The Israeli cosmetics industry saw a 7.3 percent boost in exports in 2005, helped by an increase in sales of skin-care products - a trend that was expected to continue in 2006, the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute said Sunday Export sales by the cosmetics industry rose to $204 million in 2005 and were seen growing an additional 22% in 2006 to a total of $250m., according to Yechiel Assia, director-general of the Israel Export Institute. The majority of cosmetic products in 2005 went to Europe and the Far East and to a small extent to the US and Russia. "The majority of our sales come from exports to western Europe and the US. But over the past two or three years we have started exports to Korea and Hong Kong," Yakov Ellis, CEO of AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd. told The Jerusalem Post. In 2006, the Israel Export Institute will put up pressure to expand the reach of cosmetics exports to the US and Russia, said Lior Levi, chairman of the Cosmetics and Toiletry Association of the Israel Export Institute. The Institute, he said, would take part in the four leading cosmetics fairs and become a member of Colipa, the European Cosmetics Toiletry and Perfumery Association, which represents more than 2,000 companies. This year, Levi added, the number of Israeli cosmetics exporters was expected to increase to 90 from the current 70. The global cosmetics market is estimated at $33 billion with an average annual growth rate of 9%. In the US, industry comprises a volume of $8b. compared with $2b. in Europe. In the first nine months of 2005, 6,200 new hair products were launched, of which 1,530 were hair style products, 1,990 hair treatment products and 2,680 hair shampoo products. Israeli companies have, in the past, enjoyed an advantage over the global cosmetics and toiletry industry with direct access to the Dead Sea and its natural minerals and vital ingredients granting them a competitive edge as many major product lines include Dead Sea salts, mud and minerals. "The Israeli cosmetics industry is relatively small. Our competitive advantage is being overridden by cheaper production costs in India and other countries. Therefore we need to focus on modern and branded cosmetic products and invest in Research & Development of nano-based cosmetics," Ellis noted.