10 Dirhams Beauty


Still life studies by Augustine Paredes with beauty products under 10 Dhs / 2.7 USD from Al Diyafah Gifts Center in Dubai, UAE.

How much does beauty cost? What does beauty cost you? Worldwide, relative amount of money is spent on beauty products.  In an American study, it has been stated that "the amount of money we spend on our appearance could pay for four years of college tuition.

These still life images are stemmed from curiosity about the globalization of makeup and how there is an effort to make beauty available for everyone—from those who can afford expensive makeup to those who can only afford 10 DHS makeup.

Talking to my colleagues that use makeup products regularly, K spends about 2000 AED/year, Z at 1000 AED/year, and C at 1300 AED/3 years. Meanwhile, I spend about 500 AED every two years, but that is because I don't use makeup regularly.

Two famous makeup stores in Dubai (FACES and Sephora), in their e-commerce platforms, the cheapest makeup products are MAKE UP FOR EVER HD Skin Foundation Sponge at 75 AED (Faces.com) and COVER FX Enhance Click Empty Click Stick at 4AED, after a 75% discount (Sephora.ae), meanwhile the most expensive are CHANEL ROUGE ALLURE L'EXTRAIT Lipstick at 260 AED and NATASHA DENONA Brush Set at 1,120.00 AED.

During the day of the shoot, a colleague protested about the prices of the makeup I procured for this series, saying "there are cheaper makeup in Day to Day!," the store they referred to is one of the 10 Dirham stores very similar to dollar stores in the US, across the city, which also carries makeup products. 

One of these stores is named "Al Diyafah Gifts Center" in Jumeirah 1 Dubai. I would always pass by this store to buy more affordable home goods and sometimes art supplies. In the middle of the store, beside carpentry tools, stands an aisle for makeup products. These products do not cost higher than 20 DHS. 

At one point, I saw ladies lined up to look at such products, while the salesperson kept reminding them not to open or test them. Occasionally, I would look at these products and go as far as smell them. It has a very rubbery smell, very reminiscent of the smell of brand new rubber slippers. 

When I finally bought the products for this series, I tried to swatch them. At least for the products that are included in these photos, it is safe to say that they were not good.

While there is a slew of drugstore makeup made available, there are also millions of products that are cheaper than those. However, cheap is not always good. In Life of Kylie (2016), a reality show of the beauty mogul Kylie Jenner, there was an episode where they went to check knockoff Kylie Lipkits. This particular episode inspired a lot of beauty sites to write about the dangers of counterfeit and cheaper makeup. 

In 2014, the FBI released a statement and a study on Counterfeit Cosmetics, Fragrances Hazardous to Your Health wherein they mentioned that these counterfeit beauty products have traces of lead, copper, mercury, aluminum, bacteria, and carcinogens like arsenic, beryllium, and cadmium. Among these ingredients, lead is mentioned to be the most toxic. Aside from skin allergies, the ingestion and long-term exposure to the toxic chemicals can cause health hazards such as organ damage, poisoning, cancer, and neurological dysfunctions.

While the products that I have photographed here are not knockoffs, their affordability makes their quality questionable. As the saying goes, "if it's too good to be true, it probably is."

In which part of Maslow's triangle does makeup belong? 

For me, it would be under psychological needs. For others, I would not know. Considering the hierarchy of wages in Dubai, what is the cheapest way to buy safe makeup? How could one afford safe makeup products and achieve a harmless beauty?

Is 10DHS beauty safe?