Once upon a time, being a savvy make-up customer meant knowing your shade of foundation in any brand and being able to apply red lipstick without a mirror.
Now, with the growing conversation about the use of chemicals, water wastage and how recyclable packaging may or may not actually be, increasing numbers of customers are beginning to question what exactly their make-up is made of. Faced with lists of obscure chemicals and concerns about greenwashing environmental credentials, it is little wonder that clean beauty is on the rise in the region.
Here we look at four companies that put the key issues of recycling and chemical-free ingredients at the heart of everything they do.
Co-founded in 2021 by Mariam Khafagy, Upfill was set up as an alternative to the misleading claims of many standard cosmetics and body care products. With an ethos of “it’s cool to care”, Khafagy and her partner combined their backgrounds in chemical engineering, marketing and entrepreneurship, to research the ingredients of many leading brands of skin and body care. Realising typical products had only 10 per cent active ingredients, with the rest being water (up to 70 per cent), chemicals (up to 10 per cent) and non-recyclable plastics (up to 10 per cent) the pair decided to create a range that changed the ratio.
After three years of product development, the result is a series of solid bar body and haircare products that are water conscious, vegan and have natural ingredients at their core. Packaged in refillable, recyclable tins, the range of solid body, shampoo and face bars are also completely silicone, paraben and sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) free. Silicone is used in beauty products for its smoothing effect, and is often found in standard shampoos and conditioners. Parabens are preservatives and help extend the shelf life of products, while SLS is a commonly used foaming agent.
Since launching, Upfill has announced partnerships with Azraq, a UAE marine conservation non-profit organisation and recycling app Recapp.
More information at upfill.ae
Skin Story Clean Beauty
Skin Story was founded in the UAE by sisters Nidhi and Rashi Sethi in response to their own skin struggles. With Rashi allergic to many of the chemicals used in cosmetics and Nidhi unable to find products suitable for her skin tone, together the pair embarked on a journey to create the products they craved.
The result is three versatile multi-sticks in three different tones – Legacy, Bare and Bold – that serve different purposes. Bare is made from castor oil and moringa oil to moisturise the skin, while Bold mixes long-lasting pigment with avocado oil, camellia japonica seed oil and marula oil for a buildable contour stick. Legacy uses the same oils for a rosy blush with a powdery finish. All three products are free from talc, mineral oils, sulphates, parabens and silicone.
More information at skinstory.me
La Bouche Rouge
Meaning red lips in French, La Bouche Rouge is a Paris brand that is available in the UAE. Founded by Nicolas Verdier, with decades' worth of knowledge from working for L’Oreal, Lancome and Armani Beauty, he set out to create products that balance high performance with environmental responsibility.
Using only natural formulas and zero plastic, the range is extensive, covering lipsticks, lip liners, lip balm and scrubs, complexion sets, mascara, liners, eye shadows, eyebrow pencils, eyebrow serums and brushes. With a company-wide commitment to use only responsibly cultivated, natural ingredients, that must be traceable and locally sourced to reduce omissions.
Sold in packaging designed to be refillable, yet come with luxe touches such as a camel leather lipstick case, the products are free from silicone, beeswax and petrochemicals.
More information at laboucherougeparis.com
Set up in 2020 by Anisha Oberoi this online platform has grown from her personal journey. A 2010 diagnosis of breast cancer caused Oberoi to undergo intensive chemical treatments that left her health deeply compromised, yet a search for toxin-free skin products revealed they were thin on the ground.
“It was in this desperation that I was inspired to do something entrepreneurial around beauty and wellness so that I could make a difference to the lives of women like myself,” Oberoi explains.
Now, with a commitment to “people, planet and purpose”, her site is a gathering place for global skincare brands that avoid harmful chemicals, while helping to educate and support women searching for alternatives to the standard fare. With brands such as Rahua, Grown Alchemist, Amly and the UAE's KJ Serums, Secret Skin aims to promote women's health, by spreading awareness about the damaging chemicals found in many brands.
Offering a holistic approach, Oberoi has even partnered with recycling app ZeLoop to help customers reduce their plastic use and carbon footprint, and is building a community of Clean Crusaders via an eco-rewards programme.
More information at thesecretskin.com