Whether sparked by a brain-wave from an expat inspired by the region’s natural abundance, grown from an international online following, or launched by an Emirati with a passion for skincare, these beauty brands all have one thing in common. United by each founders’ appreciation for the United Arab Emirates, these home-grown heroes are making their mark on the beauty world, and in the process, establishing the UAE as the Middle East’s hub for all things gorgeous.
THE GLOBAL STAR FROM THE UAE
Huda Kattan, founder of Huda Beauty
It’s impossible to have a round-up of the best beauty brands worldwide, let alone within the Emirates, without leading with the cosmetics sensation by make-up artist-turned-blogger-turned mogul Huda Kattan. Based in Dubai, her ranges of lashes, eyeshadows, lip colours, illuminators, and most recently, foundations, are on the wish-lists of women globally.
‘I moved to the UAE permanently in 2008,’ she tells Friday.
‘It was a time of self-discovery and what the UAE represented for me at the time was limitless opportunities. I take a lot of inspiration from Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. He is such a visionary and an unstoppable force. I really admire that he has created an incredible environment that empowers everyone to live limitlessly. Would Huda Beauty be what it is today without the UAE? I don’t know. Maybe, but it would have taken a while to determine that we could think limitlessly and as forward-thinking as we do.
The UAE already is the Middle East’s beauty hub, she adds. ‘The UAE won’t necessarily be the owner of “beauty”, but I think Dubai will be the owner of “modern beauty”. You can get the very best products here, some of the best Hollywood doctors and dentists practice here, and because the city is very young, it leads the way with beauty trends.’
Huda’s remit goes beyond social media posts and creating new products, she says. While she’s expanding her make-up range, and where it’s stocked, ‘ultimately, we are on a mission to change perceptions of beauty and make a difference to the face of the industry,’ she says.
‘The team has been working so hard on lots of amazing products that will be launching next year so we’re really focused on perfecting the formulas and creating products that will change the beauty world.’
#FauxFilter Foundation, Dh185
This full-coverage foundation gives the wearer velvety-smooth skin for an airbrushed look that seriously lasts all day. There are 30 shades available so every complexion can find its match.
THE MADE-IN-DUBAI BRAND
Shawna Morneau, founder of Hammamii
Already finding its foothold headlining on the menu of Fairmont Fujairah’s Willow Stream Spa, newly launched Emirates-inspired spa brand Hammamii is aiming to introduce the natural benefits of UAE-sourced ingredients to the world.
‘I’ve been passionate about the beauty industry for a long time – I started as a therapist, then trainer, spa director and then a cosmetic scientist, and Hammamii is a culmination of those years of knowledge,’ Shawna says. She started Hammamii because she noticed a gap in the market for something with a local touch.
‘It bothered me as a consumer that I would go to different spas and have different treatments, and not be able to have something that was actually made fresh locally.
‘Hammamii aims to use as many local ingredients as possible. It’s 100 per cent halal, natural, fragrance-free, and we manufacture in Dubai. The entire concept is as immersed in the region as possible. While at the heart of Hammamii is celebrating the hammam – we have eight hammam rituals on our spa menu – we wanted to create something that can be sold and used anywhere in the world, but still pay tribute to the beautiful traditions of the UAE, with our take-home products.’
Shawna’s top local ingredient is camel’s milk. ‘It has lots of lactic acids and a higher count of trace minerals and protein. When you talk about Cleopatra having milk baths, that wasn’t cow’s milk.’
The brand also uses dried lemons from Fujairah, and salts from the Arabian Gulf. ‘We let [the salts] sit outside for thirty days to absorb vitamin D, and they are then cleaned and refined for us in Abu Dhabi. We have sumac, coffee from Coffee Planet in Al Quoz, and of course, za’atar, which is an amazing anti-inflammatory.
‘We’re working on a soap right now inspired by the Emirati marriage ritual, based on nea, a rock that produces a beautiful indigo dye when crushed. We wanted the packaging to have that Arabian connection, so will worked with the henna artist Amrin Wahid to do these original patterns that are both chic and traditional.’
The company is located in Dubai Design District (D3), which Shawna says was the perfect space for her lab. ‘It’s young, vibrant, and creative with a bit of a buzz about it. It’s also is a free zone with an all-in-one permit that allows us to create, produce and distribute, so we have a product that’s truly made in the UAE.
There’s an association with things that are made in Japan, in France, in Switzerland, and when people hear “made in Dubai”, it’s equated with luxury. There’s so much potential in the UAE to produce excellent beauty brands – there’s all the resources, whether that’s ingredients, regulations, and a region that’s really interested in home-grown beauty, that the opportunities to create here are endless.’
Kohl Cleansing Facial Balm, Dh165
Massage this rich charcoal-infused balm into damp skin to remove even stubborn make-up and urban pollutants without disrupting the skin’s mantle.
Zainab Imichi AlHassan, founder Reine Michi Beauty
From a homemade passion, to a fully-realised product, Reine Michi Beauty is a young beauty brand that advocates for simplicity in skincare.
