By Ahmad Rafat

Tehran recently hosted the top trade show for the cosmetics industry in the Middle East and the Gulf region.

Why Tehran? Because Iran is the seventh-largest market for cosmetics in the world, and the second-largest in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia. As a result, many international perfume and beauty brands are trying hard to break into the Iranian cosmetics market.

“Iran Beauty & Clean,” as the fair is known, was held at the the capital city’s International Fairground from April 24 to 27. It was organized by Cosmoprof, the world’s leading cosmetics trade show organizer.

Iran Beauty & Clean is the Business-to-Business beauty event dedicated to Cosmetics & Toiletries, Perfumery, Hair Salon, Beauty Salon, Nail & Accessories, and Packaging & OEM for professionals in the beauty sector. Cosmoprof was established in 1967 in Bologna, Italy, and puts on trade shows in Bologna, Hong Kong, and Las Vegas.

According to a program aired on the French TV station France 24, Iranian women use 22 medium-sized bottles of perfume per year. The annual perfume consumption of French women is fewer than three bottles of a similar size.

According to the same program, Iran’s cosmetics market is worth more than 1.5 billion euros a year.

Quoting statistics from Iran’s Central Anti-counterfeiting Agency, the “Ghanoon” website estimates the value of cosmetics illegally imported into the country per year at 1.2 billion dollars – 10 times that of legal imports.

Consumption of cosmetic products is estimated at $150 per capita. Based on research conducted by the Iranian market research firm TMBA, 14 million Iranian girls and women between the ages of 15 to 45 spend an average of 705 euros on cosmetics per month. According to this same study, Iranian women and girls spend an hour a day in front of a mirror putting on makeup.

There are few cosmetic manufacturers in the Islamic Republic, and they represent a very small share of this market. More than 90% of the market is monopolized by foreign products.

In recent years, due to the drop in the exchange-rate value of the Iranian rial, this market has been invaded by counterfeit products and cheap merchandise from China and other Asian countries like Turkey and Thailand. These are much cheaper than well-known and recognized brands, which explains their success.

Many of these counterfeit products are not only of a poorer quality. In many instances, they can pose a medical threat to consumers: the low-grade, non-standard mixtures used in counterfeit products can cause skin conditions such as eczema and acne, and in some instances skin infections. Also, if the lead used in certain products such as lipstick is higher than the authorized level, it can cause health issues.