The Savvy Expat's Guide to Beauty Products & Services in Kampala

You can find some decent beauty products and services, as long as you know where to look and what to avoid.

Dec 27, 2023 - 22:29
The Savvy Expat's Guide to Beauty Products & Services in Kampala
Beauty products

How to Look Good in Kampala: A Guide for Expats

If you are an expat living in Kampala, you might have noticed that finding beauty products and services that suit your needs can be a challenge. Whether you want to refresh your makeup, dye your hair, or get a haircut, you might feel frustrated by the limited options and high prices. But don’t despair; there are ways to look good in Kampala without breaking the bank or compromising on quality. Here are some tips and tricks to help you navigate the beauty scene in the city.

Foundation and Tinted Moisturizer: Mix and Match

One of the hardest things to find is a foundation or tinted moisturizer that matches your skin tone. Most products are aimed at darker ladies, so you might have to rely on friends or family visiting from the West to bring you your favorite brands. However, there are a few places where you can find some lighter shades, such as Eve and Nico on the bottom floor of Garden City or the cosmetic shops in Pioneer Mall and Forest Mall. But be prepared to pay a premium, as these products are often imported and marked up.

A clever trick that many expat women use is to buy two different shades of foundation or moisturizer: one that is 3–4 shades darker than your normal skin tone, and one that is a shade lighter than you are now. With the sun exposure, your skin color will change, and you can mix the two products to create your own custom blend. You can also cut the product with a light moisturizer to make it last longer and give you some SPF protection.

Other Cosmetics: Go for Sleek

For other cosmetics, such as eyeliner, lipstick, eye shadow, and mascara, you can find some decent-quality products from Sleek, a UK-based brand that is widely available in Kampala. You can find Sleek products in the cosmetic stores in Forest Mall, Pioneer Mall, and Garden City Mall. They have a good range of colors and pigmentation and are reasonably priced.

You might also see some MAC products, but be careful, as many of these are knock-offs and might not be safe for your skin. If you have sensitive skin or are prone to breakouts, you might want to check out Charms Ultimate Cosmetic Shop on Kampala Rd. They have a good selection of facial washes, scrubs, and creams, as well as some makeup and hair dye.

Hair Dye: Do It Yourself or Go to a Salon

If you want to change your hair color, you have two options: do it yourself or go to a salon. If you choose the DIY route, you can find some well-known brands of hair dye, such as L’Oreal and Feria, in Careffour and Mega Standard supermarkets. These can be expensive, but you can also find some cheaper options in some smaller stores, such as Checkers in Kisimenti. They have a whole shelf dedicated to hair, skin, and makeup products. You can also find some highlighting kits if you want to add some dimension to your hair.

If you prefer to have a professional do your hair, you can trust some of the upper-scale salons, such as 5 Senses in Bukoto, Ayesha Salon in Kisimenti, or Mira’s Salon at Kabira Country Club. They have trained staff who know how to handle different types of hair and can give you the color you want. However, be prepared to pay a lot more than you would in the West, and make sure you book an appointment in advance.

Haircuts: Finding a Trusted Stylist

Haircuts can be tricky, as not many stylists know how to cut and layer different types of hair. You might end up with a choppy or uneven cut, or worse, a mullet. To avoid this, you need to find a trusted stylist who understands your hair and can give you the style you want. Some of the salons mentioned above, such as 5 Senses, Ayesha, and Mira’s, can do a good job, but they can also be pricey. Another option is to find an expat who knows how to cut hair and is willing to do it for a small fee or a favor. You can ask around on forums, e.g., Facebook groups like Expats in Uganda, to find someone who can help you.

Other Services: Waxing, Threading, Manicures, and Pedicures

If you want to get rid of unwanted hair, you have a few options. You can find some places that offer waxing, but be careful, as some of them might use overheated wax or unhygienic practices that can cause burns, rashes, or infections. If you want to wax at home, you can buy some wax pots and strips from some Indian-run supermarkets. Waxing at home is easy, but make sure you test the temperature of the wax on your wrist before applying it to large areas.

Another option is to use Veet hair removal cream or razors, which are widely available in supermarkets. However, these can also irritate your skin or cause ingrown hairs, so use them with caution. If you want a more gentle and precise method, you can try threading, which is a technique that uses a twisted thread to pull out hair from the roots. You can find some places that offer threading, such as Sparkles, which is a quick and cheap option that is popular with both Ugandans and expats.

For your nails, you can also go to Sparkles or any of the other salons that offer manicures and pedicures. You can choose from a range of colors and styles and get your nails done for a reasonable price. However, if you are concerned about hygiene, you might want to bring your own nail tools or buy some disposable ones from the supermarket.

Conclusion: You Can Look Good in Kampala

As you can see, there are ways to look good in Kampala, even if you have to adapt to the local market and products. You can find some decent beauty products and services, as long as you know where to look and what to avoid. And of course, if you have friends or family visiting from the West, you can always ask them to bring you some of your favorite brands. With a little bit of creativity and resourcefulness, you can look good in Kampala and feel good about yourself.

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