the fact that I actually have goals that I had set and I most definitely cannot let all of that go to waste because of the bad habits I developed lately, in short, I pulled my socks up and remembered that I am a GIRLBOSS and I CAN do this!
- I started with slow measures such as changing the time I wake up and slept, just to get my mind back into that daily school learner routine that I was used to doing. This all happened on the 3rd day of that 2nd week of “school”, luckily enough by the 5th day my body and mind was sort of getting used to that programme. I was over a week behind!
- I then figured out that before anything at all, I should write out and plan how I am going to work going forward. I decided to draw out a time table as they would at school but this time around one that suited me and also sort of increased my break times by a few more minutes.
- I also made it a point to structure my timetable to start with the subjects I enjoy the least or those that are more challenging, I have more energy in the mornings. It feels like such an achievement getting through the subjects I lest enjoy or find challenging that I am more hyped to get through the subjects I do enjoy.
- I also combine learning with studying. So I kill two birds with one stone. I don’t rush through my work and I learn and practise and apply all at the same time so that I don’t have to study much in the evenings.
- I also started listing things I would like to do in my personal time because school obviously didn’t go on for the whole day. That is why I am able to continue intern at www.girlboss.co.za
- I also did a SWOT analysis, crazy right?! but it will sure be worth it in the end. Just like almost everyone would say, my phone seemed to be the biggest “threat”, excluding food and TV. LUCKILY for “it” I had made five minute slots to use it whenever I finished a chapter in a certain subject and made it seem like a ‘REWARD’.
There were many other things that had to be adjusted during this period of time, and because I have taught myself discipline, it feels like I moved a feather. Luckily too, the lockdown rules and regulations, distractions have become few and I never worry about missing out on anything besides schoolwork because there’s nothing much going on out “there”. It all started with me realizing what I wanted, how I plan to achieve it and if I was willing to achieve it. All I am waiting for right now is to just prove that hard work really does pay off, this will all make sense when I write my midyear exam in June.
: BY GIGI NGCOBO
Gigi Ngcobo is a senior studying finance and user experience design and is a member of the Honors College. She is an advocate for the development of emerging markets and organized the inaugural MSU African Business Symposium last year. Gigi was recently featured on the globalEDGE Business Beat podcast to talk about her goals and how she’s already making a difference.
“Knowledge is power” is a popular idiom, commonly interpreted to mean that the more you comprehend, the more valuable you are. It prioritizes the act of acquiring information while diminishing the importance of its application. “Applied knowledge is power” would be my recommended alternative, emphasizing that authentic influence comes from your ability to use the information learned to make an impact.
As students, we often delay applying our learnings because we feel inexperienced or believe our education is for the sole purpose of future employment. However, if we look at our entire lives as a collection of lessons, then it’s possible to realize that we have the power to start executing our ideas immediately to make a significant contribution in our society. This was my guiding principle as I worked on creating the inaugural MSU African Business Symposium last year.
I came to MSU from South Africa in 2016 and studied finance and UX Design in the Eli Broad College of Business and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences respectively. I’ve had the opportunity to work for the corporate strategy division of the Barclays Africa Group in South Africa and ID Ventures, the most active early investment venture capital fund in Michigan. These experiences cemented my general business knowledge while exposing me to a critical problem that my peers and I were confronting; inadequate training in working within emerging markets, specifically in Africa and Latin America.
Classes and study abroad opportunities that centered on international business were skewed, exposing students to mostly Eastern and Western markets at the expense of most of the global south. This meant that students entering the job market would be ill-equipped to work in the intercontinental business landscape and would potentially miss out on the opportunity to do impactful work while participating in these lucrative markets.
Recognizing this gap in our curriculum, I was inspired to create the inaugural African Business Symposium in 2019: a half-day conference centered on exploring venture capital, technology and entrepreneurship in Africa. The sessions were chaired by C-suite business leaders from ADG Technologies, Trans Sahara Investment Corporation and Sunray Ventures. Students and local entrepreneurs came together to discover why more than $720 million was invested into African start-ups last year – a 25% increase from 2017 – and how to overcome the challenges of operating a business in this market. It was also a chance for future business leaders to form partnerships that are essential when navigating the African business ecosystem.
The African Business Symposium infused power to the many lessons I had learned from peers, professors, internships, student organizations and my childhood in South Africa. The experience brought to light how we all have infinite intelligence because of our unique experiences and how sharing this knowledge with others allows us to ensure that our society keeps developing. Thus, we must frequently find or create spaces where we apply our knowledge by challenging our current environment and inventing solutions.
As first published on https://msutoday.msu.edu/360/2020/gigi-ngcobo-applied-knowledge-is-power/#