This year L’Oréal marks its 25th anniversary in the region, the global beauty leader reaffirms its commitment to driving transformation in the local beauty sector and making a positive impact on its communities.

To delve into this milestone celebration of the brand, Emirates Woman spoke to Laurent Duffier who was appointed the Managing Director of L’Oréal Middle East in September 2021 after more than two decades of experience in the beauty and retail industry internationally and regionally. Also, Dr. Sameera Khaled AlGhamdi who is the Founding Member and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Himayah Organization, the only non-profit organization in Saudi Arabia that protects women against gender-based violence.

Tell us more about some of the key brands under the L’Oréal Group wing?

With a unique portfolio of 31 culturally diverse and complementary brands sold in the Middle East, the Group is catering to all beauty needs across the region, listening carefully to the consumers’ needs and aspirations and respecting their local differences, income levels, and traditions. I will mention just a few iconic ones, starting with the world’s leading beauty brand, L’Oréal Paris that has been delivering accessible luxury in haircare, hair color, and skincare products to its consumers since its inception in the region and that resonates deeply with its empowering message: “Because I’m worth it.” Garnier is currently the Middle East’s #1 beauty brand, recognised for its high-quality products infused with natural ingredients. The loved La Roche Posay has become the most recommended dermatological brand in the region. Its renowned Anthelios range, which is highlighted by the exceptional UVMUNE 400, sets the benchmark for sun protection and is a top seller in pharmacies. Kérastase has upheld its reputation as the premier luxury professional haircare brand in the region since its launch, continuously delivering innovative technologies and luxurious textures to its discerning clientele. L’Oréal Professionnel remains the top choice for hairdressers in the region, recognized for its superior products that bring hair to life and YSL Beauty which is a dominant force in the luxury beauty market of the region. The fragrance YSL Libre has emerged as the best-selling feminine scent, while the newly launched MYSLF for men is quickly gaining popularity. Each of these brands as well as the rest of the portfolio, highlight our dedication to meeting diverse beauty needs while maintaining the highest standards of quality and efficacy.

How is the UAE’s cosmetic market evolving due to the changing consumer preferences?

The UAE’s cosmetic market is experiencing significant growth, driven by various factors and drivers. Middle East is for sure one of the regions with the best retail executions in the World. The fast development of e-commerce opened new horizons for the brands. What used to be a small fragment of the market three years ago is now growing double digitally, and this is just the start. One of the unique aspects of the beauty market in the Middle East is also its diverse consumer base. This includes both residents and expatriates, who come from a variety of cultural backgrounds and have different skin types and tones. This diversity emphasizes the importance of inclusivity and cultural sensitivity in the beauty industry and Brands that embrace and cater to this diversity are more likely to succeed in this vibrant market. Recently, the arrival of new wealthy inhabitants also brought a boost to the market and specially the Luxury segment. Consumer behaviour in the Middle East displays distinct patterns, particularly during cultural events like Ramadan and Eid. During these times, there are significant spikes in shopping activities, as consumers seek to purchase gifts, beauty products, and personal care items. This trend underscores the importance of cultural sensitivity and timely marketing strategies. Consumers in the Middle East are also interested in innovative skincare solutions and fashionable makeup products. The beauty industry in the region is known for its dynamism and constant evolution, driven by consumer demand for new and exciting products. Brands that stay ahead of these trends are well-positioned to thrive in this competitive market. Finally, the region is unique with its dominant fragrance market weight, driven by the long-lasting traditions of layering multiple fragrances like blending Oud, Amber with other fragrances as a statement of individualism and differentiation.

Laurent Duffier

Are there any specific beauty trends that you’ve noticed in the Middle East?

Consumers in the Middle Eastern market are extremely diverse and discerning, especially in the beauty sector, where they embrace complex trends and innovations. One of the most significant trends is the rise of e-commerce, which is driven by convenience, wider product selection of product and digital marketing. Digital platforms are instrumental in shaping consumer preferences in the region. Social media influencers have a profound impact on beauty advice, product choices, and brand interactions. These influencers often have large, engaged followers base, and can sway their audience’s purchasing decisions through product reviews, tutorials, and endorsements. There is also a growing preference for sustainability, as consumers in the region are increasingly aware of the environmental and ethical implications of their purchases. Technology integration in beauty marks a new trend and Beauty tech is rapidly gaining traction. Consumers are eager to explore AI-powered diagnostics, personalized experiences, and virtual try-on tools, tools that will make their choice of products better suited to their needs and aspirations. Finally, personalisation with beauty solutions tailored to individual needs, from customised skincare routines to bespoke fragrances represent one of the most important trends of the last decade.

What have been L’Oréal’s key milestones over the last 25 years?

L’Oréal Middle East has various significant milestones spanning 25 years in the region that are worth highlighting. Founded in 1909, L’Oréal Group made its foray into the Middle East market in the 1960s through partnerships with local distributors until it opened L’Oréal Middle East entity in 1998, in a bit to be closer to its customers and consumers. Over the past 25 years, L’Oréal Middle East has undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving from a small team in 1998 to a leading beauty industry powerhouse with over 500 employees, serving more than 140 million consumers across 10 countries. On top of the establishment of L’Oréal Middle East in 1998, key milestones in this journey also include the opening of L’Oréal Saudi Arabia in 2011 and L’Oréal UAE in 2017, both of which have significantly boosted the company’s regional presence and led to L’Oréal’s role as the “Official Beauty Products and Services Partner” for Expo 2020 Dubai. Our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is reflected in our workforce, boasting 54 nationalities, achieving gender parity with 55.5% females and 44.5% males, with 43% women in leadership positions, and maintaining a 0% gender pay gap. In the last 25 years, L’Oréal Middle East has emerged as a leader in beauty within the region with significant impact on its communities with purpose-led initiatives on sustainability, women’s empowerment, youth employability, and innovation.

