Skin serums, pigment creams, and hair balms are all products that most Egyptians assume are feminine. In fact, the traditional attitude towards skincare and other cosmetic products is that they are exclusively for women.
However, that attitude is rapidly changing — and local Egyptian brands, such as Meraki, are reflecting this.
Meraki is a local business for natural skincare, hair, and wellbeing products founded by Mona Awwad in 2019. Awwad is a chemist who began her business by making products as gifts for her friends; she now runs an entire natural product brand with her family.
Her goals are to create affordable, high quality products, to encourage women to accept how they look in this age of social media, and to encourage them to adopt skincare routines early on.
That being said, Awwad and her family are acutely aware of what’s in demand through their networks. Meraki may have started with women in mind, but the brand has branched out considerably since its inception.
“[During the beginning of COVID] I developed the wellness line, which I’m very proud of,” Awwad tells Egyptian Streets. “We have something for pain, for anxiety […] because all these problems arose at this time when people were stressed.”
In addition to the wellness line, Meraki released a line of children and baby products in response to customer requests. Awwad and her family regularly take into account customer feedback and needs, which is how their men’s line came into development.
With a laugh, Awwad explains how the women’s products worked so well that husbands were questioning if their wives were doing botox behind their backs. The wives would then share the products with their spouses to deny the claims.
Evidently, the products were well-received by the men, even if some of them were not fans of the floral scents.
When word of this reached Awwad, she conducted more research about male interest in the products, and what she found was unexpected.
“We did a survey asking: is it worth it to have a men’s line?” Awwad explains. “And in the survey we discovered a lot of men were using [skincare products], they’re buying from abroad, and — this was quite a surprise for me — a lot starting from mid-30’s until late 40’s are going for fillers and botox.”
She even verified the findings with plastic surgeons: not only do men opt for these procedures, but the doctors make special accommodations for them to come in for their appointments right away so they don’t have to wait.
The final confirmation of this interest came during a series of friendly gatherings. After bringing up the topic with a few men, she found that four were already considering forehead botox, even though they were only in their late 30’s.
The original aim of Meraki was to encourage women to accept and love how they look without these kinds of procedures. Why would the same not apply to men?
Awwad started simply, providing beard oil, creams, and facial washes with hyaluronic acid, known for its anti-aging properties.
“We started picking out what is interesting for men,” recalls Awwad. “We used the hyaluronic — I did it with aloe, which doesn’t have a smell, so it was ok — and we took two of the creams that we had for women and I modified them to suit men’s skin.”
Awwad is very conscious of what works well for her male customers. It is not simply a matter of changing the scents to something less traditionally feminine, but modifying the actual formula to accommodate men’s thicker facial skin.
Perhaps due to some more conservative views on skin products for men, the Egyptian market is lacking in specialized products.
“You will find on the market beard balms and oils, and you will definitely find shower gels, but you won’t find a mask or a cream or a hyaluronic for men,” confirms Awwad.
And yet, she remains optimistic that times are changing and moving away from these views. She notes that the younger generations are “much more open” to trying and even talking about using these products.
Even her initial goal of encouraging women to love how they look is being realized in their bold attitudes, according to her views.
The same applies to men, who Awwad says are very open about discussing the procedures they undertake and the products they use.
“Under 40, it’s a much more bold generation, let’s say,” Awwad comments.
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