Clean Sweep: Middle Eastern Beauty Lovers Are Making Way For Something Fresh
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The modern beauty consumer is more informed than ever. Across a multitude of sectors, customers are demanding the fine print for the products they use and consume daily, and the beauty industry is no exception.
Who is making my products? How are they being made? What ingredients have gone into them? How are the ingredients being sourced? And, will or won’t they harm my health or the planet’s? These are just some of the questions that Middle Eastern beauty consumers are demanding answers for, and the beauty industry is finally ready with answers that consumers crave.
Given the nature of beauty and self-care applications, a surge in consumer interest regarding ingredient toxicity, sourcing and formulations has evolved over recent years in the Middle East and around the world.
This growing awareness has led to a drastic surge in natural cosmetics sales, with the global cosmetics market size expected to reach US$48.04 billion in value by 2025 according to a recent report by Grand View Research.
As consumer preferences for clean products grow globally, so have those of the Middle Eastern market. According to TechSci Research, the organic cosmetics market in the Middle East and Africa is expected to be worth US$4 billion to US$5 billion by 2022. In the UAE region, in particular, the demand for organic and ethically sourced cosmetics is rising quickly and is only expected to soar given the changing preferences driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The industry, however, has undergone a noticeable change even prior to COVID-19. In mid-2019, awareness surrounding clean beauty or sustainability was very low, and now, only one year later most people in the UAE have a better understanding of its impact on their health and Mother Nature.
The demand for clean beauty hasn’t suddenly increased due to quarantine. It’s a movement that started years ago in the United States and made its way to the Middle East several years on. We saw this same trend occur with yoga, the green juice craze, pilates reformer studios, nail bar spas, Peloton, and now clean beauty.
As COVID-19 has taken over the lives of UAE residents, stress has become an even bigger concern and people are feeling overwhelmed and are more aware of the link that exists between mind and body. Consumers are now searching for holistic solutions for improved wellbeing across the body, mind, and spirit, which has subsequently launched a deeper connection with brands.
This surge in interest for natural products is expected to be more prominent in the UAE in particular. The region’s consumers spend US$247 per capita on cosmetics and personal care products, which is more than any other country in the Middle East and ninth worldwide.
While consumers were already on this journey, COVID-19 has accelerated the demand and has pushed them to change their behaviour and purchasing choices. Consumers have more time to consider their every action and are more conscious about their health, what they eat, and what they put on their skin more than ever due to quarantine. Habits have changed and now the quality of products they purchase is as important as ever.
But consumers are demanding more than just conscious products from brands. They want brands to be accountable and ethical and give back to communities as well—like many in the clean beauty space.
So where is this demand coming from? Demand for clean beauty products has been driven by a perfect storm of seven key trends and drivers.
Social Media: As the main driver of clean beauty’s adoption in the Middle East and around the world, celebrities (ie. Emma Watson, Miranda Kerr, Gwyneth Paltrow), influencers and everyday people have flocked to Instagram, in particular, to flaunt their conscious purchases and urge their followers to follow suit.
Environmental Movement: Led by activist Greta Thunberg, the climate crisis took centre stage in 2019, and awareness surrounding sustainability and climate change reached its peak. Thunberg's passion inspired consumers of all ages to take conscious action in order to protect the planet for future generations, and drove conscious consumerism and environmental movements forward.
Conscious Beauty: ‘Clean Beauty’ is taking on a whole new meaning with companies extending their conscious duties far beyond their ingredients list. Not only are brands ensuring that products are safe for consumers, but they must also be safe for planet Earth as well. This consumer-driven movement has ushered in the umbrella term ‘blue beauty’ and encompasses the rise of sustainability and environmental ethics in the beauty industry. Terms like ‘reef safe’ are used to describe ocean-friendly sunscreens that do not contain avobenzone, oxybenzone, or octinoxate, ensuring no harm is done to coral or marine life.
Mental Health and Wellbeing Awareness: as social media use has become a well-known root cause of the modern mental health crisis and both a driver in the global wellbeing trend, millennials, and the Gen Z (social media’s most frequent users) are increasingly looking for brands that offer flashes of calm, sensorial experiences and products that promote emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.
Curated Skincare Routines: 54% of female millennials aged 20 to 29 confirmed they were shifting toward simplified beauty routines, making this cohort more selective about the brands and ingredients they use on their skin daily. Driven by their desire to reduce excessive consumption in keeping with the growing sustainability crisis, they are likely to choose brands such as Grown Alchemist, Rahua, and Mad Hippie that not only produce clean and ethical products but also present their products in eco-friendly packaging.
Multiculturalism: UAE’s increasingly multicultural society, including expats, has boosted the demand for their favourite clean, sustainable, or conscious beauty products in the region.
Renewed Focus on Health: Middle Eastern attitudes toward health and wellbeing have shifted dramatically in recent years. A newfound emphasis has been placed on skin health and climate change following reports from the Middle East linking extreme conditions to poor water quality, elevated pollution levels, high humidity, and strong winds, which can all trigger unwanted skin conditions.
Together, these seven drivers have marked the change in consumer preferences and led to the growth of sustainable beauty in the Middle East.
As an emerging global capital in beauty, Dubai is expected to lead the region in the adoption of clean beauty. In fact, in 2019 many of the region’s department stores already dedicated small sections of their retail space to the clean beauty sector.
As positive attitudes toward natural cosmetics and conscious consumerism continue to grow, retailers and e-commerce stores are expected to expand their offerings of global and local, clean, and sustainable beauty brands that address the particular concerns of Middle Eastern consumers.
Retail trends already show that consumers in the MENA region, and particularly the UAE, are willing to spend more money on natural products, therefore generating a higher market value driven by social and ethical considerations.
And while the beauty market is set to experience a significant decline in sales in 2020 (due to COVID-19), this period delivers an exciting opportunity for clean beauty brands and e-commerce platforms to take the spotlight and connect with new and existing consumers across a range of value-based topics that will be top-of-mind during the post-pandemic era.