Nail polish and mascara: beauty brands eye up Iran

Sun Apr 17, 2016 4:04pm EDT
 
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By Hadeel Al Sayegh and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin

DUBAI (Reuters) - When Dubai businesswoman Negin Fattahi-Dasmal opened the first branch of her luxurious nail salon chain in Iran this year, it was met with both excitement and scepticism among image-conscious young Iranians.

Despite -- or perhaps partly because of -- strict Islamic dress codes, cosmetics sales in Iran are among the highest in the Middle East.

Women are required to wear modest clothes and headscarves, but their faces and hands are not covered, and many express their individuality with lipstick, mascara and nail polish in styles that would seem elaborate by Western standards.

With most international economic sanctions now lifted after a nuclear agreement with world powers that took effect this year, Fattahi-Dasmal thinks it is time to bring in a high-end international brand.

Her chain of nail salons, N.Bar, already has a customer base among the thousands of well-off young Iranians who holiday in nearby Dubai, where they can sunbathe, shop and dress with relative freedom.

"For Iranian women it's a sought-after brand," Fattahi-Dasmal, an Iranian-born Emirati, said in an interview. "There have been a lot of counterfeit products in Iran. They are extremely hungry for anything that is real, genuine and imported from the West."

Nonetheless, she said some customers were skeptical that the new Tehran branch could replicate the quality and consistency customers are used to in Dubai, where branches offer dozens of standardized treatments and stringent hygiene procedures.

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An Iranian woman tests the colours of make-up at an upscale shop in north Tehran in this November 8, 2003 file photo. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/Files