Pakistani beauty products are under-regulated.
In early May 2022, Pakistan banned the import of all non-essential luxury goods, which included cosmetics.
Since Pakistan’s beauty market is largely dominated by global, international brands and multinational conglomerates, cosmetic shopaholics were in dismay.
Online vendors that sold imported high-end makeup started including more local makeup in their range, of which, unfortunately, there were only a handful of worthy options.
And although the ban was lifted recently, the urge for high-end local beauty brands seems to be higher than ever.
Imported cosmetic prices have soared due to heavy duties.
However, despite rising inflation, the beauty and personal care market in Pakistan has an annual momentum for growth.
It is estimated that revenue in the beauty and personal care market in Pakistan amounts to a whopping $4.40bn, and is expected to show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.22% till 2026.
The Business of Beauty in Pakistan
Pakistan has always been a booming fashion industry. It’s home to impeccable designers such as Rizwan Beyg, which suited the likes of Princess Diana herself.
There is no lack of high-end luxury designer-owned brands. There is a trend of Pakistani fashion brands launching their makeup lines.
Other than such few worthy local options, Pakistan’s beauty market is filled with cosmetics from international brands and a handful of imported makeup is also available at a hefty price.
These products continue to attract high-paying consumers, despite the high price points.
Due to the rising consumer knowledge about beauty brands, and the need to support locals, there is an urge for high-end makeup brands in Pakistan.
Tamkeen Rabbani Khan (@swavytamkene), a Pakistani haircare and beauty influencer on Instagram says: “There is an urge for high-end beauty brands in Pakistan.”
Rida Zulfiqar (@thechicmanifesto), another Pakistani influencer agrees with this sentiment and says: “I do believe we need some high-end Pakistani brands in the beauty industry.
“We don’t have many local options when it comes to makeup and beauty products, and are forced to turn towards imported ones.”
According to Tamkeen, Pakistani beauty products are under-regulated.
She explains: “Local drugstore/cheap brands are doing nothing to improve their quality, they’re just paying off the testing and verification authorities and taking their products forward.
“Such products lack ingredient quality, aesthetic appeal, and ease of use.”
Pakistani consumers are becoming more value-conscious and highly aware of beauty products.
The influencer goes on to say: “Common issues that arise are the disuse of good preservatives. There are also issues with the ease of blendability of certain products.
“The local brands selling cheap makeup hoard substandard ingredients, one example of such a brand that comes to mind is Glam Girlz; their products are loaded with paraffin wax, which is an ingredient that can be pretty comedogenic.”
The increased perception of high-end beauty products from abroad is influencing the need for better home-grown products.
Tamkeen adds: “We prefer to buy from international drugstore brands, such as L’Oréal & Maybelline rather than local makeup brands.
“As we become more and more aware of beauty products, we simply can’t rely on local products to satisfy our demands, and hence have to turn to international brands.
“And this is why we wish for more high-end quality local options since high-end local options would mean more accessible, trustworthy, and reliable.”
A similar view is shared by Haiqa Fatima (@skin2soul.blog), another Pakistani skincare influencer.
She says: “People mostly would choose to go for international options when it comes to high-end makeup as they are widely reviewed by thousands of people all around the world and there is the perception of quality assurance factor too.”
Inclusivity is an important factor to consider. There’s a wide variation of skin tones in Pakistan.
When choosing the right shade of base products, or the perfect lipstick to compliment your skin tone, it’s crucial to keep your undertone in mind.
While South Asians can have either warm, cool or neutral undertones, most Pakistani complexions have warmer as opposed to cooler undertones.
Even with the wide variation that exists within our skin tone, most local brands still do not offer a wider shade range in base products.
Although the insatiable desire to look fair continues to be ingrained in a large population of Pakistani people, a desire is often met with many local brands prioritising lighter base products.
However, with the evolution of beauty, the beauty needs of a modern Pakistani woman have also evolved.
To ace their makeup base, women in Pakistan are seeking out foundation shades that perfectly match their unique complexions, and this can be a struggle with the limited shade options available in the local market.
Zainab, the owner of Zay Beauty acknowledges the huge gap in the Pakistani beauty sector for good quality and accessible makeup.
In conversation with Mashion, she says: “Our women spend thousands on products which don’t even suit them most of the time because they are designed for the international market.”
