#InsiderSeries: Unveiling Dubai’s beauty secrets for wellness enthusiasts

Yoking past and future, Dubai is an alchemy of ancient traditions and a futuristic vision. The Middle Eastern culture is rich – treasured and preserved by the Emiratis through generations, rapid urbanisation, and expat invasion. Beauty here embodies the same – an intersection of the old with a penchant for the new. Dubai – the land of oud, bukhoor, and botox – a city where tradition meets tech-infused beauty. Everything here is laced with luxury and gilded with gold. 

Having lived in Dubai for three years, it is hard not to be captivated by the contrast of culture and constant innovations. I have been on a leisure treasure hunt, unravelling the hidden gems – from trusty traditions, old favourite beauty haunts, and newly sprung ‘IT’ spots to noteworthy homegrown beauty brands. As my exploration continues, here’s a little of what I have discovered.

LOCAL INGREDIENTS TO KNOW IN THE MIDDLE EAST 

While Oud is widely known and loved, there are many lesser-known local ingredients typical to the Middle East that are mainstays in the beauty rituals of the locals. 

  • Oud

Oud is the distinctive and mesmerising scent that most people associate with the Emirates. It is a fragrant oil derived from resinous heartwood, also known as agarwood, and is worn traditionally by both Emirati men and women. While Western fragrance houses are recreating the woody scent of oud, local perfumers use pure oud oil to formulate their creations. 

  • Sidr

Sidr has a prominent place in Middle Eastern beauty rituals. Back in the day, the leaves of the Sidr tree, known as Samar, were dried and ground to create a shampoo-like substance for washing hair. Sidr honey – made from bees who exclusively feed on the nectar of the Sidr tree – is one of the finest honey in the world. It has antibacterial and antioxidant properties that make it beneficial in skincare. It helps to treat skin problems and alleviates skin infection, sun damage, acne, and signs of ageing. It is one of the most expensive honeys in Dubai. 

  • Bukhoor

You know the fragrant fumes that waft in the Dubai air? Its Bukhoor. Buhkoor, or fumes in Arabic, are scented wood chips soaked in perfume oil. It releases a warm and intense aroma when burnt. Incense, oud, and musks provide additional depth to the blend. Some perfumers are bottling this classic scent to create perfumes that have the essence of Dubai. You can pick up your block of bukhoor at Deira’s Spice Souk or one of the many kiosks in The Souk at The Dubai Mall.

  • Frankincense

Frankincense is a resin sourced from the trunk of the Boswellia tree, and some of the finest frankincense resin in the world comes from the Dhofar region of Oman. It is the essence of Oman and is deeply woven into the traditional culture. Its oil is used in aromatherapy for its health benefits, like relieving chronic stress and anxiety, reducing pain and inflammation, and boosting immunity. It is also commonly used as a fragrance in soaps and lotions. You can get a bottle of Organic Frankincense Essential Oil from Aroma Tierra or head to Luban Spa, which features precious Omani frankincense rituals from hammam to massages for the body and mind. 

  • Desert Sand

A Middle Eastern ritual for deep exfoliation comprises a body scrub made with desert sand and other therapeutic ingredients. The Awaken Spa at The Atlantis Royal offers a Desert Sand and Dare Sugar Infusion. It involves a handcrafted oud-infused exfoliator with Dubai desert sand and sweet date sugar to reveal ultra-smooth skin. This is followed by a Khaliji pink clay wrap that infuses and hydrates your skin with vital minerals while the date shea butter leaves you fully moisturised.

Atlantis The Royal, Palm Jumeirah – Crescent Rd

  • Dates

If you thought dates were for eating only, think again. The pride of the Middle East, dates can also soothe and nourish your skin. In skincare, it is mainly used in the form of extracts or oil that is extracted from the desert date palm. It is rich in vitamins and is a powerful antioxidant that can prevent skin ageing and improve elasticity.

  • Camel milk

Camel milk is an Arabian secret that is not widely known. It is rich in Vitamin C, elastane, and lactic acid and is known to help with skin elasticity and suppleness. You can use it in the form of shower gels, soaps, or body creams. The Camel Soap Factory is a local beauty brand that features organic handmade soaps crafted using camel milk. The products are blended with Middle Eastern ingredients like Sidr and argan oil and are enriched with Arabic fragrances of aromatic woods and oud for an alluring aroma. 

THE BEST SPAS FOR AN ULTIMATE ARABIAN EXPERIENCE 

From earthy sand scrubs to decadent gold facials, here’s where you can get the ultimate Arabian experience. 

  • Talise Spa, Burj Al Arab

A mainstay at all Jumeirah properties, Talise Spa is the ultimate destination to luxuriate and rejuvenate. Head to the one at the iconic Burj Al Arab for luxurious body treatments, revitalising massages, and nourishing facials. Perched on the top floor of the hotel, it offers sweeping views of the city and the sea – R&R meets Instagrammable views.

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Jumeirah St, Umm Suqeim 3

  1. Talise Ottoman Spa, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray
    There is nothing more Dubai than a luxe gold facial. Head to the Talise Ottoman Spa at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray for the gold facial, one of the most expensive and indulgent treatments. It begins with a cleaner and exfoliation. The gold chain mask is applied using an electric current followed by an Arabian gold hammam and rose oil jacuzzi. This is accompanied by a champagne and caviar lunch. Talk about extra. 

Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, The Palm Jumeirah

  • Anantara Spa

There is no shortage of luxury spas in Dubai, but if you’re looking for an authentic Turkish bath house or hammam experience, there is no better place than the Anantara Spa. The traditional 60-minute ritual features steam and exfoliation followed by a foam massage using the finest handmade olive oil soap. 

Anantara The Palm Dubai, East Crescent, Palm

  • The Spa at Palazzo Versace Hotel

If you want to experience authentic Arabic beauty rituals, the Palazzo Versace Hotel offers an unmatched experience. You can opt for the Tekmida ritual – an ancient Moroccan ritual that delivers relaxation, or choose the Amber Essence Massage that draws on ancient Moroccan secrets with the heat of the Paillettes d’Ambre candle.

Palazzo Versace Dubai, Al Jaddaf

  • Satori Spa, Bab Al Shams 

Bal Al Shams is an oasis in the middle of the desert’s peace and tranquillity – the ultimate Middle Eastern experience. The signature Blissful Desert Rose Experience is one of their signature treatments. Spanning three hours, it involves an invigorating exfoliation with finely ground olive pits blended with rosewater, a desert rose oil massage, a Dead Sea scrub, and a facial mask with natural black mud, aloe vera, olive oil, and honey.

Bab Al Shams Resort, Al Qudra Road 

  • Cleopatra’s Spa

Hijama is Arabic for wet cupping – a well-known wellness ritual. It is from the ancient Greco-Arabic system of medicine and is a traditional Islamic practice. The treatment naturally detoxifies by improving blood circulation, clears lymphatic blockages, and boosts metabolism. If you want to experience this, head to Cleopatra’s Spa in Oud Metha. 

Cleopatra’s Spa, WAFI, Oud Metha

THE BEST BEAUTY AND WELLNESS CLINICS 

There’s no dearth of cutting-edge treatments in Dubai given the city’s focus on all things beauty and wellness. Below are a few old go-to’s and new favourites to hit in the city. 

  • Brau

This is where the ‘IT’ crowd is flocking to get their eyebrows perfected. Offering world-class innovation, you can get anything from microblading, brow lamination, lash lift, and semi-permanent makeup for your face. It helps that the interiors have an element of zen integrating nature into design.

Brau, Al Wasl Rd, Umm Suqeim 2

  1. Resync 

If you are a sucker for red light therapy or a system-shocking cryo session, Resync is the spot. With a host of facials, including everyone’s favourite – lymphatic facial – this is where beauty meets wellness for a holistic experience. 

Resync, Central Park Towers, DIFC

  • Skin Laundry

The LA-born clinic has a home in Dubai – their revolutionary facials are worth a try. Not your average facial, you can get their signature laser facial for a deep cleanse or opt for the Hydrafacial for instant radiance. 

Skin Laundry, The Residences at Marina Gate, Dubai Marina

  • Ivory Aesthetics Clinic

A favourite among the residents, this is a one-stop destination for all your skin needs. Their treatments include retinol microneedling, great radio frequency facial, salicylic peel facial, and a Vitamin skin booster, among others. Aren’t you tempted?

Ivory Aesthetics Clinic, Al Wasl Road, Street 23B, Villa No. 49 

LOCAL BRANDS TO KNOW & SHOP 

Dubai is home to many-a-beauty brands like Huda Beauty, Hindash, and Kayali. But since you can shop these on Nykaa, why not unearth local fragrances exclusive to the Middle East? There are several brands capturing traditional notes with nuance to create thoroughly modern perfumes with unmistakable roots. 

  • Arcadia

The UAE-born perfumery creates unisex fragrances with the most luxurious ingredients. The brand’s third and most recent collection of three scents – The Tribute Edition – is dedicated to the UAE. Try Sincere – a mingling of delicate musk, guaiac wood, cedar, and frankincense.

@arcadiabyamna
  • Hind Al Oud 

The Emirati perfume brand blends tradition with culturally inspired ingredients to bottle captivating scents. From perfumes to ouds, the fragrances have traditional Arabian notes of date, spices, ambergris, and agarwood for a whiff of the Middle East.


@hindaloud
  • Whind

The House of Whind manifests the richness and warmth of Morocco. The fragrances are rooted in Arab heritage and explore the country’s wealth of sensorial ingredients, cultural heritage, and beauty rituals. Their new line of six perfumes includes Rose Saffron – a spiced rose fragrance with notes of Kashmiri saffron, incense, oud, and vanilla. 

@whind
  • Amouage

An Omani perfume house, Amouage is redefining the Arabian art of perfumery with modernity. In their perfumes, you’ll find notes of the Amouage signature triad of frankincense, rose, and ambergris infused with saffron, sandalwood, and vanilla. Try Guidance – a creation of famed perfumer Quentin Bisch, who is also the nose behind Paco Rabanne’s alluring XS.

@amouageofficia

AUTHOR BIO 

Author

  • Namrata Kedar

    Namrata Kedar, a Fashion and Beauty Editor and Creative Consultant contributes her expertise to renowned publications like Vogue India, GQ India, and Elle India. Formerly associated with Grazia India, she divides her time between two vibrant cities - Dubai and Mumbai. When not immersed in her work, you'll find her savouring coffee in city cafes, engrossed in Kindle books, and curating captivating fashion and beauty content on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/namrata_k/

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