L’Oréal Middle East’s latest partnership with the Himayah Organisation in Saudi Arabia empowers women – tell us more.

LD: Women have consistently been at the forefront of our initiatives at L’Oréal Middle East, demonstrated by one of our key partnerships with the Himayah Organization, a prominent non-profit organization in Saudi Arabia that protects women against gender-based violence. Our commitment and journey with Himayah started in 2021 through the L’Oréal Paris Stand Up Against Street Harassment program, where together we have educated 11,000 individuals in the GCC on addressing and preventing street harassment. This year, we have signed a new partnership with Himayah Organization to support its ‘Safe Homes’ initiative, benefiting over 600 individuals by providing access to skill training, psychological safety, and preparation for employment.

SK: Our partnership with L’Oréal has been one of our most rewarding collaborations. It began with the impactful L’Oréal Paris Stand Up Against Street Harassment program and continued with the launch of the ‘Safe Homes’ initiative in partnership with L’Oréal Middle East. This journey has been characterized by human, ethical, and professional passion at every level. I eagerly anticipate many more collaborations and experiences with L’Oréal. I take great pride in showcasing this aspect of L’Oréal Middle East. As women, we are proud to be associated with a company that values us deeply. It cannot be emphasized enough that L’Oréal genuinely cares about women, inside and out. I feel honoured to have stood alongside them and achieved remarkable milestones together.

At the core of L’Oréal’s strategy lies innovation – what are some of the latest innovative products launched?

At L’Oréal we now define ourselves as a Beauty-Tech company, with technology augmenting formulas innovations to create unique Beauty experiences for our consumers. As an illustration of this strategy, one of L’Oréal Middle East’s latest launch is Maybelline’s Digital Makeup, a pioneering collaboration with Microsoft Teams that revolves around personalized technology. This groundbreaking tool offers users access to 12 virtual makeup looks at the click of a button, enabling them to confidently experiment with and express their unique style. Beyond providing a range of customizable looks, the tool also offers tailored product suggestions, ensuring users can easily discover the perfect products to achieve their desired look. This innovation reflects our commitment to making beauty accessible and convenient in the digital age, empowering users to explore new styles and products effortlessly. Additionally, we are excited to introduce the AirLight Pro, an advanced hair drying tool developed in partnership with Zuvi. This innovative device utilizes infrared-light technology and powerful airflow to dry hair 30% faster while reducing heat damage and energy consumption. Its upcoming launch in the region promises to revolutionize haircare practices. These innovations highlight L’Oréal’s ongoing commitment to pushing the boundaries of beauty technology, meeting diverse consumer needs responsibly and inclusively, and maintaining a competitive edge in the global beauty market.

How is sustainability playing a part in operations and your product offering?

At L’Oréal, our sustainability strategy focuses on innovative solutions that address consumer needs, beauty challenges, and environmental issues. I On waste management, we have launched Garnier’s recycling program in Saudi Arabia, which has recycled 340 tonnes of waste. We also promote refillable products such as Prada Paradox which use 40% less material and Kiehl’s that has recycled 17.6 million items globally since 2009 at worldwide level. On water conversation, one example would be L’Oréal’s Group acquisition of Gjosa, whose Water Saver Portfolio technology reduces water usage by 69% in salons. In our region, Gjosa will contribute to saving approximately 35 million gallons of water annually. Finally on reducing CO2 emission, our partnership with Mohebi Logistics has introduced the first fleet of electric vehicles in the UAE.

Dr. Sameera AlGhamdi

With more women focusing on skincare, what products are doing particularly well?

In the Middle East, dermo-cosmetics lead the skincare market, with increasing interest in sun protection and serums. There’s also a rapid adoption of global beauty trends, including a high demand for star ingredients like Vitamin C, Niacinamide, and natural ingredients. As for breakthrough innovations, Melasyl™ is a standout in skincare. This groundbreaking molecule, designed to target pigmentation issues, age spots, and post-acne marks, will be featured in the upcoming launch of one of our key brands under the L’Oréal portfolio, La Roche-Posay.

What’s next for L’Oréal?

Looking ahead, we at L’Oréal Middle East are committed to advancing the beauty market in the region by introducing innovations that blend beauty with technology. Our commitment to sustainability is integral to this vision, exemplified by our “L’Oréal for the Future” program. This initiative focuses on reducing our environmental impact, engaging robustly with our ecosystem, and actively contributing to addressing global and regional challenges. Alongside our economic performance, we are dedicated to making a positive impact on the region and its communities. Sustainability, innovation, and women empowerment are the foundational pillars of our strategy at L’Oréal Middle East. These principles have guided our actions in virtually every aspect of our business and will continue to do so in the future.

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Images: Supplied & Feature Image: Instagram @lorealparis