My best friend and I recently went to Cuba, which gave me the chance to finally see a country that I’ve longed to visit for years. Since we were traveling under a visa for professional research, I wanted to learn about the beauty products women are able to get there.
“Cuba has a history of producing cosmetics and perfume”
I’d read that beauty products are extremely difficult to get in Cuba, and that definitely appeared to be true. We saw very few stores that sold cosmetics and those that did seemed to cater to tourists, offering designer perfume at similar prices to what you’d find in the U.S.
You definitely can’t just pop into a Walgreens to pick up what you forgot to pack! At one point, I even saw someone selling used makeup in the street – half-empty bottles of foundation and other products – perhaps things that a guest had left behind when they flew home from their vacation.
Knowing this would be probably be the case, I’d brought little gifts for the female Airbnb hosts we stayed with – cosmetics bags packed full of makeup, perfume and haircare samples from my Birchbox subscription or Sephora purchases.
The women I gave them to just loved them, which made me incredibly happy. I get so excited about a new lipstick or nail polish that I can’t imagine not being able to buy what I want just because the ability to do that doesn’t exist in my country.
We also visited the historic Perfumería Habana 1791 in Havana. Cuba has a history of producing cosmetics and perfume, but those stores are practically non-existent today.
Habana 1791 is a government-run store (so the prices are set and all the tourists go there), but it still offers beautiful handmade scents that date back to colonial times. After trying every one, I ended up purchasing the delicate Jazmin and quite manly Dulce Habana.
Visiting Cuba was an incredible contrast to my life in the Bay Area, but truly an amazing experience in a country I can’t wait to visit again.