Natural growth: market for organic cosmetics on rise


Natural growth: market for organic cosmetics on rise

Preference for ethically sourced cosmetics is taking root across the region. Shirley Conlon, founder of Shirley Conlon Organics, examines the industry's huge growth potential as consumers become increasingly health conscious

When it comes to buying goods, more and more consumers are showing an interest in process rather than product. The beauty industry is no exception.

What we put into our bodies is important, but what we put on them is receiving equal care and attention. I call it ‘feeding your skin’.

While diet trends such as veganism have spawned a generation that consumes chemical-free foods, curiosity and knowledge has empowered buyers and now interest has turned to ‘clean’ cosmetics.

The growing popularity of beauty and lifestyle influencers has contributed to a steady growth in the MENA’s beauty sector. Euromonitor International estimated the retail value of the region's beauty and personal care market at $35.9 billion in 2018. But a preference for green and sustainable beauty products has taken root in the region over the past few years.

Manufacturers of ethically sourced and sustainably produced organic beauty products are reaping the benefits of today’s consumer-conscious attitudes.


Better awareness is driving demand

Last year, TechSci Research reported the regional market for natural and organic cosmetics is set to grow by 12-15 per cent annually, until 2023. That will put the retail value at between $4 billion to $5 billion by 2022.

Several factors are driving this demand. First and foremost, ethical purchasing has become cool and hip. While that may sound shallow, it has actually greatly contributed to the success story behind the rise of organic beauty products.

Social media, of course, has been a driving force in carving out that ‘trendy’ label. Where industry experts used to influence spending habits, today’s consumer-conscious generation – namely millennials and Gen Z – turn to each other for advice. Social media personalities have huge influence when it comes to what’s hot and what’s not, and product reviews, video how to’s and tips and tricks on how to get the best from your product are now just a click away.

Big name celebrities are embracing lifestyle trends that focus on natural alternatives, too. As they move away from products that use animal-based or synthetic ingredients, consumers are taking note and following suit. But it’s not a monkey see, monkey do approach. People have become actively more invested in process rather than product because awareness towards health has changed.

Why mindful body care is important

Compared to just a few decades ago, the number of cases of lifestyle diseases and conditions has increased. The UAE population has not been immune to this.

A study presented by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) in 2017 found an estimated 90 per cent of the UAE population to be vitamin D deficient. And UAE health authorities estimate childhood obesity figures in the country to be about 40 per cent. The climate in the Middle East has a direct impact on skin health too, with water quality, pollution levels, wind and humidity all at risk of affecting skin conditions.

People are now becoming more proactive when it comes to health. While exercising and eating well is part of this shift, consumers are mindful when it comes to what they’re applying to their bodies. Products containing chemicals, parabens and silicones are quickly losing their appeal and many are turning to organic produce to get the most out of Mother Nature’s healing abilities.

Increased variety has also contributed to the market rise of organic beauty products worldwide. Choice is now in abundance for consumers. Those days of choosing between one thick, pungent cream over another are gone. Retail giants now dedicate sections of floor space to ‘clean’ cosmetics, meaning no more rummaging through your local health food store to find that botanical, chemical-free face mask or moisturiser. We are making the most of what grows around us and organic products are no longer basic like they once were. Technology and innovation has a big part to play in that.

Technology and innovation creates wider variety

The manufacturing process has moved on leaps and bounds over the past few years and organic beauty products have evolved rapidly as a result.

Years ago, if you had, say, coconut oil and bee’s wax, you’d simply mix them together to make a paste. Now, we can introduce more sophisticated ingredients like natural vitamin A and C, mix it with hyaluronic acid and synthesise it in the laboratory. It’s a much more holistic way of doing things. We can utilise technology to balance the pH in products too. This innovation in the laboratory has been a game-changer.

Businesses like mine that are driven by a passion for clean products and sustainable manufacturing have really taken the time to expand the offerings in terms of ingredient combinations for those, who like us, are conscious about keeping good care of both body and environment.

More than just caring about the ingredients though, careful thought goes into the whole process from start to finish. For instance, we use dark amber glass bottles to hold creams and oils. We don’t use additional packaging. The recycled glass is a sustainable alternative to plastic and the tint is beneficial in preserving the ingredients from sun exposure.

What triggers the demand for organic?

Personally, nothing makes me happier than seeing more consumers open up to the idea of going organic. The natural nutrients work better than normal products and the quality cannot be matched. Organic is about using edible and food grade ingredients, not harsh chemicals that are cleverly marketed for profit.

My journey into organic started at an early age. Born into an Irish farming family, my mother used to buy three products: fabric, flour and sugar. Everything else was homegrown and homemade – from clothes to milk, and bread. It was a very simple life but I spent many childhood hours making potions with plants from my mum’s garden. That natural healing influence encouraged me to study cosmetology in London. I then went on to work for a large cosmetic house in Italy.

After moving full-time to Dubai in 2007, my normally healthy skin began to suffer due to what I believe was a combination of environmental factors, chemically loaded skincare and sun-sensitive ingredients. That’s when I started looking into creating all-natural products. I started small, making lotions and potions for friends, and it grew from there.

Vested and personal interest in region

Regionally, the market for natural and organic cosmetics has changed so much in the last decade. Attitudes have changed for the better too. Where people once used to question everything about organic, they are now keen to learn more about it. Once they understand the basics behind it – no pesticides, no herbicides, the free trade and healthy farming elements – they embrace it. Skepticism has been replaced with optimism. It’s great to see.

Growing retail trends in the MENA region – the UAE in particular – have taught us that people are happy to invest in organic cosmetic products. And in my experience, the most common disorders they are looking to treat with natural alternatives are pigmentation, hair loss and acne. It’s about finding the right product that works for this environment.

The UAE is an affluential city with high spending power. Compared to say, Europe, where the economy is struggling, people here still go out and shop. Social media influence and better health awareness has taught them to shop with a difference.

In Dubai, the leadership has played a part in promoting the industry. The launch of Ripe Market in 2011 helped support local farms and helped sellers push forward organic produce. And the introduction of a dedicated Natural and Organic section at Beautyworld Middle East 2018 is testament to its rising popularity here.

It’s exciting to see how the industry is growing. Dubai is a great launch pad for such products thanks to its strategic location and booming global trade relations. And while the industry is still young in terms of homegrown brands, demand definitely exists and I can’t wait to be a part of the success story.


  • Beauty
  • Green Economy
  • Innovation