An acid attack is a premeditated act of violence designed to permanently disfigure the victim, by throwing acid on their face and body. Acids are easily and cheaply available, and the consequences of such an attack are devastating for victims. Acid attacks are becoming a common phenomenon in India and, increasingly, in the UK. While they are not quite as common in South Africa, in 2017 a Johannesburg woman was attacked on Christmas eve, and there was an attack earlier this year in the Cape Winelands.

Acid attacks not only leave victims traumatised but can cause severe burns and scarring on the skin, which can be just as debilitating as the initial pain. A UK doctor has now created make-up that could serve as a means to protect people from the physical damage of an acid attack.

The catalyst

This awful phenomenon was thrust into the spotlight in the UK when 24-year-old Katie Piper was attacked by her ex-boyfriend and an accomplice in 2008. She shared her ordeal and its after effects with the world in a documentary and a book, which shed light on how prolific this problem is. Dr Almas Ahmed, 32, was a student when the story broke, and she claims this is what inspired her to formulate the acid-resistant compound which she is using as the base as her innovative make-up.

 

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Katie Piper was a 24-year-old charming TV personality in the UK when she was attacked. She met a man named Daniel Lynch and her life was changed forever. After only seeing him for about two weeks she decided she was no longer interested in a romantic relationship with him and broke it off. Lynch did not take the news very well. Desperate for Piper to feel the pain he felt, Lynch asked Piper to meet him at a cafe where his hired accomplice, Stefan Sylvestre, threw sulphuric acid at Piper. Piper was rushed to the hospital. Her face and chest were full of third-degree burns. She was put into an induced coma for twelve days while she underwent skin grafts. From Piper’s book ‘Beautiful’, she states, “I mean, how different could my face be? It might be red and scarred, but it would still look like me, right? Taking a deep breath, I held it up to my face. That little mirror was a window into hell. My skin was red raw. My eyelids were puffy and underneath, my eyeballs protruded like cartoonish globes. My left eyeball looked milky and opaque. My lips were swollen like sausages and my eyelashes and eyebrows were gone. My nose was a shriveled mound. My cheeks had sunk into my skull. My face had melted into my neck like candle wax.” Initially, Piper had to wear a plastic face mask for 23 hours a day to protect her delicate skin. Forty-three procedures later, Piper’s skin is healing beautifully. She has used her experience to support and inspire other burn victims. Sylvestre has received life in prison and in 2015 has been denied parole. Lynch will serve a minimum of sixteen years. DM us to be featured! 📥 Follow @medical_mentor for more✔️ #medical_mentor

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The compound – which has been named ‘Acarrier’ – was developed in such a way that it won’t react when it comes into contact with corrosive substances. It is also liquid proof and is able to withstand temperatures up to 400 degrees celsius.

Dr Ahmed believes so much in her product that she invested over a million Rand into its development. At the moment, the only product in her range is a foundation, but she is working on a skincare line as well. Her aim is to be able to distribute to women around the world, especially those who live in areas where acid attacks are frequent.

While protective cosmetic products are unlikely to hit the mainstream market any time soon, it’s reassuring to know that there are people who recognise this increasing problem and are working on solutions to make acid burns a thing of the past. Now we just need to work on the perpetrators.

Find more beauty stories and recommendations here.