Traditionally less important in the overall beauty routine of Middle Eastern women, the skincare category accounts for around just 7% (although some sources put it around 15%) of total beauty sales in the region, according to industry estimates. However, rising income levels and increased consumer awareness are likely to boost growth in the category in key markets.

According to market-research company Euromonitor International, consumers are becoming more interested in premium skincare and value-added products and items designed to treat specific problems or needs. In Saudi Arabia, for example, more women are investing in high-end quality products in a bid to obtain near-perfect skin, a trend that has intensified as the number of women in employment has grown. Meanwhile, widespread advertising of skincare brands has pushed greater consumption of skincare in Iran, while in Egypt more consumers from a younger age are showing an interest in using lotions, facial cleansers and anti-aging products.

“Middle East customers are very educated and open-minded, and they love to try new things and new brands,” – Rajaa Rajab

Similar trends have also been observed in Qatar, where increased urbanisation and greater numbers in the workforce have given women their own disposable income and a desire to spend it on beauty, according to Mordor Intelligence. Demand for specialized skincare products are one the rise, as is demand for halal and/or natural or organic products.

“The skincare market is growing rapidly in the Middle East recently,” confirms Dubai-based natural skincare brand Shiffa head of sales and marketing Rajaa Rajab. “Customers are becoming more educated and well informed about the importance of using skincare products,” she adds

Mass dominates

However, the category remains entrenched in the mass market across the region. German multinational Beiersdorf with its Nivea brand dominates the category. The company commands an 18% share of sales in both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to Euromonitor. In Egypt, local player Eva Cosmetics has long been the market leader in general purpose cream and has a wide variety of affordably priced products, while Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever’s Dove and Lux brands are also popular.

Shiffa’s Rajab says competition in the skincare category is fierce, with new brands arriving on the market every day. “Middle East customers are very educated and open-minded, and they love to try new things and new brands,” Rajab comments, adding that local skincare brands do not yet command a large share of the market in the region. “To stay within the top-selling brands needs a lot of hard work and development,” she explains.

However, some industry players say there is still not enough investment in skincare from brands and retailers in the region, which is putting a brake on the development of the category. And increased investment in skincare is unlikely to happen soon.

The fast growth of the make-up market in the region is likely to see the industry continue to focus on this area rather than look to build a strong prestige skincare offer. Make-up continues to be the main growth driver in the Middle East’s beauty market and has seen its share grow to around 35%. While skincare may be seeing more consumer interest and have long-term potential, it is color cosmetics that will likely attract the industry’s attention for the foreseeable future.

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