Looking Good: Appearance is Everything in Weddings, Beauty Salons Take Advantage

One of the biggest moments in a person’s life is their wedding day and in Ethiopia it is a major cultural event. Newly wedded couples, parents and friends celebrate it with big festivities including much food, drink and dancing. But appearance is becoming much of a concern and it costs too much. Meseret Mamo, EBR’s Associate Editor, writes that the expense of this huge milestone is becoming an issue especially in Addis Ababa.   

What would you say if someone told you that it costs up to 30,000 birr for a complete hairdressing and make up of a bride in Addis Ababa? It might shock you especially when you consider that ten years ago this would have covered the entire cost of a wedding. 

Whether it is traditional or modern, appearances, especially the beauty of the bride, matter.

Of course the bride is expected to be beautiful and a shining star but to the spectators everyone in the wedding party including the family members all want to look their best. So there is great pressure put on brides to get the best bridal makeup artist she can. 

Selamawit Liyew, 27, uses a variety of beauty salons, from the cheapest to the famous for makeup services. She has experienced some that used original make up and charge fairly and others that charge higher prices for counterfeit makeup.  

“Fake cosmetics last only hours and may cause skin damage if used repeatedly. Whereas original makeup will last for 24hrs without any sign of fading or melting on the face,” said Selamawit.   

Abebaw Minaye (PhD) an Assistant Professor of Social Psychology at Addis Ababa University believes that people succumb to peer pressure because it is such a big social transition and there is so much anxiety to make that day the most special of their life. As a result they may prefer beauty salons where their friends or relatives tell them to go or that are famous, even if they cannot actually afford them. They end up paying whatever the market demands and the business people seize this opportunity.

This is becoming increasingly true not just for beauty shops but with everything associated with the ceremony. Costs of catering, the hall and car rentals are skyrocketing along with expenses for the beautification of the bride, payments to musicians and DJs that are beyond belief. 

Understanding this, professionals including those who have experience and education abroad, are opening modern beauty salons, and investing a huge sum of money in this; “golden goose” business. One can find in all corners of the city, well designed billboards with a picture of a beautiful bride with a lot of make up to advertise these institutions with “Beauty Salon” or “Style” included in their names.

A bride can get hair dressing, makeup and nail work (manicure and pedicure) and many kinds of skin treatments such as a morocco bath in these salons. She can also opt for a sauna and steam baths as well as waxes and other beautifying services.

Bole and Hayahulet areas of Addis have much more expensive salons. Some of their un-comprehendible prices range from 15,000- 30,000 birr whereas one can get similar service with 2,000-5,000 birr in other parts of the city.

Fino Tsegaye, owner of Fino style around Bole Medhanealem told EBR that beauty salons that worry about the quality of their work use original makeup. The price of makeup is insignificant when determining the price of bridal packages, according to Fino. “A single makeup kit can serve for over six months if used properly and I charge for my skills,” she adds in explaining that her price depends on the effort she exerts to beautify not on the material she uses. 

Fino Style has a full bride package which includes three consecutive days of facial treatments and steam before the wedding day, a two hour Morocco bath specially prepared for a bride with milk and honey a day before the wedding; and after that there is a 45min to 1 hr massage service, nails are done and a full wax is given, and the eyebrows are lined.

On the wedding day there will be hair dressing and make up. If the bride wants a studio package the three day face treatment and Morocco bath will not be included and the price will be cut in half from the full package. Sometimes the full package includes a retouch which means doing new makeup and a hair style of the bride for the night program and that will alter the price. 

Though Fino declined to tell her exact price, one of her customers who received the service told EBR that a full bridal beautification and make up service costs up to ETB 23,000.

Zecharias Yohanis, Manager of Netsanet Beauty Salon at Aberus Complex, on Africa Avenue, says being a makeup artist is a professional occupation. His company offers a full bridal package and does not allow people to purchase   services singularly. He does this, he says, because brides are given priority and special care and it would not be profitable to charge brides by pieces of services. 

Netsanet beauty salon’s price for bridal packages ranges from 3,000 to 7,000 ETB. Zekarias said the price range is due to the bride’s choices of service packages, quality of human hair wigs, the brand of makeup and hair styles. 

Zekarias also told EBR that “The price includes the experience, skills and services given. There is no difference regarding the process and material one uses to beautify a bride and there is no reason for the beauty salons to differ by thousands of Birr.” 

Beauty is of course in the eyes of the beholder and the price doesn’t factor in to what people perceive. Sometimes people even look strange when they use too much make up. 

Zekrias said they only suggest what makes the bride more beautiful but some brides do not accept suggestions.  

Fino agrees with this that sometimes such things happen and the bride may look less attractive. Sometimes bride grooms even complain. She says she works hard to make sure the make up doesn’t cover up the natural beauty of the bride. 

Men are now taking advantage of the beauty business as well. Though weddings used to mean that men simply looked for matching suits, they now are  getting make up, hair color (mostly black) and skin treatments. 

Skin treatment services used to be given by separate service providers; but now these modern salons are providing this as well and they are offering them for anyone on any occasion. Men can make themselves look better for less money and if you are not a bride and want similar service your cost is likely to be lower as well.

2nd Year . February 2014 . No.12


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