Discover the essence of looking beautiful in Dubai
From enriching oils to a rose water spritz, to healing balms and traditional argan tree oil, Arabian women have been harnessing the power of natural potions and botanicals for centuries. Here we unlock the secrets to amazing skin.
With a long history of bathing and beautifying, it's no surprise that Arab women (and men!) keep to a strict day-to-day skincare regime, with cleansing, toning and moisturising all important steps in the ritual.
Made from shea butter, tar and plant fibres, black soap is a popular cleanser, not just for its deep-cleansing properties, but also for its ability to maintain the skin's mantle, leaving it de-congested, yet supple. Commonly scented with rose oil, you'll find bars of the rich soap both on bathroom vanities for the face, and in the shower for an all-over deep cleanse. Pick a bar up at the Dubai Ladies Club (Jumeirah Road, +971 4 349 9922).
After washing the face, a rose water or orange blossom water is pressed into the skin. Working two-fold, it removes any traces of cleanser or soap, and preps the skin for the next step. During the summer, it's not uncommon for women to carry a small spray bottle in their purse, spritzing on the go to refresh make-up and hydrate the skin. Try Herbal Essentials (herbal-essentials.com) for its cooling Cucumber & Rose Water Skin Toner.
In order to keep halal, most Arabian moisturisers use vegan plant-based oils and essences, rather than animal fats or lipids. Traditionally used as an all-over moisturising oil during post-hammam massage, cold-pressed argan oil has made its name as an effective facial serum or to replenish dry hair and cuticles. Extracted from the kernels of the argan tree nut, the vitamin E-rich oil is popular throughout the region.
In Dubai, women look for brands like Kahina Giving Beauty (kahina-givingbeauty.com), Izil (izilbeauty.com) and locally-produced OnePure Beauty (galerieslafayettedubai.com), all of which stock creams and lotions spiked with the ultra-hydrating oil, or simply mix their own blends. Tall vials of pure argan oil are easily found at Dubai's seasonal Global Village, a few drops mixed with honey to repair irritated skin, with rosehip for very dry skin, or lactic acid-rich laban for a gentle exfoliating mask.
One of the few local brands to be stocked by beauty giant Sephora, the success of Shiffa (shiffa.com) lies in its application of natural botanicals and Arabian know-how. The best-selling Healing Balm flies off shelves, stocking the bathrooms of Emiratis and expats alike. An ultra-hydrating formula, the balm contains 15 different plant and flower essences and cares for skin depleted by urban living and environmental extremes. The body line is equally popular, with the Invigorating Hair Oil often sold out in the busiest malls. Using sweet almond and jojoba to smooth hair cuticles, the easily-absorbed hair oil is specifically designed not to leave residue on a hijab.
While natural products have long been a staple of beauty in the region, the modern Arab woman is not averse to a little chemical assistance when it comes to skincare. A halfway point between beauty counter wares and prescription only-strength, cosmeceuticals do a roaring trade, with at-home peels popular in counteracting fine lines and uneven skin pigmentation. Visit a Dubai skin care professional to have your skin assessed – Zo Skin Health, for example, is the brainchild of former Obagi Medi-Spa founder, Dr Zein Obagi, whose formulas are now sold exclusively at the new Zo Skin Centre (585 Jumeirah Road, Jumeirah 3, +971 4 380 9517, zoskinhealth.com).