Air conditioners are running 24 hours a day, a two minute walk to the car or metro-station can become a life-threatening event, and expatriates are often found sending pictures of their car thermometer showing a 50 degree temperature to skeptical friends and families back home. When complaints about heat-related problems are the start-off topic for every small-talk, it means summer has finally arrived in the UAE, and summer also means: dehydration, vitamin D deficiencies and bad hair days.
Jumping between the dry cool of air-conditioned buildings and the high humidity levels accompanied by sauna-like temperatures on the outside naturally has a negative effect on one’s body. And while health-related issues are, sadly, too often overlooked, the inhabitants of the Gulf region are not about to let a bad hair day get the best of them. Arab and Asian women, in particular, are eager to maintain the healthy status of their hair, as long hair is of cultural, and sometimes even religious, importance. While evolving trends are not that different from global developments, the UAE still offers some unique characteristics when it comes to the use of hair care products.
The ritual of hair care …
Functionality, efficacy and convenience are seen as the worldwide focus for consumers choosing a hair care product. Not so in the UAE: most women want to add further time-consuming steps to their daily hair care routine. While a shampoo is typically accompanied by at least one conditioner product worldwide, increasingly in the UAE, two or three further steps are added to this routine. For example, hair masks are often left on the hair overnight and the demand for professional Keratin treatments has grown exponentially.
While less humid weather conditions may explain why Europe’s per capita volume consumption of conditioners is half that of the UAE, it falls short in explaining even stronger discrepancies between the respective home-countries of expatriates and the UAE. For example, in 2014, Euromonitor International estimated conditioner per capita volume sales in India to be just above 100 ml per person, and even less in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. In the UAE, on the other hand, the per capita volume use is 500 ml per person. Such differences are even more surprising, as nearly three-quarters of UAE residents are men, a consumer group not traditionally associated with high hair care product use.
The explanation lies in two important and very country-specific factors: on the one hand, many Arab and Asian women are used to traditional hair care products, such as olive oil, coconut oil and argan oil, from their respective home-countries, but they have now become drawn to the branded conditioners and ever-increasing offer of oil-replacement products available in the UAE. The urban environment of the country, including its well-developed retail landscape, allows consumers easy access to a broad range of products. Strongly supported by billboard advertisements and online campaigns, this wide availability also creates strong brand awareness that is often missing in developing countries.
Men also have bad hair days …
But what is equally unique to the UAE is the popularity of hair care products amongst men. Suffering from hair loss caused by heat and humidity, as well as damages due to daily and extensive use of hair gel, men in the UAE are increasingly concerned about the appearance of their scalp – and the industry is reacting. Hair care giant P&G just introduced a new oil replacement product, advertised as a perfect match for the modern and trendy Arab man. The multinational is thereby challenging two Indian brands that are already well-established in this niche market: Darbur’s Vatika and Marico’s Parachute, which together account for nearly 30% of value sales within the conditioner segment, and are advertised as a combination of nourishment and styling for men’s hair.
As the heat is not expected to go away anytime soon, and the economic outlook is positive, it is believed a new influx of foreign expatriates will be seeking these hair care products. Growth for conditioners is therefore expected to remain strong in the UAE, at an estimated 9% volume CAGR over the next five years. Thus, to not miss out on what is becoming a lucrative market, personal care companies should listen carefully and consider the unique attributes of the country as an opportunity to widen their portfolio … and soon, before their chances dry out!