Proudly Dubai-based makeup brands are turning the Middle East into a launchpad for beauty entrepreneurs.
Mohammed Hindash, Hindash Cosmetics
Best known for sharing his makeup tutorials with millions of followers across YouTube and Instagram, Mohammed Hindash revealed his own beauty brand early this year. Hindash Cosmetics launched with the Beautopsy pressed pigment palette and an attention-demanding marketing campaign projected on the Burj Khalifa. Designed like an artist’s palette, Beautopsy makes professional-style makeup more accessible, says the Dubai-born and based Jordanian makeup artist. Each of the six pigments is separately pressed to deliver payoffs that span from a kiss of color to opaque coverage. “I wanted to offer something that has the technique for creating softened edges almost built in,” he says. Intended to be used across eyes, cheeks, and complexion, the slim and chic palette is a multitasking workhorse, with a spectrum of shades in each ombré pan. “Multipurpose pigments narrow down people’s makeup kits, but still have the ability to create so many looks without restriction,” Hindash explains. The 31-year- old entrepreneur says that it’s the Arab women he encounters daily who are his biggest inspiration. “Arab women know their stuff,” he enthuses. “I take inspiration from what I see on the street, how they use products. Beauty is deeply personal, and it’s fascinating to see what women choose to highlight or enhance when pulling their look together.”
Makeup wasn’t always Hindash’s medium of choice; he studied fine art and exhibited his work in Dubai. His creativity drove his vision for the new Beautopsy palette. “Art is always at the heart of what I do,” he says. “Makeup is like paint or pencil, in that it can be built up to transform a canvas as much or as little as you want.” Hindash.com
Nour Khalife, Shade M
After long careers at YSL, Giorgio Armani, and Chanel, the co-founders of Shade M, Dutch- Lebanese Nour Khalife and American-Palestinian Jolie Nubani, decided to convert their two decades of expertise into a brand that speaks directly to Arab women. Muse Matte Liquid Lipstick was the first launch for Shade M, which offers 15 long-lasting, non-drying, vivid shades. Beyond creating a high-performance, halal, and vegan lipstick, Nubani and Khalife wanted to include Arab women in the conversation. “There was a narrow scope regarding representation and production of products for ethnic women like ourselves, being both of Middle Eastern descent,” shares Khalife. “We wanted to create a makeup brand that speaks to women who have been overlooked by mainstream brands. We tried to answer consumers’ needs by directly addressing them with a brand that embodies their culture, identity, diversity, and ethics, that is built in a way that doesn’t isolate its community but makes them feel part of a larger world that they belong to.”
Khalife and Nubani are dedicated to developing partnerships with their own muses, collaborating with Saudi mixed media artist Fida Al Hussain to develop Shade M’s eye-catching packaging. Khalife says that the positive feedback they’ve received demonstrates that women in the region appreciate this representation, and being seen for themselves, stating, “We feel as Middle Eastern women, it’s easy to be misjudged in societies where clichés are often attributed to your religion or nationality.” Shadembeauty.com
Mina Al Sheikhly, Mina Al Sheikhly
Iraqi interior designer-turned-content creator Mina Al Sheikhly says that developing her own beauty brand was a natural progression, after not finding a mascara that delivered. “Either the formula was too harsh or I ended up having panda eyes by the end of a long shoot day,” she explains. “Women like to accentuate their eyes. I like to think that my mascaras add that extra touch to any look.” Created for her eponymous brand, Al Sheikhly’s two mascara formulas – the natural effect Elevated and dramatic Tailored – can be worn separately or layered for extra impact. The formulas are lightweight, nourishing, clump-free, and “magically look like false lashes,” she adds. Made with candelilla wax and jojoba oil, the mascaras showcase Al Sheikhly’s desire to create a product that helps women look and feel good. Identifying her clients as “effortless, on the go, glamorous, yet understated,” she says that it’s their feedback that keeps her motivated, with repeat clients hailing from Riyadh to New York. Part of her formula to success is acknowledging that women want to see themselves represented by beauty brands. “If you see yourself and feel yourself in a campaign, it resonates and gives you a sense of belonging,” she explains. “When we see someone who looks like us, we gravitate to them.” Byminaalsheikhly.com
Aleena, Naseeha, And Aleezeh Khan, CTZN
Launched in 2019 by the Khan sisters – Aleena, Aleezah, and Naseeha – CTZN has become a beacon for inclusive beauty, starting with its Nudiversal lip collection. The sisters launched the industry’s widest range of “nude” lipsticks after professional makeup artist Naseeha recognized the difficulties in finding an individual woman’s true nude lip shade. The opportunity would utilize the siblings’ individual strengths. “My sisters and I have such a diverse pool of talents and we knew that if we pursued this together, it would be a force to be reckoned with,” says Naseeha, CTZN’s head of product curation.
The sisters launched CTZN with a collection of 25 vegan dual-ended matte lipsticks and tinted glosses. “Our lightest Nudiversal shade (a warm beige) is a nude for someone the same way that our deepest shade (a fudge brown) is a nude for someone else,” explains Aleezah, CTZN’s head of operations and logistics. “The difference with CTZN is that we call that dark brown lipstick a ‘nude,’ whereas another brand might carry the same shade but not acknowledge it as someone’s nude lip shade.”
After two years of testing and trialling, the response to CTZN’s lip range has been impassioned. “It’s wild how the simplest mission – wanting to make people feel seen by our product – can mean the most to an individual,” shares Aleena, head of branding and marketing. “Our MENA customers can fully feel acknowledged and considered, and finally stop mixing shades to find that match,” says Naseeha. “As Pakistani women who were born in Los Angeles, and grew up and live in Dubai, we never felt fully represented, but there’s simply no room for overlooking diversity in 2021,” adds Aleena. In a year of growth, the brand has added new retailers, including the Middle East’s Faces, Nordstrom in the US, Europe’s Douglas, and Nykaa in India. Ctzncosmetics.com
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Originally published in the May 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia