Friday, 2 December, 2022
HomeOpinionPoVAcid is the new skincare routine. Forget Ponds, Lakmé

Acid is the new skincare routine. Forget Ponds, Lakmé

From ‘The Ordinary’ to ‘Minimalist’, Science-backed, organic and green products are now reigning supreme on Nykaa.

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Remember when the basic, no-fuss Patanjali Neem facewash in your bathroom cabinet was enough to feel clean after a long day outside? Or when a No Marks tube was enough for your acne troubles? And yes, something along the lines of Fair & Lovely or a Lakmé BB cream was perhaps also stashed in your dresser?  Not too long ago, Patanjali, Colgate, Pears and Ponds dominated middle-class households. One television advertisement with a glowing, white-washed woman was all the information beauty enthusiasts needed to get started with their favourite products.

But lately, who even gets their skincare products at a general store anymore?

From Hyram to James Welsh and Cassandra Bankson, Instagram and YouTube skincare gurus have transformed not just our bathroom shelves, but also how we approach beauty. It is no longer based on blind trust in celebrities. It has become a science, and information reigns supreme. Of course, it can burn a hole or two in your pockets, but what goes on one’s skin is, after all, sacred right?

A basic beauty shopping list now begins with a seaweed face wash, then goes on to include a Vitamin C serum, a crystal toner, a rosehip oil because who doesn’t want one? Most importantly, a Retinol night cream and of course, everyone’s favourite — the sunscreen. Even better if it has Zinc Oxide or a mix of new-age chemical filters like Tinosorb S. And boy, from Re’equil to Sunscoop, there are so many sunscreens in the market that we’ll never know if we’re even using the right one.

There’s too much information, too many noisy labels and way, way too many brands—some good, some greenwashed and some mere marketing gimmicks.

“I personally love using DermaCo products, especially their Kojic acid face serum and Salicylic acid face wash. Skincare is now very easy because brands have become more and more transparent with what they use. It’s easy to find information online about what your skin type needs, especially with so many influencers who are also dermatologists,” says 25-year-old lawyer Tanya Hasija, who is also a regular in the skincare world.

Also read: Why human skin did better with sun before sunscreens

Loud ‘science-y’ labels

The Ordinary, a Canadian favourite which has just launched in India, is marking its territory in the Indian skincare space owing to its science-backed formulas.

“We set out on a mission to bring transparency to the beauty industry and, in doing so, noticed an increase in audiences educating themselves on their skin type, concerns and how to use certain ingredients,” said Nicola Kilner, CEO and co-founder of the brand’s parent company DECIEM.

For a growing bunch of consumers who are heavily involved in the skincare game and its labels, The Ordinary—with its minimal, no-nonsense packaging that cuts to the chase by revealing ingredients and percentages—is proving to be quite a treat.  And many Indian brands are now beginning to follow in their footsteps.

“I used MamaEarth products primarily, but lately I’ve been shifting to using Minimalist. I believe it tells me exactly what I’m applying to my skin and is a decently affordable option in India as well,” says Priyanka Prasanth, a 24-year-old beauty enthusiast.

But the Minimalist is not the only brand of choice in Indian markets. Aqualogica, Chemist at Play, and Conscious Chemist are some other players who, with their name itself, announce their intention to give consumers well-researched formulas.

Also read: Not all Indians need sunscreen. There aren’t even enough studies on its effect on our skin

The aesthetic of online ‘skincare’

Stumbling upon sensory videos of women religiously performing their 10-step Korean skincare routines, or simply scrolling through Reels of shelves adorned with colourful glass bottles engraved with words you don’t fully understand — the beauty realm has become so complex that to some, it can feel aspirational. But for others, a sense of comfort can sometimes arise from the mere aesthetic of this almost magical world.

The reason skincare is big now is not just because there’s more information about when to apply Vitamin C or whether one should use a cream with Niacinamide on a daily basis. It’s also because of how products are packaged and presented, and skincare companies are revelling in the psychology of that.

Many brands are now beginning to capitalise on ‘clean’ or ‘sustainable’ skincare that is earthy and natural too. Additionally, if a label also reads, ‘antioxidant’ or ‘paraben-free’, that’s a brownie point.

“I stumbled upon a brand called Re’equil on a nutrition and health influencer’s Instagram. I loved their clean labels and easy-to-read packaging that told me exactly what I was putting on my face. Their Fruit AHA face wash is something I swear by,” says Prisha Raja, 20.

It is possible that the creams or cleansers we used traditionally had some of these ingredients. But just because they weren’t blaring in our faces, or reading aloud in a brand’s Instagram carousel, they did not grab the attention they do now.

Also read: Instagram skincare is a rabbit hole and a booming industry of bogus claims

Vanity, elitism or self-care?

Most of the products now booming online are usually beyond anything affordable to an average consumer. Whether it’s a 50gm’ water gel’ for your face that costs over Rs 1000 or a luxury rose water mist that costs fifteen times the Dabur rose water we’ve grown up using, it’s an endless abyss that could leave you more confused than ever. And yet, most of us end up buying it all.

Even though more and more ‘affordable drugstore options’ are now entering the online skincare world, the range of products is still quite exhaustive, to the point where it is confusing to even make a simple purchase.

But another hook for this consumer culture may not necessarily be the vanity that comes with it.

Discussing skincare, owning it, talking about it and telling oneself that they’ve done the best they can for their external physical health is almost like a remedy or a semblance of order in life. It’s hardly about having that one nice cream or being glad about owning a sulphate-free shampoo anymore.

Carol Hamilton, group president of the Luxe division of L’Oréal USA, says the skincare boom points to an overall wellness trend. “Skincare, in the context of well-being, is the tool shaping a new beauty standard, ” she says. “It’s also become a new status symbol.”

A skincare routine that takes a good 15 minutes during the day or involves a minimum of five products helps you tell yourself that you have been taking good care of your body, that you have been productive, and that you did a good job at yourself today. The number of products you own is now directly proportional to the increase in your barometer of health because of its association with self-love and self-care in recent times.

Is having hyaluronic acid, Niacinamide and salicylic acid in your regimented skincare routine that big of a need or interest? Perhaps it is only fuelled by an illusion to take good care of oneself and the bombardment of ‘acid’ terms that tell you you’re doing something right.

(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)

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