Despite a slowing beauty market in the Middle East over the last year, the make-up segment in the region is seeing good growth, as is the case in many other countries around the globe.

Several factors are contributing to this growth. Not least are cultural changes, which have seen a relaxation of religious laws in some countries and made it more acceptable for women to wear make-up. In addition, more women are entering the workforce and have greater access to western fashion and beauty trends through social media, which is driving sales.

In the region’s biggest market, Saudi Arabia, for example, laws excluding women from working as beauty advisors have been relaxed, encouraging more women to venture into stores. Sales of color cosmetics in this market are expected to soar in the coming years, according to Euromonitor International. In Iran, cultural trends which endorse women wearing make-up on a daily basis, are expected to drive growth in the category.

“With women [in Saudi Arabia] now entering the workforce, they will have more disposable income, and spending on make-up will be one of their first priorities. Since women are going outside the house every day, wearing color cosmetics on a daily basis is expected to become increasingly socially acceptable,” predicts Euromonitor.

Social Media & The Color Surge

In all markets, the concentration of youth – more than half the Middle East’s population is under 25 – and their high rate of mobile phone usage, has served to increase the popularity of beauty influencers in social media, which has in turn fuelled appetites for make-up.

In markets like the UAE, where wearing heavy make-up is common, consumers are increasingly exposed to international fashion and beauty trends, and beauty bloggers and celebrity social-media influencers like the Kardashians have become extremely popular.  “The influence of beauty bloggers [in the UAE] is very strong,” notes Euromonitor. The pull of the internet is also particularly strong in more conservative countries like Saudi Arabia, where women are more likely to spend more time online, including for purchases.

Recent make-up trends like contouring are well-suited to preferred styles in the region, which see women more keen than their western counterparts to wear heavy, layered make-up. Euromonitor reports that in Morocco, for example, contouring has driven strong growth in facial make-up products like foundation and powders.

Also key to rising sales of make-up in the Middle East has been the modernisation of distribution networks, with the growth of perfumery chains like Sephora, which brings many niche or trendy make-up brands to the market, and Chalhoub-owned Wojooh.

In Turkey, where make-up registered 15% value growth in 2015, Euromonitor reports that the increase in retail outlets has been a key factor in the strong performance of the category. Improved distribution is also expected to drive growth in Iran as international players move into the country.

Middle East luxury retail group Chalhoub, which owns the Wojooh chain and operates Sephora through a joint venture, has expanded the two chains considerably over the past few years. There are now some some 70 Wojooh stores in nine markets in the region and 45 Sephora outlets in five markets. The company says it is investing heavily to revamp its Wojooh store concept and to develop digital platforms. In addition to launching Wojooh in markets like Iran and Morocco, the group also plans to open new free-standing stores for brands like Make Up For Ever in markets like Saudi Arabia.

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