27 October 2016Last updated

Beauty | Grooming

Nature goes hi-tech

With beauty brands across the globe creating products that marry advanced formulas with natural ingredients, is there any need to make a choice between science and nature anymore? Louise Emma Clarke discovers the brands that are offering us both in the UAE

Louise Emma Clarke
18 Jul 2016 | 02:34 pm
  • Source:Shutterstock

As beauty consumers, we have evolved. We don’t want just products that work anymore – we want products that are formulated with natural ingredients, which are made ethically and will be gentle to our skin and hair.

In fact, according to consultancy company Kline (, the desire for ever-more-natural beauty products has led to double-digit growth every year for the past six years in the natural beauty market. Natural cosmetics and skincare is estimated to be worth $33 billion (about Dh121.2 billion), accounting for 13 per cent of the overall global beauty market – and the company predicts it will hit $50 billion by 2019.

So why are we suddenly natural aficionados?

‘This has been a large part thanks to the internet where consumers are now able to research ingredients and ask brands what and even why certain ingredients are used and their effect on the skin,’ muses Aly Rahimtoola, founder and CEO of UAE-based brand Herbal Essentials (

‘I think for many decades before the advent of the internet and social media, beauty brands were able to grow rapidly and create hugely profitable businesses with strong margins as they were able to use cheaper synthetically derived ingredients in their products that consumers used blindly,’ Aly says.

‘But research has shown in the last decade that preservatives such as parabens and other synthetic ingredients might have a negative effect on the skin, as a lot of what is put on the skin ends up being absorbed in the body. Clearly, trying to use more natural ingredients and products with better-sourced components such as high-quality water is better for you – and over a prolonged period of use, it certainly can’t hurt you, which can’t be said for products choked full of synthetics.’

Natural beauty brands are nothing new, of course. Many of the best-known natural brands, such as Burt’s Bees, The Body Shop and Aveda, were founded more than 25 years ago – but it is this increase in customer awareness of the chemicals used in everyday cosmetics that is responsible for the growth of the market.

‘Two decades ago there was very little information,’ says Shashi Batra, chief executive of natural beauty retailer Credo Beauty ( ‘Now, there are plenty of websites that provide “dictionaries” of ingredients or offer a comprehensive database of chemical-free beauty products and apps we can consult.’

‘People are just more and more aware of what is in the product and I think it’s the result of digital and social media,’ adds Stéphane De La Faverie, senior vice-president and general manager of Origins, Ojon and Darphin.

But intriguingly, Aly of Herbal Essentials adds: ‘The fact that there has been a massive rise in the natural products category globally confirms the fact that consumers are adopting these habits – but what’s interesting to note is that it is not the global giants that are creating the innovation in the natural products category, but the smaller niche players.’

But it isn’t just natural ingredients that we desire. We also want products that work, which is why natural brands are striving for ever-more-innovative, scientific formulations.

Dubai-based dermatological brand Shiffa is one such example, very successfully blending science with organic ingredients for products that really do work, since its launch in 2004. Founder Dr Lamees Hamdan says: ‘I wanted Shiffa to be the La Prairie of organic skincare, rather than catering to the natural beauty niche.’

On the flip side, mass beauty brands (previously known for being purely scientific in their approach) are having to respond to market trends and pitch their products in a more natural light. According to Karen Grant, a global beauty industry analyst at NPD Group (, these brands are increasingly toning down the techno-speak in their marketing and replacing it with a more natural vocabulary, with words such as ‘healing’ and ‘soothing’ appearing in their descriptions – and that’s not to mention the ever-more natural ingredients in their products and use of nature in their imagery to give brands a gentler, more ethical, more natural appeal.

Things are definitely changing – and with so much choice out there when it comes to natural beauty brands with ever-more effective ingredients, do we really need to make a choice anymore between products that are natural and those that are scientific?

The answer is probably no – and we’ve rounded up the brands that offer both science and nature in their product ranges, from niche natural brands making waves in the beauty industry, to bigger brands that have cornered the natural market effectively. And everything is available to buy in the UAE…


The story: Shiffa means ‘healing’ or ‘to heal’ in Arabic – and founder Dr Lamees Hamdan has been creating unique, holistic and natural skincare products based on the principles 
of dermatology since 2004. By combining a passion for holistic healing and her vision for integrating nature with science, Dr Hamdan created a powerful range of products made from natural, holistic remedies, with unique ingredients that are carefully sourced and combined into effective treatments.

