In the realm of beauty care in Morocco, Ilham Foukalla is the queen of clean beauty. As the co-founder of Esthécare, the sanctuary for beauty enthusiasts in the kingdom, she shares her intense and non-stop journey, offering a life lesson in the process.

Shoelifer introduces you to Ilham Foukalla, a pioneer  in Moroccan aesthetics with a forward-thinking vision,  co-founder of Esthécare, and founder/CEO of Interbeauty, a company specializing in the distribution of niche cosmetics and perfumes (33 brands in total).

December 20th will mark fifteen years since this resilient 49-year-old (who easily looks ten years younger) embarked on the adventure of beauty care in Morocco. Her meteoric journey is largely attributed to her visionary and competitive spirit, along with her immense work ethic. Her family upbringing, emphasizing integrity, loyalty, and perseverance, also played a crucial role.

Beauticians in Morocco

Mother-Daughter Bonds

Ilham Foukala was exposed to cosmetics and beauty care from a young age. Her mother, Najat Lecheheb, a trained cosmetologist, ran a cutting-edge beauty salon  in Casablanca from the 1970s until the 1980s, named Artemis. “It was a renowned spot  in the field of aesthetics in Morocco, representing exclusive and high-quality brands, including Dr Renaud, an expert in plant-based cosmetics,” Ilham shares during a drive between Rabat and Casablanca.

Ilham and her mother share almost everything, from a passion for beauty and cosmetics to a love for sports. “My mother is very athletic; she was a marathon runner who also played golf and tennis. As for me, I developed a passion for swimming during my childhood, eventually becoming the African champion in the 400 meters freestyle in 1991. I earned a sports studies master’s degree at the Moulay Rachid Institute in Rabat in 1994,”  Ilham Foukala points out.

She got married at 19, became a mother to a daughter, Nouhaila, and divorced at 24. Once again, her mother stood by her side. “We went through this trial together. And one day I said to her, ‘Well, Mom, what do we do now? Do we settle for doing sports, traveling, and eating well, or do we create something bigger?’ Personally, I wanted my daughter to be proud of me, just as I am proud of my mother,” shares Ilham.


Clean Beauty Trailblazer

Ilham dreams of a project that reflects her and her mother, aligning with their values. “I knew immediately  that we had to venture into  well-being and beauty care in Morocco. We had already gained a solid capital of experiences and expertise. I knew that we had ultra-refined tastes and criteria, which were exactly what was missing in Morocco at that time.” Then everything fell into place.

Ilham first found a location nestled in the upscale neighborhood of Hay Ryad in Rabat. “I then spent a year attending training in all areas of cosmetics and beauty care: microblading, eyelash extensions, hairstyling, coloring… I went to the United States, Switzerland, France, and England for this. At the same time, I drew inspiration from the most luxurious wellness centers  on the planet, such as La Réserve and the Clinique La Prairie,” says Ilham, steering her car.

She also recruited a staff of twenty people in Morocco and several employees in the Philippines, Thailand, and France, whose work is  “very meticulous.” In 2009, she inaugurated the Chi Nail Bar. “In fact, I was the first to introduce the concept of clean beauty to Morocco. This means working with specialized, clean, ethical, and exclusive brands in the kingdom. Beyond performance, the human values of sincerity and benevolence, for both my clientele and my staff, are crucial. I try to ensure that everyone around me feels safe when they walk through the doors of our establishments,” emphasizes Ilham. The Chi Nail Bar immediately found its customer base because of, according to Ilham, “my first clients still being loyal to me,” which really says a lot about her.

From Adventure to Empire

Ilham Foukala’s adventure in Moroccan beauty care doesn’t stop there. In 2012, the Chi Nail Bar also became a 100% organic spa, certified by Biologique Recherche (a French brand of personalized skincare and cosmetics). What was a family business transformed into a small empire. In 2013, Ilham Foukala founded the distribution company Interbeauty. A total of 33 brands of cosmetics, aesthetics, and perfumes (Aveda, Augustinus Bader, Environ, Meme, Amouage…) distributed in 50 spas and institutes, 10 luxury hotels, 20 perfumeries, and 3 aesthetic clinics in Morocco.

The same year, she opened a Jovoy Boutique franchise dedicated to rare and niche perfumes in Rabat. Then, in 2015, she opened two franchised Avery Perfume Gallery stores, one in Rabat and another at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Casablanca. While these establishments have since  closed, they allowed her to enter the distribution scene and stay ahead of the Moroccan market. “Every five years, I try to adapt my different concepts according to demand and new global trends,” explains Ilham Foukala. In 2020, the Chi Nail Bar in Rabat became Esthécare, a brand still certified  by Biologique Recherche.


For all the it-girls and fashionistas in Morocco, Esthécare is considered the temple of clean beauty. In an elegant setting, Esthécare provides personalized care, high-end services, and exclusive products. All with a clinical and high-tech approach to skincare, body, and hair treatments. In short, “la crème de la crème” of aesthetics in Morocco.

Two years later, she opened another Esthécare expert center in the heart of Casablanca, spanning 650 square meters.

Family Succession

In parallel, Ilham Foukala launched Atelier 9 in Rabat dedicated to nails and hair in 2020, and Atelier 9 Boutique & Spa in Souissi in 2021.

This year, she also opened The Club by Esthécare, focusing on sports and fitness. Now, the queen of beuaty care in Morocco heads seven companies and generates an annual turnover of 30 to 40 million DH. She also employs 200 people, compared to 20 people in 2009.

Where will she stop? “I still have ambition and I always will, but I don’t know where it will take me. I have always told myself that I am not allowed to fail. And even if I have, I have always overcome my failures  and turned them into success,” says Ilham Foukala, whose gentleness and shyness contrast with her strong character. Her medium-term dream? “That my daughter Nouhaila, who manages Esthécare’s image and handles all the communication-marketing part of my activities, can flourish in this universe and take over. You know, since the pandemic, wellness is no longer a frivolous luxury; it’s a necessity!” asserts the businesswoman. Amen!

Picture (c) Ilham Foukalla

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