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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Icon: Imported Makeup & Beauty Products in Maadi
Shopping for beauty products in Cairo is an exercise in hunting and gathering. In the absence of major department stores stocking every product imaginable, Cairenes are reduced to foraging at any number of different shops to locate the perfect face cream, a favourite perfume, or the right shade of makeup.
Icon is a beauty shop with two branches in Maadi, and probably the closest thing that Egypt has to a comprehensively stocked shop of imported beauty supplies from nail polish and perfume, to makeup and skincare products.
Icon’s spacious shop on Degla’s Road 233 is a welcoming, multilevel space with appealing displays of products by top beauty brands. Unlike many other beauty shops in Cairo, the staff at Icon keeps a respectful distance, but is on hand to answer questions and make suggestions when asked.
The shop’s selection of designer perfumes is respectable, with favourite brands like Chanel and Burberry represented. The selection is largely devoted to women’s perfumes although a few selections for men are also available. Prices are generally on par with those in other shops, beginning at about 250LE.
Icon’s makeup display is slightly less impressive. Although rarely found brands like Maybelline are available, stocks and colour options are limited, and prices are exorbitant, at nearly 200LE for a cream foundation. Rimmel products are also available, with a better selection and slightly more reasonable prices, such as a tube of foundation starting at about 150LE.
The standout products at this shop are definitely in the category of skin and hair care. Icon stocks imported Neutrogena and Vaseline products as well as Garnier and L’Oreal items, and a range of hairdryers and styling tools.
For some people, finding their favourite skincare product in Cairo is priceless and that’s a good thing, as a Neutrogena facial wash will set you back a good 85LE. Vaseline products are more reasonably priced, at about 25LE for a tub of body lotion, and imported L’Oreal hair dye without ammonia sells for around 100LE. OPI nail polish is seriously expensive at 100LE per bottle.
The wall of styling tools includes basic hairdryers as well as multi-functional tools, flatirons and facial steamers. Starting at 200LE, these appliances don’t come cheap, but could be a boon to diehard beauty product lovers.
A casual stop at Icon might leave those familiar with the stocked beauty counters of faraway lands disappointed; but beauty connoisseurs in Cairo just might find what they’re looking for on the shelves of this shop.
Across Cairo’s shopping scene, shops like Bath and Body Works and the Body Shop have been dominating the body-care market, with only Egyptian brand, Nefertari, putting up a fight.
However, newly launched local brand, Body Bakes, aims to introduce a new and novel concept of healthy and natural products. What makes the brand standout is that all of Body bakes products are SLES free; SLES is a chemical used in all soap and shampoo products to create foam, though it has been known to cause hypersensitivity, hair loss and skin irritation.
When you pass the modestly-sized booth in Citystars, you’ll understand why it’s called Body Baked; it almost smells like baked deserts and the products are not your typical soaps and body scrubs – they contain foods that you usually find in your kitchen, the most interesting being sugar (more on that later).
The booth at stands out with its use of bright colours and the way that the products are laid out makes it easy to go through the whole collection.
Our eyes caught some interesting products like the cupcake soap (50LE), Powerpuff Deodorant (45LE), Basil Soap Syrup (30LE), Lip Balm (50LE) and Pina Colada Sugar Frost (70 LE).
Almost all of the products use almond oil which is known for softening and nourishing the skin and, to our surprise, the cupcake soap actually smells like cupcake; you’re technically washing your hands with food with sanitising abilities. The soap will leave your hands smelling like just-baked-out-of-the-oven cakes, though the size of the soap doesn’t quite justify its high price.
Then there’s the Powerpuff Deodorant; a powder-based deodorant that comes in a circular tin. Using the powder proved to be a little bit messy as there’s no obvious method of application; you’ll need to find an external cotton pad in order to apply it. However, the deodorant itself works as well as any spray or roll-on we have ever used. Its texture is soft enough for underarm skin and absorbs sweat.
The Basil Soap Syrup was regular liquid hand wash soap which leaves your hands refreshed, clean and smelling like fresh basil. The lip balm, meanwhile, was also packaged in a tiny tin that you use your own fingers to apply. As creamy and soft as it felt, it was a little bit greasy.
Our favourite product was the Pina Colada Sugar Frost, which is a natural body scrub that contains actual sugar mixed with almond oil. The minute you dip your hands into the jar, you can feel the sugar particles between your fingers. Some lines of thought hold up sugar as an alternative and effective natural scrub for sensitive skin. The Sugar Frost left our skin pampered and scented; the fragrance even lasted for a few hours.
Body Bakes’ creative and unique produces have us wanting to come back for more, if just for the novelty; however, some are a little over priced. For those who are looking for natural body-care solutions, it’s a must try; but as tempting as it is – and it really is tempting – please refrain from eating them.