Beauty is an age-old tradition

Rupkatha Bhowmick

The Middle East has a strong culture of socialising – be it over meals, shopping, getting a haircut, beard trim or over a relaxed spa session. This social culture dates back to centuries from the time of the hammams or public baths. Today some of these age-old traditions are seeing revival. Hammams are now exclusive features in high-end hotels, so much so that today many international brands, Dutch brand Rituals Cosmetics being one, takes inspiration from this ancient tradition to develop one of its product lines.

The region also loves fragrances. Arabs are known for their preference of fragrances that leave a trail, quite like oud and attar from the olden days. No wonder, oud has been gaining more and more prominence in recent years as an essential ingredient in developing perfumes catering to the Middle Eastern taste. So much so that alongside the home-grown perfumers – like Abdul Samad Al Qurashi, Ajmal Perfumes or Arabian Oud – even international brands like Gucci and L’Occitane develop their oud range to meet regional consumer demand.

Further, there is a steady rise in the number of fragrance galleries – such as Plethora, Amouage and more recently Ghawali – offering a range of niche perfumes. Department stores like Sephora, Areej, Paris Gallery and Wojooh are doing brisk business offering the whole range of beauty, personal care and fragrance lines.

The Levant region is reputed for its art of soap-making using natural ingredients like olive oil and other essential oils. Today several home-grown brands like The Camel Soap Factory as well as international names like LUSH Cosmetics and Le Soie are taking this tradition forward.

The regional beauty market is undoubtedly thriving and seems to be challenge-proof. What’s more interesting is the kind of trends that the industry is throwing up, making the space more dynamic and exciting. One such trend is the rise in the number of home-grown brands that are successfully rubbing shoulders with the international names. Bahrain-based Green Bar and Dubai-based Shiffa are some great examples.

These days’ consumers are far more conscious about what they put into their stomach. They screen through ingredients, nutrient composition as well as the ethical standing of products they consume. This trend is now becoming increasingly visible in cosmetics and personal care too, giving rise to natural, ethical and free-from brands leading to the rise of brands like The Organic Pharmacy, The Body Shop and Nuxe to name a few.

Besides fragrances and skincare products, the region also sees strong demand for colour cosmetics. Adding spunk through colours has always been cool in the Middle East. It has become even more sophisticated with companies like Pantone coming up with colour trends for every season. No wonder Polish brand Inglot has a huge fan following in the Middle East.

Along with the much-loved brands are the new entrants like Italian KIKO Milano causing a rage with its colour cosmetics and Rituals Cosmetics propagating the culture of slowing down and enjoying a little therapy daily. After all, one must enjoy a shower, a cup of tea or just staring out of the window to gaze at the beautiful sunrise or sunset.

Gone are the days when cosmetics and personal care was a woman’s domain. Of course, one could spot a few isolated products for men too. But times have changed. Men’s grooming is an emerging market holding promising prospects that the industry doesn’t wish to ignore. Small wonder, therefore, that several concepts with a men-only focus are coming to the forefront. From masstige brands like Nivea’s range for men to salons like Gentlemen’s Tonic at Atlantis, The Palm to the recently launched GlamBox For Him are all in demand.

Finally, a significant trend within the beauty and personal care industry is the rise of a new breed of people called the social influencers. As opposed to a billboard on a busy highway, its human beings who are helping brands reach different corners and alleyways, world-over. That’s the kind of sway social media influencers have on today’s consumers.

Beauty influencers like Huda Kattan have over 20 million followers on Instagram. Dubai-based blogger AlReem Saif, who works with global brands including MAC Cosmetics, Pantene, Max Factor and Bobbi Brown, has 115,000 Instagram followers.

RetailME reviews the latest trends in and performance of the regional beauty and personal care market

Read the full article in the June edition of RetailME