“Reine Michi Beauty started as a personal project for me, when I went through a stage where I wanted to create everything I put on my body from scratch using simple and natural ingredients. My friends started asking me to make these products for them also and that was when I realized that there was a market for natural skincare products in the UAE. What makes Reine Michi Beauty different is our honesty and simplicity. Our Moisturising Sugar Scrub, which is our bestselling product, contains only three ingredients, sugar, coconut oil and lavender essential oil
“Living in the UAE, it was only natural that I would want to launch it here, [especially as] the UAE is a favorable climate for a small locally-owned business. The business was launched with the help of an Emirati partner and it is fascinating to see how locally owned businesses are championed. Everyone is rooting for you to succeed. We are proud that we are a homegrown business, it means we have a home-field advantage. Our target customers are based in the UAE and they can relate to the brand. There are already a number of exciting homegrown beauty brands that are creating buzz both home and abroad. It’s just a matter of time before the UAE becomes a global beauty hub. A lot of neighboring countries view the UAE as a trendsetter. So once something starts to get some attention in the UAE, it spreads internationally.”
Moisturising Sugar Scrub, Dh50
The skincare brand’s signature product, this sweet scrub will slough off dead skin, leaving you with an all-over glow.
Aly Rahimtoola, founder of Herbal Essentials
One of the stalwarts of the UAE beauty market, the founder of Herbal Essentials has been a champion of natural skincare since the brand’s launch almost a decade ago, harnessing ancient beauty wisdom for a modern clientele.
“Our ‘clean’ skincare formulations derive their efficacy from science, yet are inspired by ancient beauty knowledge garnered from our ancestors. Demand is now growing in the Middle East as this consciousness filters through into the UAE market and consumers become more aware of the benefits of using natural ingredients that are much less harmful to the body. Since launching we are very proud to have become one of the leading home-grown skincare brands in the UAE, being both nominated and winning a range of awards alongside global brands. Being a UAE-born brand is important to me, I want to bring the made in the UAE label to life and be genuine to it. Being home-grown allows us to build strong community ties, people now want both global and local brands - brands that make them feel part of a larger international community, but also brands that respect the values of their home culture.
“The UAE piques a lot of people’s interest globally, so we find that our international consumers are really intrigued by the connection. They love to hear more about the brand and learn about our story. I think there are many fantastic home-grown brands here and that it’s important to nurture and support them. With the industry booming here I think it does have the potential to become a beauty hub, and I’d love to see more beauty brands being produced in the region.”
Cucumber & Rose Water Skin Toner, Dh99
This soothing toner gently removes the last traces of debris post-cleansing and doubles as a refreshing spritz to replenish the skin during the day.
THE CAMEL QUEEN
Stephanie Lowmass, founder of The Camel Soap Factory
Making the most of the UAE’s favourite four-legged friend, The Camel Soap Factory is just that, crafting hydrating soaps infused with lactic acid-rich camel milk. With blends including olive oil or shea butter, and Arabic fragrances of oud and aromatic woods, they’ve proven to be a must-buy by residents and visitors alike.
“I’d always loved natural products and been fascinated with natural soaps and wanted to try create a product that had a lot of local ingredient. We are the only industrial factory in the UAE, and possibly the entire region, which manufactures handcrafted soaps made with camel milk. We have grown to become the largest manufacturer of handcrafted soaps manufactured with fresh camel milk in the world. Our major ingredient for all our product range, camel milk, is sourced locally. We also try to source as much as we can locally from packaging, to raw materials. The success of our range has largely been due to the fact that the product is manufactured locally. Visitors to the country love to buy a product that is actually made in the UAE and for our export markets, the ‘handcrafted in the UAE’ tag is critical to the products success in other markets.
“Establishing a UAE-born brand has had many challenges but I am inordinately proud of what we have achieved since 2013 when we were established. As a resident in the UAE, I also feel very proud of being able to give something back to a country, which has given so much to me. It does have the potential to become a hub for beauty products, [but first], we’d love to see a government body setup to deal with the issues related to startups in the beauty space.”
Natural Camel Milk Castile Soap, Dh30
Camel milk is combined with olive oil for a simple yet effective soap that hydrates as it cleanses.
OUR FAVOURITE UAE PRODUCTS
These brands are also waving the flag for the UAE
A nail polish range originally conceived for use in the popular Emirati-owned Tips & Toes salons, TITO now has a huge catalogue of lacquer and gel colours, with new collections added every season.
Nail Polish in Gold Flakes, Dh30
The house product at Tips and Toes salons, this sparkling glitter polish is part of TITO’s festive-inspired Gems collection, and sure to get you into the festive mood.
Shirley Conlon Organics
Created to help soothe complexion in the UAE’s humid-meets-desert climate, this independent brand caters for both face and body with its botanicals-based skincare range.
Hydrating Serum, Dh160
Loaded with plant-derived oils, this skin-loving serum returns moisture to the skin without overloading it.
This luxe beauty brand takes a mind, body and soul approach to skincare. Inspired by ancient Arabia, its signature oils line the bathroom vanities of every It Girl in the Gulf.
Luxury Gold Body Oil, Dh250
Infused with pieces of real gold, this literally rich argan-based body oil scents skin with a blend of jasmine, lemon and orange.
Glossy Makeup by Natasha Zaki
Known for creating full and fluttering lashes, make-up artist Zaki’s brand is carried in London’s Harrod’s as well as Wojooh stores across the Middle East, with her blender and brushes also selling like hotcakes.
Lashes in Abu Dhabi, Dh150
Paying tribute to the capital, Zaki’s false lashes are full, thick and fluffy, made to be worn over and over.