Photo: © Rahhal /

The Middle East is very complex and diverse, therefore posing significant challenges to beauty brands. Political and economic instability is one of the major obstacles to beauty sales growth in countries such as Syria and Egypt, although Saudi Arabia and Iran are thriving. According to marketing consultancy Butterfly London, which works with beauty brands in the Middle East, the population is young [1] and eager to try new brands, in particular international high-end ones, such as Chanel, Gucci and Dior. The premium segment accounts for 42% of sales in the Middle East, of which 42% is fragrance, haircare 25%, skincare 16% and make-up 16%.

Tradition and modernity

Andrea Visus, associate director, Butterfly London, commented on rise of the “digital self,” saying, “Saudi girls love to express themselves on social media. They have several Facebook accounts and separate social networking profiles showing different personalised looks. They learn make-up tricks just so they can look good on Facebook.” Arabian men, too, tend to be extremely image conscious and a well groomed appearance denotes career success and social standing.

Another aspect of consumer behaviour in the region is that traditions are strong and beauty secrets are passed from mother to daughter. As a result, staple products, such as bar soap, standard shampoos and toothpaste have high sales, according to Euromonitor in its analysis of the Middle East and Africa. Yet, it is the increasingly sophisticated youth demographic, growing urbanisation and the rise of the middle classes that is driving growth in premium fragrances and skincare.

Double digit growth for haircare

The MEA region has the lowest per capita spend globally on haircare at just $3 per annum. Euromonitor registered haircare sales growth of 11% in 2014 and the category represented 6% of the global market. The largest haircare market was Iran at $830m, followed by Turkey with $790m and Saudi Arabia, worth $650m. All witnessed double digit growth in 2014. Haircare sales in Israel were lower at $290m but its $36 per capita spend was the highest of any MEA country.

Global brands from P&G and Unilever dominated sales value, though local brands were popular due to their lower price point. Conditioning and repair, oil/keratin and natural/organic/bio products were strong across all price bands.

Halal trend

Halal cosmetics is a growth category, not only in the Middle East, but also in Europe, where Muslims account for 5-10% of the population. Halal certification requires adherence to the strict laws of Islam and there are many different Halal labels used across the world. For instance, there are five large Halal certifiers in Germany, and state based systems in Indonesia, Turkey and Iran, making it essential for brands to know their target market before launching Halal products.