Modern beauty skin deep

More simplicity and less exotica seem to have renewed its life cycle.

Published: 24th March 2019 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th March 2019 09:48 PM   |  A+A-

It is said Cleopatra owed her beauty to a potion of donkey’s milk, honey, Dead Sea salt and almond oil. (Illustration by Sudeepti Tucker)

Express News Service

Like any other generation, millennials are into makeup and skincare. The only difference is that millennials extend their life’s skintellectual philosophy into cosmetic looks as well. Their conscience-based, awareness-driven lifestyle reflects in their beauty choices. More simplicity and less exotica seem to have renewed its life cycle. Back in 69 BC, it was said Cleopatra owed her beauty to a potion of donkey’s milk, honey, Dead Sea salt and almond oil.

Unlike in contemporary cities—especially in India and the developing world, where a skincare expert recommends oxygenating masks, bionic oxygen facials and facial flash oxygen masks—she was at an advantage, with the world’s cup brimming over with pure air, clear water, virgin soil and verdant forests that threw up enough oxygen.

Today, with depleting sustainable reserves, the skincare industry is combating modern-day perils such as pollution, extreme weather, and overexposure to synthetic and packaged substances. Yeast-based products are on the shelves to restore balance in the skin’s immune system and power up the natural defence systems. Users are becoming conscious of the need to safeguard the good bacteria in skin to boost immunity. 

If the human microbiome is the counterpart of the human genome, the former’s genes outnumber our genome genes by 100 to 1. Expect skin products loaded with customised probiotics to become more popular. Millennials are forcing the $274 billion cosmetics industry to take a reality check.  

Beyond Looking Beautiful  

The idea of beauty in the 21st century has gone beyond just makeup and skincare to address race, ethnicity and cultural inclusivity. As womanist Audre Lorde famously said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence alone. It is also self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” Cosmetically acquired fair skin is politically incorrect, and the under-representation of women of dark skin colour on magazine covers, ad campaigns and even in product formulations has sparked off a larger debate surrounding a comprehensive approach towards beauty.

Brands such as Nykaa have caught on and have introduced products complementing darker skin tones with Risky Romance Eyeshadow and Contour & Conquer—a contour and highlight combination—besides earthy and neutral nude lip colours. The brand has an entire line of red lip hues specially formulated for brown and olive skin. First introduced by international brands such as Black Opal and MAC widening the thus far limited approach towards brands regarding what stands as beautiful, Indian brands, traditionally insensitive to personal care, have followed suit. Take Shahnaz Husain for instance that has worked out a line of liquid foundations and lipsticks for warmer skin tones. Bollywood icons such as Shah Rukh Khan, John Abraham, Shahid Kapoor and Deepika Padukone have been lambasted for endorsing fairness brands as supporting racism.

Tanishq was the first one to adopt alternate advertisement practices by showcasing relatable women in its jewellery ads: an example is an advert showing a dark-skinned mother with a young child, getting ready for her second wedding. Strikingly sultry and dusky model Archana Akil Kumar has been signed up by upmarket beauty care company Forest Essentials. These minorities are breaking out of the one-size-fits-all theory, demanding attention towards their specific needs. Dark complexions have higher levels of melanin and radiation-defying hyperpigmentation, which has made cosmetic companies sit up and take notice in their labs.

French skincare brand Nuhanciam, whose products have been specifically developed for medium to darker skin tones, will be launching in the UK soon. Lush is pioneering the “naked” movement for zero packaging by selling products in their solid form, from shampoo to makeup. In January, its first packaging-free cosmetic shop in the UK was opened. Hashtags are trending on conscience beauty—#PassOnPlastic campaign and #waterlessbeauty are meant to direct consumer consciousness towards their needs.

Water is the cosmetic industry’s most-used ingredient, and is also a global concern. L’Oréal India will reduce water consumption per finished product by 60 percent by 2020 and Hindustan Unilever’s initiatives have cut water usage by 55 percent. A slew of ‘dry’ products like powdered cleansers, dry sheet masks and 100 percent water-free beauty launches are on the horizon this year.
The industry is becoming dynamic, experimental and liberal with its advancements. From purely app-based products to ingestibles, the scope is vaster than it was a decade ago. Some of the pretty pills also promise to stave off ageing. 

Microbiomes, the total body of the genes of all the microbes in the body, are the new weapon to fight pollution. Anti-pollution skincare is picking up traction as pollution increases skin sensitivity, causes premature aging due to less oxygen that restricts the skin’s ability to repair itself. Treating acne, black spots, pigmentation, inflammation and a plethora of other skin conditions are easier than before with the use of adaptogens—herbs that help the body manage hormones and stress.

“Skin is the largest and most exposed part of the body. Anything that happens to it directly impacts the immune system and because its main function is protection from microorganisms, ultraviolet rays and other such antibodies, it becomes imperative that we understand skin’s needs,” says Dr DM Mahajan, Senior Consultant, Dermatology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals Delhi, who feels ingestible beauty is a modern-day quick fix.

“Taking these pills is time-saving and hassle-free. Results are seen in just a few weeks,” he says, recommending Omega 3 as one of the best dietary fats for skin cell health, Vitamin E for hair health that’s promoted by its natural antioxidants, and Vitamin C for prevention against ultraviolet photodamage. Glisodin with lycopene are for anti-ageing, resveratrol for fighting skin infections, Omega 6-9s Complex for scars, and Vitamin K2 to treat wrinkles. Millennials like fresh: the new skincare shopper will use Mastercard for fresh-off-the-lab products in airtight packaging, mostly the ampoules that the Koreans swear by.  

Natural shots are preferred by beauty shoppers who party too much: try turmeric shot the first thing in the morning, but be mindful of using Kasturi turmeric. Add a bit of lemon for absorption. The lazy skin tequila downers could try apple cider vinegar that is both alkaline- and probiotic-rich. Coconut water, ginger, honey and turmeric shot too work well to stave off hangovers. Get gorgeous while you sleep is a cosmetics mantra—Innisfree’s sleeping packs/masks are designed to work on your skin’s nocturnal repair process through the night.

They come with a high concentration of hydrating ingredients, vitamins, antioxidants and hyaluronic acid, which work on the principle of slower absorption. On the one hand, gender agnostic beauty ideals are going mainstream with products from Panacea, SkinCeuticals, and Allies of Skin moving off the shelves. Their neutrality is not just about content but also carefully curated packaging and marketing. Global innovations such as light therapy masks and micro-needling have become popular in India. Neutrogena is taking a huge leap with the MaskiD app that gives a 3D customisable mask after taking measurements of your face. Clinique’s Custom Hydration Blend personalises the user’s hydration base by calculating skin type and amalgamating it with any one of their five available active cartridges.

Culture cosmetics are a dominant beauty trend with the East in the lead. K-beauty (an umbrella term for skincare products from South Korea) exports have grown from $1 billion in 2012 to $2.64 billion in 2017, according to the Korea Customs Service. Their famous face masks made of cotton pads that absorb active skin-rejuvenating potions have now competition from Japanese skincare routine that supermodel Kate Moss swears by. J-beauty is back in the game after decades on the tatami. Convenience is unparalleled: its double-cleansing methods need repetition just two times in a year. The anti-ageing pearl treatment replete with wondrous minerals like zinc plus calcium and magnesium is catching on, too. Holistic harmony is a popular trend, inspired by K-beauty. Hybrid products that tone and hydrate in a single product use ingredients such as green tea and Vitamin E. 

The global skincare market is predicted to touch approximately $180 billion by 2024 and the Indian cosmetics industry to $20 billion by 2025. Of this, the facial care segment is growing exponentially. According to Euromonitor International’s 2018 report, facial care will continue to hold precedence with the gamut of skincare options launching today. Scientists rummaging through India’s ancient repository of exotic reserves to get to the root of the matter is not new, but they are concocting organic, natural and ethically sourced ingredients millennial-style. Researchers are exploring Himalayas’ heights and even going subterranean, scouting for rare minerals that will reverse the effects of urban skin damage. Luxury ethical beauty brands such as Purearth believe beauty is not just about goo on the face, but body deep with social responsibility as the base.

“Every ingredient eventually gets absorbed into your bloodstream. And given the high amount of chemicals and artificial preservatives put into creams, mists, packs, cleansers and toners, incidents of carcinogenic build-up in the body are on the rise,” says Kavita Khosa, the owner of the brand. She has built a model of conscious living, instead of just a beauty brand that is socially responsible. All Purearth ingredients are sourced by micro-credit and women self-help groups, thereby helping small businesses to flourish.

Sea buckthorn berries sourced from the responsibly harvested glacier-fed Himalayan valleys and villages are used by the company to manufacture the Wild Seaberry Supercritical Oil. Wild Rose and Seabuck Face Cream is made from the exotic Himalayan Rosa Damascena. “We should revert to indigenous systems, which hold the answers to our current skin abnormalities such as acne, eczema, tumours, reproductive dysfunction or others,” Kavita says. 
Indian kitchens are the first place to find quick beauty fixes. Homegrown entrepreneurs are leveraging its goodies like saffron to remove sun tan, amla to reduce hair fall, applying turmeric to reduce pigmentation and honey on skin to cure dryness and lemon juice to remove stretch marks.

These are a part of our botanical, herbal and natural holistic healing systems for centuries, which is being capitalised by desi cosmetic revolutionaries now. Assocham and MRSS India’s research states the herbal cosmetic industry growing at a rate of 12 percent annually in India. Globally, the numbers for the herbal beauty industry are staggering. According to Coherent Market Insights, the global herbal beauty products market could reach $136 billion by 2025. Kama Ayurveda product Bringadi Intensive Hair Treatment oil is an ayurvedic spin-off that taps into the natural power of bhringraj whose hair regrowth properties are well-documented, the blood circulation benefits of amla, sesame’s strengthening qualities. Similarly, Biotique’s Bio Cucumber blends mint’s anti-blemish properties with daruhaldi’s anti-inflammatory qualities and cucumber’s cure for dermatitis condition. 

SoulTree is a newer brand that uses rare plants such as calendula, hibiscus, viola, nutgrass, mountain rosemary, licorice, neroli, vetiver and such like in its products. Shruti Sinha (named changed) visited cosmetologist Dr Bharti Magoo with a pigmentation condition and dark circles under her eyes. Little did she know that she had developed PCOD as a result of injudicious cosmetic use that, supplemented with other issues, had resulted in this condition.

“The chemicals had sneaked into her bloodstream surreptitiously and she, like many other patients who come to me, are oblivious to this damaging effects of cosmetic ingredients that are mostly written in fine print,” says Magoo. A survey conducted by EWG and a few public interests and environmental health organisations reveals that the average adult used nine personal care products every day, with 126 chemical ingredients. Given the over-consumption and the resultant dependence on synthetic products, Rahul Agarwal, CEO of Organic Harvest, didn’t exactly receive a warm welcome when he launched his brand as one of the pioneers of organic skincare in 2013. “There wasn’t enough awareness back then so people continued to use what was being marketed popularity. As risky as it was when we launched the brand, I thought a new alternative way of looking at beauty would revolutionise the beauty sector,” he says. From then to now, the organic cosmetics movement has grown rapidly. 

Labs and the footprint
Kavita is a small batch laboratory producer. All her products have passed the most stringent safety standards of GMP (good manufacturing practices). She has situated her labs far from industrial areas. Khosa and her team of R&D chemists and ayurvedic doctors explore which actives are to be generically concocted. The natural preservative systems are then worked out, along with making notes on oxidation, chelation and other processes. Vishal Bhandari’s SoulTree is India’s first brand to acquire the seal of approval from BDIH Germany (an international authority on paraben-free skincare and cosmetics). Vishal started his lab in a shed.  

Rajni Ohri of Ohria Ayurveda would set off to Rishikesh every year to spend time with her acharya, the late Pandit Durga Das. She was in the fifth grade when she met him. “I was born to play with natural things… neem, tulsi, herb plants, learning the medicinal value of all these at an early age. I made my own cream when I was 12 by using Galen’s formula. I mixed pure bee wax, oils and borax in my imaginary lab and started selling it to friends and family as my own natural special invention,” says Rajni. In her professional lab today, she still keeps a jar of it. “It’s the best cure for even the most stubborn form of dryness,” she says. 

Ohria products are prepared using the psycho-physiological principles of doshas in Ayurveda. So, for instance, in the case of the pita dosha that is prone to pigmentation, herbs that are cooling in nature such as sandalwood, Multani mitti, honey etc are used to formulate a potion addressing the issue. “Even when I was young, I knew the use of conscious ingredients would come back as a major beauty boast, and just look at the way people are turning back to what the earth has given us since the beginning of time,” she says. Overseas too, Indian healing is big. The ‘Rituals of Banyu’ collection by the eponymous producer is inspired by the ancient Balinese water ceremony, which hails water’s healing properties and exhorts customers to “wash away the physical and spiritual dust of everyday life”. Mauli Rituals’ handcrafted formulas are inspired by Ayurvedic practices. 

A Wider Spectrum

The breakthrough that has led formaldehyde, parabens, triclosan and hydroquinone giving way to tea tree oil, Shea butter, oat kernel extract and the likes, has opened the field to further innovations. Just Herbs also has bespoke products. Ecocert-certified organic ingredients calibrate natural ingredients such as honey, milk and lemon in proportion to skin needs. 

India’s first all-natural marketplace called Vanity Wagon exploits the large gap between beauty markets, the organic product market and Ayurvedic stores. “We have collectively taken a stand against toxins in personal care, and have shifted towards clean beauty products given the increasing demand,” says Prateek Ruhail, CEO and co-founder.

Many of the brands are little known or even completely unknown. However, he expects each one of them to create a niche quickly. “There is a 52 per cent growth in the organic beauty market. It is close to 60 per cent for skincare alone where most of the growth is concentrated. There will be sudden boom and before you know, all these unknown products will become top sellers, just it happened with the rapid success of the organic market,” he says. With millennials being more curious and particular about what they want in their bodies, consumers can tell the difference between different vitamins and the consequence of certain chemicals.

The skincare story today is a work in progress. The difference is that its evolution is driven by the principles of inclusivity, responsibility, sustainability, convenience and transparency.

Top Cosmetic Trends

Ingestible beauty
A quick fix with benefits to cure imbalances that arise due to increased oxidative stress due to modern lifestyle. Omega 3, Vitamin E, Glisodin with lycopene, Resveratrol, and Vitamin K2 are some of them. 

Sleep masks
You can mask a beauty sleep with these packs designed to work on your skin’s nocturnal repair process

Technology for beauty
Apps that will give you a 3D customisable mask after taking measurements of your face

Custom built
Products wherein you choose your hydration base according to your skin type and amalgamate it with ingredients available to make a personalised blend

Double-cleansing
In this, you repeat the process of cleansing two times if not more 

Health shots
Kasturi turmeric shot first thing in the morning or bottoms up with apple cider vinegar; these work wonders in an instant 

Pearl treatment
It’s replete in a number of wondrous minerals, in addition to zinc, calcium and magnesium that is 
catching on now 

Preventative injections
Much before something flares up, these injectables are for slight wrinkles and small crinkles 

4D Mapping
This is to virtually help you take a decision around procedures before going all out. You can see through visuals of what you’ll look like after it’s all done. 

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