Monday,27 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1369, (16-22 November 2017)
Monday,27 May, 2019
Issue 1369, (16-22 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

The natural side of beauty

Organic and natural beauty products are slowly taking over from increasingly expensive mainstream brands, reports Dina Ezzat

The natural side of beauty

Zeina enters a small ground-floor apartment in Dokki in Cairo in pursuit of an economical and thorough beauty experience and perfect hair, skin and body care.

“When I first heard about it earlier this year, I was hesitant to go through with the experience, but there were two reasons I decided to give it a go. First, I could no longer afford the beauty care at the salon I had previously attended where only top brand products are allowed, and second I was assured by friends who had been through the experience that the place was clean and only natural products were allowed,” she said.

For her first appointment, Zeina decided to start with routine hair removal through the traditional caramel method rather than the more expensive wax one and a couple of scrubs that friends had recommended: a coffee scrub for the lower body and a lupine scrub for the face, neck and upper body.

Zeina was impressed by the results. “It really worked very well. It lacks the sleek sense of the scrubs offered by the top brands I used to be able to afford, and it doesn’t have the nice scents of these expensive products, but the results were really impressive,” she said.

For her second go a month later, Zeina got more treats: a feet scrub, an oil mask for the hair, a clay mask for the face and natural henna for the skin. “I am perfectly happy with the results. They are not less than what I used to get with more expensive beauty products even if the whole experience is less luxurious,” she said.

The trend to go green on beauty has been gaining ground over the past year as one of the results of the devaluation of the currency that has caused increases in the prices of all imported beauty products, both top brands and ones available at pharmacies.

That said, the green beauty trend had also been finding its way prior to the introduction of the new economic reality that has forced many women to reconsider their beauty budgets. Dalia is one woman who has opted green for close to a decade now, even without having any financial concerns to address.

“I heard about it from my yoga trainer who said something about coconut oil. But I thought that sounded too greasy, and I was happy with my products which really were top-line,” Dalia said. However, Dalia was also impressed with the ultra-radiant youthful skin and shining soft hair of her trainer.

“I thought I would give it a go. If I didn’t like it, then it would be no big deal because the products were not that expensive in the first place,” Dalia said. Five years down the road, Dalia has fully embraced a green selection of beauty products. “I get some from the local market, and I buy some from Europe and India where green beauty is really a big thing,” she said.

The natural side of beauty

The introduction of green beauty products in Egypt has been very slow, however. “When I first started, I was not at all sure how this would pick up. I had faith in what I was doing, but I was not sure if people would be willing to replace the big brands with my simple but efficient products,” said Mona Eryan, founder of Nefertari, one the oldest and most successful natural beauty lines in Egypt.

A pharmacist by profession, Eryan had her first experience of assembling a simple olive oil soap bar for her daughter Chahira close to 20 years ago after her daughter had developed an allergy from an expensive hair shampoo.

“I was shocked to read the contents of this expensive shampoo that I had bought myself while on a trip overseas,” Eryan said.

The fact that her own grandfather had argued for organic beauty products and that she herself was a pharmacist put Eryan in a perfect situation to replace her daughter’s beauty line with natural products. Eryan then shared a few items with friends before she was encouraged to start a business that now boasts 500 beauty maintenance and enhancement products. 

She takes issue with the advertisements of the top beauty brands that promise women youthful faces and bodies or the elimination of wrinkles and lines. “This is a myth. We can work on maintaining our skin, hair and body, but we ultimately have to accept that we age. The thing is to age gracefully, or rather slow down the visible effects of the aging process,” she said.

“But this pragmatic approach would not work in a commercial. My products are the kind of thing that have to be tried and liked by someone and then recommended to someone else,” she argued. “And it has worked this way, and we have been able to expand the products in our shops and are now exporting our beauty line products,” she added.

The natural side of beauty

Eman Hendi, co-founder of Healing Herbs, has found that “the kind of women who opt for organic beauty products are those who access information through the Internet. This is why we have been promoting our products through social media, and it has been working fine since we started a little under ten years ago.”

Also a pharmacist by profession, Hendi’s moment of inspiration on the path of green beauty came at the end of a homeopathy course. “The whole concept of alternative remedies is worth further exploration, not just to serve the purpose of beauty, which is ultimately about reducing the signs of aging,” Hendi said.

The beginning was limited. But the success of the products “at a time when there were already several successful lines of natural beauty products made of Egyptian herbs was an indication of a growing trend that we could be party to,” she added.

The initial phase was one of high demand for hair products. Then there was a second phase for products to help manage hair loss. The third phase was for skin protection products and for the treatment of facial issues like acne.

“Having opted for healing herbs, we decided to invest more in developing products that could help reduce the side effects of health problems like hair loss and facial spots,” Hendi said.

Today, she is convinced that it is only a matter of time before green beauty takes a much larger share of the beauty market in Egypt. While the need to economise is certainly part of this expansion, it is not the prime driver.

“There is a whole trend of going green, including eating organic food, making food without preservatives and avoiding the use of products that have potentially dangerous components,” Hendi said. 

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