RIYADH: Muzon Ashgar, founder and manager of the Saudi brand MZN Bodycare, has always been interested in natural skin care products, which she sources from the USA.
But after throwing a relaxing “spa party” for friends a few years ago, she realized there was no need to look abroad to be ethical.
Ashgar has created and packaged her own recipes for natural skincare products. She stopped giving the products as gifts at her home spa, selling them at local markets and events, and eventually started her own business.
Now their cruelty-free and sustainable products are available in major pharmacy chains, premium retailers and spas across Saudi Arabia.
“We are impressed that most of our customers actually care that MZN is a sustainable brand. There is a remarkable awareness in our community of the benefits of buying sustainable local brands,” Ashgar told Arab News.
But this awareness has not always been evident and is absent in some communities.
A report by management consultancy Mordor Intelligence revealed that the key players in the Saudi beauty industry are not cruelty-free firms, including Beiersdorf AG (parent company of brands like Nivea and Labello) and Estee Lauder.
When a brand is not cruelty-free, the company conducts individual animal testing either itself, through its supplier, or through third parties.
At the forefront of the vast global market is Procter & Gamble with brands such as Herbal Essences, Pantene, Olay and SK-II. The consumer giant recently announced its commitment to #BeCrueltyFree across its 19 companies, highlighting the industry’s efforts to become more sustainable.
Third is Avon, a brand that is completely cruelty-free. While Estee Lauder isn’t, some of the brands in its portfolio, including Smashbox and Too Faced, both popular with Saudi consumers, are certified cruelty-free by US-based animal rights group PETA.
The issue is complicated because some brands are unable to fully develop a cruelty-free approach as they sell products in countries where animal testing is required by law, such as Canada. B. China. Withdrawing your supplies from such countries would result in a huge loss of revenue.
However, Saudi Arabia does not insist on animal testing for skincare and beauty products. This creates an easy market for local sustainable and vegan cosmetics to meet demand for these items.
Saudi environmentalist Zahra Alqatari told Arab News that there is limited awareness of sustainability as an issue in the kingdom.
“This makes the demand for cruelty-free and sustainable beauty products low. As a result, the beauty industry continues to produce products that harm us, animals and the environment.”
However, that is changing as local brands like MZN Bodycare champion natural, vegan and cruelty-free products for the everyday consumer.
Founded in 2015, the brand believes in using local plants to create eco-friendly products.
“Our region is full of plantations that have amazing benefits such as moringa, olive oils, rose and lavender essential oils, and date stone powder and oils. We have found through published research that these oils are very rich in antioxidants and vitamins that are beneficial for the skin,” Ashgar told Arab News.
The company sees a growing interest among Saudis in developing sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyles.
“In fact, some customers have asked us about a ‘take back packaging’ program where we take back the used packaging and refill it for them. Some are calling us to verify the source of our raw materials and to verify that we are indeed a cruelty-free brand,” Ashgar said.
Another cruelty-free brand, Mama’s Alchemy, is based on veganism as a core value and motivator.
“We wanted to offer vegan options in the personal care category in Saudi Arabia and the region as there are very few brands that are tackling this issue. We believe that veganism plays a crucial role in keeping our planet clean and reducing waste,” Dina Horanieh, the company’s managing partner, told Arab News.
The brand founders went looking for vegan body products for personal use but couldn’t find any – so they made their own. Mama’s Alchemy caters not only to vegan consumers, but also to anyone looking for clean and sustainable body products.
“The reaction (from the Saudi public) was heartwarming. We hope that more local suppliers offer sustainable options. We are continually working to offer more vegan and sustainable products,” said Horanieh.