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Shiffa Healing Balm Dh330.

With its secret blend of 15 healing plants, this balm acts as a solid serum, which transforms into a liquid gold oil that is absorbed, leaving your skin hydrated and glowing. It also promises to heal spots, repair damaged skin and eczema, and heal burns and wounds – and the science is in the blend of plant oils, which includes St John’s wort, chamomile, and arnica oil. The perfect multitasker to add to your dressing table.

Where to buy: Sephora nationwide.

Herbal Essentials

The story: Using the principles of Ayurveda, the Herbal Essentials range promises to balance skin and well-being with innovative blends of high-quality natural ingredients. The key ingredient is pure Himalayan water, which is collected straight from the source and blended into products. The range is also cruelty-free.

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Grape Seed and Shea Butter AHA Cream Night Formula Dh380.

Nature offers its own powerful exfoliants, which is how this advanced anti-ageing night cream helps to reveal youthful skin with regular use. Certified paraben- and paraffin-free, the cream combines shea butter with a careful blend of fruit acids to gently renew skin as you sleep. It promises to be as effective as a chemical peel, but with only natural ingredients.

Where to buy:

Dr Organic

The story: Using only the best-quality natural, organic, and raw ingredients, Dr Organic makes use of certified bioactive extracts to ensure that 
every product works. Preservatives are used to guarantee product 
safety and shelf life, but these are 
both naturally derived and of the highest grade possible. The brand promises no animal testing, no 
mineral oils, no genetically modified ingredients, and no harsh chemicals 
in the formulas.

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Dr Organic Dead Sea Mineral Bio-Plasma Mud Mask Dh81.

There’s a lot of science behind this organic, pore-cleansing mud mask, which boasts a bioactive, replenishing formula – but what is inside is completely natural. The blend of Dead Sea mineral salt, Bioplasma-FA, bitter orange leaf oil, wild mint oil (to name just a few of the ingredients) penetrate deep into the pores of the epidermis, effectively removing excess oil and impurities, while stimulating new 
cell generation.

Where to buy: Holland & Barrett nationwide.


The story: If you want a beauty brand that is truly ethical and natural whenever possible, Lush is the company for you. The UK brand was home-grown in a kitchen above its first store in Dorset using ingredients purchased in farmer’s markets and flower shops – and it still uses only sustainable ingredients, minimises waste, and creates products with fresh, organic fruit and vegetables, the finest essential oils, and the safest synthetics to ensure that they really work on skin and hair.

Recommended Product


Lush Million Dollar Moisturiser Dh360.

It might be almost entirely natural in its formulation, but you’ll be making no sacrifices while using this highly developed SPF30 moisturising cream. The company calls this its ‘top-dollar, bionic facial moisturiser’, with protective sunscreens and a blend of evening primrose oil, shea butter, jojoba, honey, and lavender oil to balance the complexion, protect from the sun, and leave it with a healthy, uniform glow.

Where to buy:

The Organic Pharmacy

The story: Founded by pharmacist Margo Marrone, The Organic Pharmacy was inspired by homeopathy. Shocked that she had been unaware of the level of poisonous pesticides used in food and the questionable ingredients used in cosmetics, Margo decided to use her herbal, homeopathic and pharmaceutical knowledge to create a shopping haven free from chemicals. Opening the first store in 2002 in London, the brand is still based on homeopathic and herbal medicine – but what makes it stand out is the science that is put into the formulations, resulting in serious results for healthy, glowing skin.

Recommended Product


The Organic Pharmacy Anti-Ageing Face Firming Serum Dh560.

Developed with cutting-edge research, it is the blend of rose hip, grapeseed, alpha-lipoic acid, carrot and grapefruit that make this serum 50 times stronger than rose hip 
alone. In fact, regular customers 
call it the brand’s ‘instant face lift oil’ thanks to the impressive results. Expect lifted, toned, repaired skin 
with continued use.

Where to buy:

Louise Emma Clarke

Louise Emma Clarke