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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Looking Behind The Mirror

Independent Media
I haven't seen eyes as hungry and excited as those of Russian women looking at cosmetics in any other country in a long time," Fred Langhammer, president and CEO of the Estee Lauder Group, told Expert magazine five years ago.

He was right -- the desire of Russian women for beauty products has driven the remarkable growth of the cosmetics and perfume industry in recent years. Sales of Kalina products, one of the sector's leading companies in the midpriced market segment, have grown 50 percent since 2002, according to information published on the company's web site. A report from market research firm RNCOS indicates that the market as a whole will grow at a rate of about 13.6 percent from 2008 to 2012.

Experts say Russian women start fighting their wrinkles 5 to 10 years before it is necessary and that the domestic audience for anti-aging products is getting younger every year. Women want to preserve their beauty, and they consider preventive measures more effective than urgent ones.

Unlike Europeans, who are mostly conservative in their choices and often loyal to a particular brand, Russian customers are willing to try the latest thing, according to recent research. This tendency has an effect on both the market and the marketing. While the introduction of too many new products decreases sales and negatively affects market stability in the West, they do just the opposite in Russia.

"Our urban women read a lot about the subject and can tell you what the free radicals and anti-oxidants are," says Anna Dycheva-Smirnova, deputy head of cosmetic marketing group Staraya Krepost.

While an average European customer is interested mainly in the declared function of a particular cosmetic, she said, Russians are concerned with the ingredients. Most Russian consumers are very savvy and are aware of the optimal proportion of different components in lotions and powders, said Tatyana Nikonova, a consultant at the Douglas Rivoly retail store. She says a young girl recently told her she did not like a lotion by a famous manufacturer because propylene glycol was listed at the very beginning of the ingredient list.

"She told me that when there is more than 10 percent of it in the lotion, it moisturizes the skin very fast, but then it becomes even drier than before," Nikonova said.

Vladimir Filonov / MT
Russian women have contributed to the growth in the cosmetics industry and are now turning their attention to local brands.
There is no consensus among customers and professionals on the quality of Russian cosmetics. Some criticize domestic brands for poor designs or fragrances, others say it is not possible to use them at all while still others praise them for their more natural ingredients and formulations that are a better fit for Russian skin types and the country's harsh climate.

Surveys show that many women consider local brands to be more satisfying for their skin. Preferences, particularly in the mass and middle market segments, have shifted to domestic brands over the past few years. Today, 47 percent of the cosmetics sold on the Russian market are domestically produced, according to Euromonitor.

Larissa Deli, who emigrated from Russia to Canada five years ago, always asks her friends traveling to Moscow to bring her back some particular cosmetics that can only be found locally.

"I found that my skin just can not adapt itself to western lotions, but it just flourishes with my favorite Belorussian and Yekaterinburg brands," she said.

Andrei Makhov, the general Director of Salon Cosmetics, one of the few professional lines produced in Russia, is skeptical about domestic raw materials.

"I am patriotic, but I am sorry to say that Russian suppliers cannot guarantee quality and stability, because they have no modern technology," he said.

There are just a handful of companies in Russia producing professional cosmetics since this kind of production requires a solid base of scientific knowledge, specially equipped laboratories and a huge variety of items, Makhov said. "We work on Italian equipment with raw materials purchased from the world's leading supply companies," he said.

Natalya Samsonenko, a spokeswoman for Kalina, said that the quality of domestic products is improving. She says Kalina, as well as some other leading companies, have implemented international systems of quality control on their manufacture, including ISO standards.

"ISO demands the highest standards of quality and effectiveness in the raw materials," she said.

While Russia still has plenty of potential for global and local cosmetics manufacturers, experts say the future of the Russian cosmetics market lies in niche marketing, as the mass market has almost reached the point of saturation. The sales volume in the elite segment of the cosmetics market, which is made up exclusively of Western brands, remains twice as high as that of mid-range products and products aimed at men has become one of the industry's fastest-growing segments.