Zay Beauty products create a sense of belonging. Everything from the packaging to product names has a Desi aesthetic.
In an interview, Mehrbano Sethi talks about her brand Luscious Cosmetics, she says: “Our products are specifically formulated for South Asian skin tones and climate.
“This is not just a marketing ploy, it is actually evident in the way our products and shades immediately click with customers.
“Once we proved that Pakistan has a huge market for high-quality beauty products, some international brands finally took notice and launched themselves here as well.”
Luscious Cosmetics is available in South East Asian countries alongside Pakistan as well as at Sephora stores.
Their face contour kit is a bestseller that works beautifully with South Asian skin.
Recently, there has been an influx of more and more local players.
Gone are the days when we would try lipsticks from international brands and our lips would turn out looking pale or ashy.
While multinational brands like Maybelline and NYX have been releasing universally flattering lip product shades that don’t threaten to make us look washed out, Pakistani players have stepped up their game as well.
The same is the case with eyeshadow palettes. Eyeshadow palettes made with Caucasian skin in mind are not that pigmented, they don’t pop up that well on Desi skin.
This is explained by British Asian Women’s magazine: “Although I am pretty fair, the undertones in my skin colour never complimented the colours in eyeshadow palettes, so they would never pop as much as they would on women with less melanin.
New players like Entice Cosmetics, Flaunt’n’Flutter by Reem and Zhoosh are carving out their place with their range of lip products, contour kits and eye makeup palettes that compliment Pakistani skin tones.
While a decent shade range in complexion products from these brands can be seen, we still have a long way to go.
Being a predominantly Muslim country, Halal beauty products in Pakistan are also sought-after.
Rida points this out: “Another concern I personally think some people in Pakistan have, as Muslims, is whether makeup products such as lipsticks produced in the West are Halal.
“Pakistan-based products seem to give you peace of mind in that sense.”
Made in Pakistan
Pakistanis celebrate every national achievement. The sense of pride that comes from seeing a high-end brand with the label ‘Made in Pakistan’ is not something insignificant.
Rida admits: “It would be great to spend money on makeup produced in your country and help that business grow as compared to paying for products from companies abroad!”
Makeup vlogger and actress Hira Tareen flaunted Spa in a Bottle by Rabia Unbelieve-A-Peel, and other local skincare products in her morning skincare routine video, and felt proud for including several products.
She also shows her support for some great Pakistani brands in her Instagram videos.
“Let’s just take a minute and talk about the packaging. The packaging is so pretty. It looks like a high-end brand you would find at Sephora.”
The importance of packaging is iterated by Ayesha Khan, who is a makeup enthusiast.
She says: “Packaging is important. High-end sells the idea that expensive is equal to good production, and good production has many facets, from good ingredients to product feel; its smell and texture, and brand ethics as well.”
She continues: “If you’re spending that much on a product, I should make you feel nicer, the packaging should be pretty, it should make you feel worth it.
“All of these high-end product characteristics together make sense for splurging on them.
“This is another thing expensive yet poorly-packaged Pakistani products need to focus on to feel premium or high-end.”
While Ayesha believes that people in Pakistan would rather splurge on international brands than local ones, she acknowledges that people would be willing to spend more on local brands if they improved their product quality and adopted better packaging.
Tamkeen acknowledges the fact that beauty trends and needs in Pakistan have moved forward, and people are willing to spend more to support home-grown beauty brands if they offer quality and a high-end experience:
“We, as Pakistanis, do want to support Pakistani brands that produce quality products that feel luxurious i.e. Pakistani high-end, even if that means spending more. We just have a lack of such options.”
Zoya, another Pakistani influencer, believes that unless Pakistani brands produce products, people will always opt for products from international or global brands.
There’s a need for Pakistani makeup brands to step up their game.
Ayesha explains: “It’s easier to get your hands on high-end imported makeup in Pakistan now than in the past.
“There’s an increasing number of online vendors that sell high-end imported makeup, however, the prices of those products vary significantly from vendor to vendor. Still, there’s not much assurance of it being original.
“Many online retailers are totally ripping people off hence there may be an urge for more high-end local options. Makeup should be accessible to everyone.
“For me personally, it makes me feel more confident, and everyone should feel that way.”
Homegrown brands have room for further growth. Products that are made keeping Pakistani women, their skin tone, texture, other concerns and preferences in mind are in vogue.