Minding Body Flourishing Makeup Business in Addis Ababa


Ethiopians have always had traditional ways of looking good for both the face and body. Culturally recognized hairstyles, eye coloring sticks, hand softening traditional creams have been around for long. Modern makeup is growing more and more, however. The last few years have seen a change where makeup studios are becoming widespread. So much so that even makeup trainers and schools are popping up in Addis Ababa. Such is the growth as both a business and personal practice, writes EBR’s Trualem Asmare.

A few years back, one would find it difficult to get makeup done at a professional makeup studio. Even harder it would be to get formal lessons to become a professional makeup artist. Recently, however, makeup studios have become abundant and there are a handful of schools in Addis Ababa.

The first in Ethiopia, Seppara Makeup School, was founded by Dereje Fikre in 2016 in Addis Ababa and provides two- and four-month courses. Most students attend the two-month class mainly due to the fee of ETB42,000. The longer course costs ETB84,000.

Thus far, Seppara has graduated about 380 with the number of students increasing every year. Even people from abroad have shown interest in attending the classes, according to Dereje. Public attitudes towards makeup as a business and for personal consumption have been improving alongside the quality of the services.

“Now, makeup is done based on the type of skin, which was not the case a few years back,” Dereje told EBR. “The knowledge towards one’s own body and what it needs also has contributed to the positively changing quality.”

Makeup schools and studios have to deal with their own version of challenges. One challenge Seppara as the first makeup school had to deal with was the absence of a certificate of competency. There was no legal framework to license the services and certificates earned. Previously, the issue was solved through consultations with Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) authorities, but the school still had to give an academic test to its students on its own.

“There was also a time when a person with no professional background had to write the test,” Dereje remembers.

The lack of modules and guidelines meant Seppara had to translate the same from foreign countries. This was a burden of its own as local languages do not conform to most of the makeup industry jargon and terminology. The early initiatives of Dereje and colleagues have broken the ice. It is now growing into becoming an industry of makeup schools and studios.

The number of professional makeup schools has grown to at least four. Studios, on the other hand, are becoming ubiquitous around the capital and cater to ever-increasing demand.

Israel Girma, 31, started doing makeup as an employee 14 years ago. In 2014, he started his own business, Jordan Beauty Light after investing ETB300,000 in Kazanchis. Getting customers was not a challenge for Israel as he was already known in the area. He has now opened another branch around Megenagna.
“Business is good; the number of customers is growing,” Israel told EBR. “It only took me two years to open the second branch.”

Israel did not stop with just applying makeup. He opened Jordan Makeup School six months ago. His decision was inspired by two reasons, the main of which was the lack of professionals for his own makeup studios. Some were even going abroad to train. “I could not believe people would actually go as far as paying in foreign currency to learn makeup art,” Israel shared his inspiration.

The training provided at his school runs for one month and involves lessons with skin protection, hair, makeup, eyelashes, and nails. Though the number of students varies from month to month, fifty students were attending courses in February. Fees vary according to the training type with the most expensive costing ETB38,000.
“I grew up with a lot of painting and art, which might have inspired me into the idea of beauty,” Israel told EBR.

Makeup work is seasonal, with holidays and wedding seasons being the peak times. However, even during times, ladies get their eyelashes done. Makeup work done for weddings are the most expensive. Eyerusalem Girma, a Businesswoman in the industry, says that type could cost the customer from ETB10,000 to 15,000. Casual makeup goes for around ETB500.

Eyerusalem, who attended her makeup classes in Bangkok, Thailand, says business is not as usual after Covid-19. Her studio around Haya Hulet, Jojo Makeup Studio, was closed for months due to the pandemic. Eyerusalem also does makeup for movies and music videos.

For Dereje, the makeup business faces challenges other than Covid. Products are mainly imported and the issue of foreign currency access and fluctuating prices of products are bottlenecks challenging the sector.

The use of makeup is also a matter of health and not just a matter of looking good. Digafe Tsegaye, Consultant Dermatologist and Manager at Abed Special Dermatology Clinic, says the use of makeup must be preceded by the knowledge of one’s skin type. There are different skin types such as faces with rashes, dry, and sensitive skin. The use of makeups, soaps, and creams must be professionally advised as to which suits which skin type.

“People with sensitive skin are not advised to use makeup,” Digafe told EBR. Overuse of makeup is one of the causes of skin diseases.

Ethiopia has a history of women taking care of their bodies using traditional means which differs across cultures, tribes, and ethnic groups. For instance, in the Mursi tribe, women are recognized for their lip plates and decorative floral and paint usage. Around the nation, there is the use of sircul, a natural eyelash coloring stick which was protective as well as beautifying. Other local makeup, beautifying, and health remedies in the nation include ensosila, albo, shuruba, teeth chiseling, Hin, and the like.

Modernity has brought makeup practices to the fore in Ethiopia. The experience of Ethiopian women with traditional beautifying remedies has enabled makeup studios and schools to flourish. A governmental policy and competency certificates will help solidifying the gains the sector has experienced recently.

EBR 10th Year • Feb 2022 • No. 104


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