From launching game-changing apps to building empires, these Arab women are leading the way in the beauty industry today.
Sarah, Nora, and Dana Al-Ramadhan
Kuwaiti sisters Sarah, Nora, and Dana Al- Ramadhan are responsible for bringing industry favorites, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Lancer, and Malin + Goetz, to the region. “We wanted to bridge the gap between the demand for niche, specialty beauty brands, and the desire those brands had to expand here,” explains Nora of distribution company Apotheca Beauty, launched in 2013.
From makeup to skin, hair, and body care, the company’s focus is to track down products that fulfill the needs of its Middle Eastern consumers and ensure the story and aesthetic of the brand is properly rolled out in the region. After building up their portfolio, the next step was to open a boutique. “We wanted to create a showroom for the brands that we loved and believed in. Within a few years, that evolved to offering services such as facials, skin treatments, and makeup application,” says Sarah of the Kuwait-based venue located in the Salhiya Complex. Contemporary and sleek, the unique space incited demand for more in cities across the Middle East.
Apotheca Beauty’s second store is due to open in Dubai in the newly built Nakheel Mall this month. “It’s a place where our customers can feel comfortable to sit, explore, and discover the latest developments in beauty,” Nora says. They will also be bringing over their treatments, and guests can expect services such as oxygen therapies, vitamin C facials, LED phototherapy, scalp regenerative treatments, and a face scanner that reveals damage and signs of aging both on and beneath the surface of the skin.
Apotheca’s e-commerce platform is also developing. “As consumers continue to change the way they shop, it is important to evolve with them,” explains Nora. “Our e-commerce site allows us to communicate with our customers and educate them on our products, who we are, and what we are trying to do. The website also allows us to reach a wider network of people who may not be able to visit our store.” Apotheca Beauty now ships within Kuwait as well as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with the rest of the world not far from sight.
The skincare industry can be formidable, even for the most knowledgeable beauty aficionados, with new brands and products launching daily. “I always felt overwhelmed by the amount of skincare and haircare products available. I never knew what I needed,” says Helen Bannayan, founder of Emulsion Cosmetics. She moved from her native Jordan to the UK to study, acquiring degrees in environmental and civil engineering. Traveling fueled her love for the world of beauty and saw her adopt a more holistic approach to her own routine.
“Being an engineer by education and inventor by nature, I imagine, see, and feel things in different ways,” Bannayan explains. Combining her scientific education with her passion for beauty, she launched Emulsion in August 2018. Understanding that women’s skin requirements change often, she created versatile and customizable products. “As an industrious person, I am drawn to making things myself – I love digging deep into the function of each element,” she adds.
While the menu of products may appear small, it provides for endless combinations. Each formula begins with a base, with step two adding an essential blend and step three, a fragrance. “Creating a personal blend means that my products will suit your needs every single day,” she notes. A star formula is the face cream, which can be adapted for day or night. Sustainability is also at the forefront of the brand, with all of the packaging produced with recycled materials. Additionally, all products are cruelty-free and created from natural and renewable resources.
Convenience was also key to Bannayan’s business model. “People love to thoroughly research what they buy and compare themselves with others. I also read reviews before making any purchase,” she says. While there is no bricks-and-mortar store yet in the Middle East, Emulsion is currently available on Ounass.com and Namshi.com.
Shaima Amiri and Maryam Abdulaziz
Jeem Beauty App
The increasingly busy schedules of women in the Middle East and their desire to maintain their beauty routines inspired Emiratis Shaima Amiri and her silent business partner Maryam Abdulaziz to develop Jeem beauty app in 2018. “The idea came to us when we were trying to make a beauty appointment for an event, but all the salons and service providers were busy,” Amira says. “With Jeem, we provide customers with a clear overview of what salons they can choose from, their availability, and their prices.”
The name is a nod to Amiri and Abdulaziz’s heritage, of which they are both proud. “Jeem is the Arabic letter that the word jamal starts with. Jamal means beauty in Arabic,” they explain.
Jeem champions businesses and individuals who may not have their own platforms to reach the market. “Women in the UAE seem to focus on the places they know and get frustrated when they can’t find appointments or when they don’t know how to find out about new service providers. With Jeem, they have access to various service providers looking for their big break.” With its official launch date set for this month, Amiri states their aim: “We want to make this app the best and the most unique in the beauty business.”
Originally published in the September 2019 issue of Vogue Arabia