In the Middle East, women are largely required to wear modest clothing and headscarves, but since their faces and hands are not covered, many express their individuality with lipstick, mascara and nail polish in styles that would likely be deemed elaborate by Western standards. Such consumption preferences make this region - and the formerly off-limits, Iran, in particular - a hotbed for growth for many brands.
Now that most international economic sanctions have been lifted in Iran after a nuclear agreement with world powers that took effect this year, international cosmetics brands are increasingly turning their attention to the country in hopes of tapping into the market of "well-off young Iranians who holiday in nearby Dubai, where they can sunbathe, shop and dress with relative freedom," per Reuters
The publication further notes, that sespite years of sanctions, "Iran's fashion-forward twenty-something’s have kept up with global trends on social media and travels abroad, skirting diplomatic isolation and domestic repression." In fact, the region boasts no shortage of discerning consumers, who, even under sanctions, frequented independent shops in the affluent northern districts of Tehran that managed to obtain the latest seasonal collections of top global brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Roberto Cavalli.
Nonetheless, "The way women dress and look is still one of the red lines in the Islamic Republic," said Afshin Sadeghizadeh, a brand management consultant in Tehran and former editor of Iran's Style magazine. "The brands going to Iran should be ready to face resistance from conservatives or even get shut down and expelled from Iran," he said.
With that in mind, cosmetics are a relatively risk-free first step.