The beauty and skincare industry has long flourished in the Middle East and is today filled with a wealth of vibrant regional talent – the most famous of which is, of course, Huda Beauty, founded by sisters Huda and Mona Kattan, who together have built a billion-dollar empire that is popular the world over.
But what of the other talents in the region? In the Middle East, we are lucky to be surrounded by home-grown beauty and skincare companies that lean on centuries of traditional know-how, or focus on bringing chemical or cruelty-free products to market.
So if you want to be au fait with the offerings of Hoiisa, the vegan products of By Noussou and the solid science behind Shiffa, here's The National's round up of 10 Arab beauty companies that should be on your radar for 2021.
This UAE company specialises in high-end and cruelty-free make-up brushes. Created using high-performance vegan fibres, each brush has been engineered for specific roles and formulas, and is backed with a two-year warranty. In addition to being cruelty-free, for every purchase, Odist donates Dh10 to Gold Standard, an organisation that runs more than 1,800 projects in 80 countries to help alleviate poverty and support struggling communities.
Launched in 2019 by managing partner Mouna Azirar, Hoiisa is centred on delivering clean, sustainable beauty in the UAE. With 18 years spent working in the luxury fashion world (including at Burberry), Azirar became focused on chemical-free, sustainable beauty products when pregnant with her first child. Since then, she has studied extensively and, when she moved to the UAE with her family, took the opportunity to help found Hoiisa.
Dedicated to sourcing clean products and brands from around the world, Hoiisa has a wide range on offer, including hand-poured soy candles by Maisey, natural deodorants from Salt & Stone, as well as products from Grown Alchemist and Salt by Hendrix.
Kathryn Jones is the woman behind the country's only made-to-order skincare company. Removing obscure chemicals from recipes, these hand-blended serums instead use as few ingredients as possible without compromising effective skincare. Bestsellers include: the Triology Day serum, packed with vitamins C and E, and ferulic acid, which help to reduce signs of ageing and UV damage; and HA-ppy Face serum, made with vegan hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump skin. The company also offers monthly subscription deals, with fresh products delivered directly to your door.
The Dubai Dolls
This is another brand offering cruelty-free products. Its high-end cosmetics have been developed in the UAE, and include the likes of the Forever Dubai lip shines, a matte-finish collection that comes with charming names such as Marina, The Palm and, of course, The Burj. The company has also made a pledge to support education for girls, with 2 per cent of profits from sales going towards providing nutritious meals to help keep disadvantaged girls at school.
This natural skincare brand, founded by Mouna Abbassy in Dubai, draws inspiration from traditional Moroccan remedies. The products are handmade in Morocco, providing work for Berber women, and use only natural ingredients such as argan oil and ghassoul clay. With her focus on being chemical-free and sustainable, Abbassy was named the regional winner for the Cartier Women's Initiative Award in 2015, and was listed in Forbes Middle East’s Women Behind Middle Eastern Brands last year.
This vegan and cruelty-free skincare range from Dubai was created by Iraqi-Canadian sisters Sarah and Nora Al-Musili. Unable to find solutions for adult acne, the pair set out to create their own. Working closely with industry experts, the result is a range of vegan, chemical-free and natural products that help you gain cleaner, healthier skin. The additive-free range includes the Daily Glow Collection and the Acne Fighting Collection for targeted help. It also stocks the latest must-have, the gua-sha skin scraper.
This ingenious company has tackled a major issue for make-up artists living in the Middle East – how to stop products melting in the intense heat. Created by professional make-up artists Katharina Brennan and Melanie Meyer to help preserve their own kits, the result is a series of bags and zip pouches that keep make-up cool, thanks to double-wall insulation and clever chiller packs.
Though it is aimed at professionals who travel extensively and often work outside in extreme temperatures, the collection is also popular with make-up lovers in the UAE. More recently, the company has begun offering environmentally conscious products, including sustainable and eco-friendly bamboo mascara wands.
This award-winning false eyelashes company was founded in Dubai by Maha Morley-Kirk and Elle Hardy. It offers an impressive array of product – from individual lashes to extreme volume styles – many completely vegan and made from either 3D silk, human hair or faux mink. Made to be reused (up to 10 times), the designs all come with Arabic names, such as the Abrar (made from human hair), the Ghady vegan lashes, Arwa faux mink lashes and Noura, made of silk.
Fay Afghahi, former managing editor at Elle Arab World, and her husband, have developed a series of hair vitamins and topical treatments to help combat hair loss. The combination of hard water and hot summer months in the UAE can contribute to hair loss. Working with a laboratory in France, the Afghahis created a formula rich in l-cysteine, a non-essential amino acid required to make the protein keratin, the building block of hair and nails. First launched for men, the range now includes different supplements and topical products that have been proven to reduce hair loss.
Already world-famous, this beauty and skincare line was developed by Emirati doctor Lamees Hamdan after searching for products during her pregnancy. Realising there was a gap, she set out to create her Pregnancy Body Oil, made with borage seed and packed with gamma-Linolenic acid.
Prized for its ability to help fight cell damage, GLA can also soothe and calm skin conditions such as dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema. Another bestseller is the Aromatic Facial Cleanser which contains plant hyssop, a natural antiseptic that's great for dry skin. Used by high-end spas across the world, this range is well-deserving of its reputation for excellence.