Makeup Artist Ukwi Beauty Talks Fake Products, Dubois & Her Fave Kenyan Brands

The beauty industry in Kenya was recently buzzing after a high-end store brand was implicated in counterfeit products claim by authorities. Makeup users looking for genuine products already have a hard time and it was surprising to many that there was a possibility that some places could be passing off knock offs as the legit brands.

While the allegations are still being investigated and the store involved denies any wrong doing, we spoke to a makeup artiste and enthusiast who has lived both in Kenya and abroad about fake products and how to shop for makeup.

What were your thoughts on the Madora story?

I was shocked to read the news on twitter I had to confirm with the Anti Counterfeit Agency’s webpage. I have shopped at Madora before and they were very professional – a high-end store with a variety of luxury makeup and perfume products. Most of these products are well-known brands that can’t be found anywhere else in Kenya. I thought it may be dirty business competition or sabotage by another business but then we as the consumers have no idea unless the Anti Counterfeit Agency communicate.

What is it like buying makeup for you?

It is difficult to source certain types of makeup. We usually have to order makeup online, coordinate with friends/family who are abroad to carry some makeup in their luggage or to look to online boutiques that may or may not sell what you’re looking for. Stores such as Madora, MAC or Lynton’s is where you go when you need a product ASAP knowing you will have to part with more money than you planned.

How common is the issue of fake products in Kenya – and abroad where you have lived and work?

It is surprisingly common. I once saw a MAC palette sold in a salon. This palette had eyeshadows, blush and lipstick! I thought it was amazing that MAC had decided to have all those products in one palette until I looked on their official website and could not find such a palette. Huda Beauty and Kylie Lip kits are also circulating in the market for a shockingly low price. The moment you use these products, you can tell the quality is subpar, and the scent smells like chemicals.

What of the US?

It was not easy to find counterfeit products within a store setting. However there were places you could go such as open air markets in the city, China Town in New York, to get counterfeit products.

We apply these products on such a sensitive area such as our face and our lips. This is dangerous and it is hard to report any issues you have to the brand since most of these products are made in China.

What’s been your hacks for shopping for makeup here in Kenya?

Other than the outlets in the malls, I am slowly discovering online stores that sell makeup but the downside is that you cannot see the product before you order. In most cases, you are able to tell counterfeit products just by the look and feel of the packaging so it helps to actually hold the product and even better, test the product.

I shop at MAC because duh. I have also begun shopping at Goodlife Pharmacy because they carry brands such as Black Opal, Revlon, Milani. Also Super Cosmetics carries good local brands you can actually test on your skin.

Have you ventured to places like Dubois Rd, Down Town?

I have not. I hear good things about Dubois and understand the attraction. I need to venture there and experience it for myself. W

I would buy accessory products there such as eyelashes, headpieces, earrings, rings etc… I wouldn’t buy any product that I would apply to my skin for a long period of time such as makeup, lotions, perfumes etc.  If a brand has a seal on it, trust it. It means that no one can tamper with the product and if the brand has gone the extra mile and cost putting a seal on the product, it means they care about hygiene and about the consumer.

Where else do you shop for makeup?

I am fortunate enough to have family and friends who live in the US. I also travel there once a year so I plan ahead and purchase a lot of my makeup there. Makeup has become such a large industry globally that even supermarkets will compete for customers and run big sales on makeup. So there are always discounts on makeup depending on where you go.  Its nice to shop around and get great deals on makeup that would cost two or three times more in Kenya.

Some of your favourite locally available brands?

Suzie Beauty has some really amazing eye shadows. Huddah Cosmetics also has nice creamy eyeshadow palettes and makeup remover wipes. Her lipsticks are really pretty and last a while.  NK Lashes has mastered their lash game and given us a variety of lashes to work with.

Some online shops you could recommend?

Beauty Hub, Lip Bar Kenya, Makeup Addition KE and Kipodozi Essenials. I also have some flash sales on my IG @UkwiBeauty from time to time.

Tips for buying makeup?

  • Try not to buy makeup that is not sealed. If the makeup is imported and in a package, look for the customs tag. Pay attention to the packaging. Do the letters appear to be too big or too small? Is the sentence structure/grammar correct? Are some words spelled incorrectly? Is the photo grainy or not good quality? Then it is most likely counterfeit.
  • Ask the store attendant if you can test the product on your arm. If a product such as eyeshadow require two or three application to see the color, most likely it is not real. If the skincare has a strong perfume or alcohol scent, it is most likely not real. If the perfume has a strong alcoholic scent, or has too much oil, it is most likely not real.
  • If you’re not sure about a product, ask for a sample. Go home, test the product (especially liquid foundations) and see if you are satisfied with the product.

What is it like being a makeup artist in Kenya?

In just a few years, I have seen people pay more attention to their beauty regimen especially with makeup. I think more people value my skill as a makeup artist and I’m getting more non wedding calls such as events and photoshoots. The skill was not as valued as in other places such as South Africa or Nigeria. Makeup artists enhance certain skincare features, find an exact foundation and powder match, have to be creative in colour coordination and matching, as well as have the ability to transform someone’s vision into life. It is a skill that takes hours of practice. I think as the creative sector grows in Kenya, so will the beauty sector. I await for the skincare boom to arrive in Kenya since it is often neglected but is very important for makeup application.

Last words… ☺

Makeup up is for everyone. The possibilities are limitless. It can boost your confidence, completes your overall look and at times, allow you to experience another persona based on how you look! Be creative and have fun with it!

Prudence is an east African makeup artist and has been in the industry for 5 years. Her speciality is enhancing natural beauty therefore she focuses on natural looking makeup . Prudence received training as she worked as an Associate at Origins USA for 2 years as natural skincare and makeup specialist in Arlington, Virgina. She has attended beauty conferences globally in the USA, Rwanda and Kenya to learn about makeup applications, skincare and tools. She has experience in wedding applications, photo shoots, concert artists, theatre makeup and teaches one on one classes. Prudence is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya.





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