With salons more or less back in business, we chat to the founder of The Organic Glow Beauty Lounge – the UAE’s first vegan salon – Leena Al Abbas.

Putting ethical and clean beauty at the core of her business, Leena compiled the cleanest menu of treatments in the city, so you can reward yourself with a few hours of conscious pampering.

What was your favourite subject at school?

English Literature and strangely enough, chemistry.

What was your first job?

During my undergraduate BA studies in the UK, back in 1993, I interned for a month in the Estee Lauder Head Office in London- I was fascinated by the beauty industry and being in offices run by women. I loved the vibe, as I always wanted to be a businesswoman.

What inspired you to launch The Organic Glow Beauty Lounge?

My background is Corporate Marketing & Business Admin, so I had no plans to open a beauty salon, but because I experienced health issues whilst visiting salons in the early 2000s, and learning that what I experienced is due to the harsh chemicals in the products used in salons, it became my mission to launch a salon which offered safer alternatives to regular salon treatments, and promote clean and ethical beauty, in a market and industry filled with toxic products. I became passionate about spreading awareness and educating women about the dangers of using nasty chemicals commonly found in beauty products, such as nail polishes, hair treatments and more.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by The Organic Glow Beauty Lounge (@organicglowuae) on

What are the key elements of your role?

I am my brand, so everything offered at the salon, is created by me and has my personal touch, including all the beauty recipes, the treatment menu, the interior design, the logo. I have multiple roles of the everyday running and maintenance of the salon, from marketing, to finances, to admin, HR, to social media management, to networking, etc. The only role I don’t do is the physical pampering of our lovely clients, which is done with love and care from my amazing team.

Talk us through your daily routine.

I like to stick to a routine, otherwise I am a great procrastinator. I wake up early around 6am, go for a brisk walk or do an early yoga class, then come home, walk my dog, and have breakfast and enjoy a home-brewed oat milk latte with my husband. I then check my emails and my social media accounts. I mainly work from home, but visit the salon once in a while to catch up with my team, follow up with my to-do list and run any business related errands or go for meetings. I finish my work day early, but I’ll always be available if my team needs to get in touch. I like to prepare my to-do list for the next day in the evening so I can plan my day. The evenings are mellow, unless we have plans to see friends or go out, but usually, a home-cooked vegan meal prepared by my husband, who’s a great cook. And Netflix or read a book or listen to a podcast before going to bed.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?

You need to be fully passionate and be prepared for a very bumpy ride. This is cliché, but honestly a lot of people do things and start a business without having a real passion for what they’re doing. My passion and commitment about my salon’s vision since its launch in 2010 has been the main driver, even at tough times when I wanted to give up. It also matters to walk your talk. I’m an ethical vegan, so naturally my salon had to be vegan and green, meaning we use products which don’t contain any animal ingredients and don’t test on animals (cruelty-free), and we also follow sustainable practices, such as recycle, use a water filter (no plastic bottles/cups, use energy-saving appliances).  Also, because I experienced what harsh chemicals in beauty products did to my skin, this was the main reason I launched my toxic-free organic salon. You can’t just copy a passion, you need to create it through an experience or dream you’ve had that gives you the ‘aha moment’ to create your business model.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

The advice I taught myself from experience and trusting too easily, is to always always trust my gut when making decisions. If something or someone doesn’t feel right, trust it’s not right. The many times I ignored my intuition is when things went wrong, many of which were expensive decisions. But all part of the learning experience of an entrepreneur. The other advice which I have come at peace with, is knowing that I can’t please everyone. Not everyone will love you or your business, and you will receive harsh criticism from unkind people, but you need to move on, not take things personally, and always trust that what you’re doing is coming from a deep passion, lots of love, integrity and ethics. The skill of resilience is priceless.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by The Organic Glow Beauty Lounge (@organicglowuae) on

And what is the worst?

From “You can’t do this on your own”, to “don’t quit your corporate job and risk everything if you fail”. I’m glad I didn’t listen to any demotivating advice. My salon just celebrated its 10th year anniversary.

What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

I launched my salon without any business advisors, investors or partners. So I had to trust my decisions which I took on my own. A business goes through many ups and downs, so the biggest challenge was always to rise up after a tough time. Some of the many challenges I experienced included a contractor running away with the money before finishing his job, getting an eviction notification because the landlord decided to demolish the location I was at, and many more (I can write a book). All challenges taught me how to think on the spot of a plan B and to have resilience and not lose my sanity. But I believe that everything happens for a good reason, and the lessons learned through challenging experiences make you better prepared and well equipped to push on, stay motivated and continue working towards your vision.

– For more about Dubai’s lifestyle, news and fashion scene follow Emirates Woman on Facebook and Instagram

Images: Instagram, main image NET-A-PORTER