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Dubai: One of the best parts about living in Dubai for me, are the regular grooming sessions. Most women in the country have an “eyebrow lady”, a “botox guy” and are best friends with their hairdresser. Living here comes with a certain amount of pampering. The monthly mani-pedis and the weekly blow dries. 

This isn’t something that many American or European women indulge in back home. It’s considered a luxury. When I lived in Toronto, I’d feel guilty spending $30 on a manicure, when I knew in Dubai it would cost me $18 at my regular salon. But, I did it anyway. I did monthly manicures, sometimes pedicures and one a month eyebrow threading.

Sometimes when I would be in the salon, the ladies working there would ask me if I had a “special occasion”. No. This is maintenance… this is how I was raised. To have clean, done up nails and for my eyebrows not to be out of control.

After finally moving back to Dubai, I became besties with my salon ladies here. My mani-pedi, eyebrows and bi-weekly blow-dries were finally back on my rota.

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Marwa, a long-time Dubai resident, who recently moved to Dublin, Ireland for work, spoke to Gulf News about the shift in perception of beauty and beauty salons in the Middle East vs. in the West. “It genuinely surprises many people that I have a monthly budget for my waxing and nail upkeep. They think I am high-maintenance and on many occasions they tell me that I am “too fancy” looking for our Friday night pub meetups.”

Marwa, like many young Dubai girls, was raised with the mentality that going to the salon is a necessity, not a luxury. It helps a lot that, due to the sheer number of salons in the UAE, competition is fierce among them, so prices are relatively affordable.

Post-quarantine, even more affordable

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As I scroll through Instagram, I am noticing hundreds of salon ads offering wash and blow dries for Dh50, a gelish mani-pedi combo for just Dh95, or full legs, full arms and underarms for Dh99 and some are even giving you a hair keratin treatment for Dh350 for any length! If you know what a keratin treatment normally costs (upwards of Dh750) then you will you understand what a big deal this is.

Some salons are calling their packages, the “Back to office offer” because you can’t let your colleagues see your messy quarantine self. “Make sure there is no trace of quarantine left in you” the caption says.

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This offer includes full arms, underarms and full legs waxing. Gelish manicure and a classic pedicure, eyebrow threading and hair wash and blow-dry for Dh449.

I’ve also come across the “COVID discount” where you can enjoy 50 per cent off on certain treatments, including facials, lash extensions, nail extensions as well as a full colour, highlights, haircut and blowdry.

“I blow-dry my hair once a week at my salon,” Norma says to Gulf News. “This is my routine now. I really missed seeing my hairdresser over the last two months, so I feel back to my normal self again getting my regular blow dries.”

Other Dubai residents prefer to wait. “I would rather jump off a cliff than go to a salon right now,” Dubai resident Haya told Gulf News. “I will do my hair, nails and eyebrows at home. No matter how good their deals are.”

I myself waited as long as possible before going to the salon. But my eyebrows were in desperate shape. At the salon, the technician wore mask, a visor and a new set of gloves that sho. I wore a mask, so even though I shook my head a few weeks ago at friends who went back to salons as soon as they opened, I realised that… well… I felt safe again.

Hello Botox… It’s been a while

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The cosmetic industry on the other hand, haven’t been too keen on offering discounts.

“In terms of discounts, clinics aren’t giving huge discounts, even if the market is a bit slower than usual, because we don’t want to compromise on the quality of botox and filler that we use. The suppliers themselves haven’t lowered the prices, so we wouldn’t be able to,” Dr Leandro Jonquiere, a Specialist Plastic Surgeon at Junqueira Medical Clinic told Gulf News.

“I disagree with heavy discounts, consumers should understand that they have to support the local business, as we also have the normal cost to cover,” he elaborated. 

Although it isn't recommended, because of how prevalent it is in this city, you will be able to find plenty of groupon offers or botox discounts if you know where to look. 

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A screen grab from an Instagram Ad for a botox discount in Dubai Image Credit:

During the sterilisation period, it was impossible for people to go to clinics for their usual fixes, skin treatments, and face augmentations, especially since these are what some would call “non-essential” medical trips.

As restrictions began to ease and social distancing guidelines were put in place, the cosmetic industry came to life again. Plastic surgery clinics and botox administrators have seen an influx of people from both sexes over the last month and a half.

“We are living in a very interesting time. Today we have patients coming to us for a plethora of different reasons. Some are just tired of staying home and need a change in ambience, others come to us because they are feeling down from the confinement and want to lift their spirit up by improving their look.”

He also added, “Others came back to clinic for a spruce up before heading back to their workplace after a long time and wanted to look and feel good about themselves.”

With the recent sterilisation programme causing everyone to stay home the question that came about was: Has this period of self-isolation proven that people care about their image because of others, who see them all of the time, or do they care about how they look because of themselves?

Dr Leandro said, “It's a mix of these two feelings. If you are happy with how you look, it will reflect on your face and on the people around you. And I’ve noticed that during this period, it has proven how amazing the human capacity is to keep looking forward to the future in a positive way and quest for beauty.”

Doctor Rodainah Mhaidat of La Mar clinics also spoke to Gulf News explaining that after restrictions easing of her clinic had very good traffic with people who wanted to feel and look better. People who wanted to lift their spirits by lifting certain facial features.

Many clients of for Dr Rodainah were waiting for the day the clinic opened, so they could continue their usual treatment. “People tend to feel better when they look better,” she added.

“With the population slowly starting to go back to work, they don’t want to look tired or worn down, they want to look refreshed. We are actually seeing a few more males coming into our practice,” Dr Rodainah said.