Powered by Blogger.

The beauty products you can (and can't!) get in Cuba

By Sunday, June 12, 2016

Perfumería Habana 1791 in Havana, Cuba

"Tengo una empresa para belleza y tecnología."

This was one of the Spanish lines I memorized while planning a trip to Cuba with my best friend in May: "I have a beauty and technology company."

As we were traveling under a visa for professional research, I wanted to see the beauty products women are able to get there and how people use technology...both fascinating discoveries in a country that continuously surprised and amazed me.

The first place on my list was 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.

Perfumería Habana 1791 in Havana, Cuba

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'd be staying with – cosmetics bags packed full of makeup, perfume and haircare samples that I hadn't used 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 because it doesn't even exist in my country.

Outside the Perfumería Habana 1791 in Havana, Cuba

Even though we'd booked our casas online before we left, wi-fi was hard to come by in Cuba. We found hot spots in a few hotels and public parks that we stumbled upon at night, with everyone perched in the dark on the curb or benches chatting on their phones or typing away on their laptops. Access is expensive at $2-3 CUC per hour for a wireless card ($1 USD is roughly equivalent to $1 CUC), especially when the average person makes $20/month.

This was all an incredible contrast to my life in the Bay Area and work with Lovelyloot – developing a mobile app to help you save and remember all the beauty products you try and discover – but truly an amazing experience in a country I can't wait to go back to again.

This post originally appeared in the June 2016 Lovelyloot Letters monthly email to subscribers. If you liked this content, please visit getlovelyloot.com and sign up to hear more!


  1. I'm also wondering why they have lost their beauty and cosmetic products. Maybe there is a reason or history happened behind the case. I'm just thinking that the women there are so hungry to have those beauty products. Whereas in our country, we just throw it away when the time that we don't want to use it anymore. At least I have learned some lessons here. Just in case I will travel to that place, I will not forget to bring beauty products to share to the women in Cuba. Anyway, if you are looking to shop online for the beauty sale this Holiday Season, you can shop at https://www.boutiqueken.com/cat/beauty and choose your favorite brand. Thank you for sharing your special story here. Im really touched to the women in Cuba.