With its young population, high levels of disposable income and impressive growth rates, the Middle East is still seen as one of the most promising regions for the beauty industry. According to industry sources, prestige beauty sales increased 9% across the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) in 2013, driven mainly by cosmetics at +11.9%.

According to a recent white paper by distributor and retailer Chalhoub Group, high earners in the region spend an average of $700 per month on oriental fragrances and essential oils and spent $500 on Western fragrances, cosmetics and skincare.

While high levels of purchasing power are often cited as one of the key drivers for beauty in the region, according to Tamara Al Zaq, Regional Marketing Manager, Make Up For Ever, changing consumer tastes and an increased appetite for the category have fueled sales over the past few years.

“When we started, it was a very traditional market,” she explains. “People were very much focused on the big designer brands. Three years ago, you started seeing this shift, with people becoming more open to trying new brands,” she continues. Clarins Group Middle East President, Osama Rinno, agrees, “Consumers are becoming more sophisticated in what they want, the type of fragrance they want and the type of ingredients.”

Social media has especially been a game changer for the Middle East, particularly in conservative markets such as Saudi Arabia. It has allowed consumers more access to Western and regional trend information, online tutorials and information about brands in a society that traditionally did not have this access. “The young generation is becoming very active with blogging and social media,” says Osama. “You would be surprised to see the level of interaction we get from consumers and the involvement they have.”

Fragrance still represents the lion’s share of business—19% of total sales in the Middle East and Africa region in 2013, according to Euromonitor International. In the prestige segment, fragrance accounts for 63% of business across the GCC, according to industry sources; this was down from 67% just three years ago.

However, this share shows little sign of shrinking further as consumers’ appetite for fragrance and diverse tastes, ranging from traditional oud-based scents to international luxury brands and increasingly, niche fragrances, still offers plenty of room for growth. International brands continue to introduce scents, including oud-based creations, targeting mainly Middle Eastern consumers, with varying levels of success, according to industry observers.

To read BW Confidential’s full report on beauty in the Middle East go to: www.bwconfidential.com.