Welcome to the Emirates Woman weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week we chat with Regional PR & Communications Manager of Sunday Riley Middle East, Zain Yahya. After moving to Dubai five years ago, she has made the city her home and worked for the brand as a leading expert.
Known for its fast-acting formulas that transform your skin, this cruelty-free skincare brand is blended with balancing botanicals and clinically-proven ingredients to address all skincare concerns.
From the All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment to C.E.O Glow Vitamin C and Turmeric Face Oil, the products combine science with nature for long-lasting results.
After working for years in the beauty and Fashion industry, Yahya moved to Dubai to make her mark and eventually started her role as the Regional PR and Communications Manager of the brand. By chanelling her love for skincare and the wellness Industry, she has worked on several successful PR Campaigns, to grow the brand’s presence in the region and beyond.
To delve into her role and career, Emirates Woman spoke to her to see how she overcomes challenges and creates a niche for herself in this industry.
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What was your favourite subject at school?
I would say English, the writing part of it. My mind has always been too elaborate for courses like math and science, writing is a perfect way to get all my thoughts out and down on paper.
What was your first job?
Retail Merchandising with Abercrombie & Fitch in Columbus, Ohio. It was a dream to move out where their HQ was located. It was mandatory to start with six months of training as a Store Manager for their flagship store, that was quite the experience and rewarding for sure.
What brought you to Dubai?
I moved to the UAE from Texas at the age of 12 but was always loved Abu-Dhabi at heart. After university and working for a year in Ohio, I decided to part ways with my friends and the Midwest to see what Dubai had to offer and five years later, I haven’t gotten myself to leave.
What inspired you to enter the beauty space and talk us through your role as Regional PR & Communications Manager at Sunday Riley Middle East?
I have always been into beauty, particularly skincare and wellness. There is much more to beauty than putting on a face of makeup. It’s the ritual you have with yourself every morning and night, it’s the motivation to want to better your beauty from not only the outside but from within, everyone is a constant work in progress. There is something special about truly taking care of yourself for you and loving every bit of it. My first glimpse of the beauty industry was when I was recruited by Benefit Cosmetics, USA to be a part of their first-ever global campaign for a product launch. This was during the rise of earned media; they approached young women from all around the world who were into beauty and aligned with their brand ethos to deliver a campaign that was organic and relatable to the public. I loved every bit of it and knew that I wanted to pursue beauty. I am now able to channel my love for skincare and wellness through creatively strategizing ideas that can be localised for the region while staying true to the brand DNA. My role has given me the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals who view the beauty space in a similar light, and I love it. You realise how vast the space is, there is room for everyone and it’s very inclusive.
Talk us through the concept of Sunday Riley?
If you don’t already know, Sunday Riley is a female-owned skincare brand that is powered by science and balanced by botanicals. You are receiving these scientific ingredients for instant-long lasting results, but also the gentle botanical ingredients that help stabilise your skin which makes the brand suitable for all skin types (I can back this up, my skin is unforgivably sensitive at times and this brand works for me). What I have taken from this brand is how effective, efficient, and user-friendly it is. Aside from skincare, the brands core values advocate for human rights and sustainability, making the brand B-Corp certified, cruelty-free by PETA and Leaping Bunny. I find these values behind the brand really inspiring to be a part of. It makes my job more meaningful when working for a sought-after, passionate brand that really works.
What are the key elements of your role?
Having a strong understanding of the media scene in the Middle East and where it is headed at all times, especially when you are in such a competitive industry such as beauty is vital. Understanding social media metrics, and how we can amplify PR outreach through creative strategy execution to grow brand awareness while understanding the ROI we can get out of that. PR is all about taking smart risks, sometimes you need to execute the idea to see if there is a place for it in the market. Communication is key, having fluidity to communicate and work with last minute pressures. Recruiting, meeting, and gifting to grow the brand community in an organic way; unlike the quick fix makeup provides you, skincare takes patience to see the results, so I really enjoy educating our community on our products and allowing them to fall in love on their own.
Talk us through your daily routine.
I start the day with my two favorite things: skincare and coffee (every night I go to bed, I can’t wait to wake up to have my morning coffee, it’s the small things in life). My morning routine consists of: Pink Drink Firming Resurfacing Essence, C.E.O. Afterglow Brightening Vitamin C Moisturizer, Auto Correct eye cream, and a sunscreen (I tend to alternate with brands on this one). It’s a slap of freshness in the morning, and I am ready to take on the day. I will always start the workday with doing a bit of market research across relevant platforms to see what and who are the latest, this helps me stay up to speed on the industry and channel it into ideation for potential brand opportunities and partnerships. Influencer and media outreach is constant in my day to day, I love educating new individuals about the brand. Things change daily with PR which really makes me love what I do. I end the day with moving my body in the gym, cooking dinner, and my nighttime routine which consists of Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid treatment (depending on the state of my skin, I will use this as a 20-minute face mask or keep it on overnight), C.E.O. Vitamin C Brightening Serum (I love using this high dose vitamin C at night, I feel it is more effective), Five Stars Retinoid & Niacinamide Eye Serum, x2 a week I will use A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum, and my favorite lip sleeping mask by Laneige. I make myself a cinnamon mint tea and I am in bed by 11pm.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
Go for it and don’t hold yourself back. Get your foot in the door, keep the door open, have those conversations, take those interviews, go to that event, because you never know who you might meet and what it might lead to. Relationships are key in this industry and it’s important to appreciate the ones you want to maintain. For the ones you don’t, that’s okay but don’t burn any bridges.
Tell us more about the products.
Where do I start… there is so much to say and cover. You will not find a product in Sunday Rileys range that doesn’t serve a necessary function for your skin. There are three key ingredients that I think are a must in every skincare routine: AHA, Retinol, and Vitamin C. Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid is chefs kiss, your skin will be soft like a babies butt just after 20 minutes. C.E.O. Vitamin C Brightening Serum is with me wherever I go, period. It gives you a high dose of Vitamin C which helps with brightening but is also just rich enough to hydrate your skin, obsessed. A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum, this stuff is GOOD. I can understand the fear with retinol, let alone a high dose of it and I was scared at first not going to lie since my skin is very sensitive, but I was pleasantly surprised at how my skin befriended this product. Rule of thumb here is to start slow to give your skin time to adjust naturally. For the ones who want a lower dose of retinol, Luna Night Oil is a lovely product to start with. It is balanced with chamomile and smells heavenly. I love this trio for anti-aging, brightening, and plumping of the skin.
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What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Just keep going, no matter what – something my parents instilled in my siblings and I. This is harder done than said at times, but I try to always remind myself this too shall pass, and my life is my responsibility. Understanding that life is full of the unexpected, the only thing we can control is our response to things.
And what is the worst?
To play it safe and that life should be lived in a specific kind of way. I am a constant work in progress learning to shed away from this mindset because life should be approached by what you want out of it, not always by how you have been taught to live it. Leaping into something new or out of the ordinary can feel scary, but sometimes that is exactly when we should be doing it, or we could look back on life with regrets.
What’s the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?
Getting out of my own head. There is so much I want to do in life or think I need to achieve in a quick manner. As I get older, I am learning how to channel my motivation and drive while being present and appreciative of what I have in front of me. Everything happens for a reason! Must never forget that.
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What’s your future for the brand?
I find the opportunity for growth with this brand endless, that’s truly a testament to how much I believe in it. Sunday Riley has only been in the region since 2019 but the feedback we have received thus far has been tremendous. We love having the opportunity to talk about and educate people about a brand we truly love. I feel this is just the beginning of our Sunday Riley lover’s community in the Middle East.
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