In my previous post I had written about the need to look at natural/herbal cosmetics. I feel the younger generation is going to insist on cosmetics and instead of denying them the item, it would be better to find safe alternatives and let them use it. We know that children go through a phase. My daughter had a “pink and purple” phase where she refused to wear clothes that weren’t in these colors. It lasted about 2 years – where we bought her new clothes only in these colors and negotiated a deal to wear other colors on 3 days of the week – before she finally gave it up this year with her younger sister’s entry into the world.
Over the last 3 months, I bought my daughter herbal cosmetics – 2 lip balms, 2 Nail polishes, 1 herbal soap, and a small bottle of body lotion, besides the Kajal she already has. Suprisingly, beyond the first 10 days of heavy usage (thankfully her school holidays were on), her interest in these items has been waning steadily. She now uses them only occasionally for a family function or a birthday party. While I am not celebrating success yet, I am happy that the usage did no visible harm to her skin. I have since read up on recipes of making some of these products at home and I intend to get my daughter also to join in when we start these efforts.
In my quest for herbal cosmetics, I chanced upon a goldmine of herbal brands. I was familiar with just 6-7 of them out of the 50 odd brands (I am familiar with most non-herbal mainstream and niche brands). For cosmetic junkies (and I know India has several, which I will discuss in detail in the following paragraphs), this would be a great opportunity to replace glamourous, well marketed but relatively harmful products, with these sober looking yet effective herbal products. After all, in the long term, nobody wants to spend money correcting their damaged skin due to excessive cosmetic use.
From head to toe, all your body needs can be met by herbal products made by these brands. Almost all of them are available for sale online (either on their own websites or portals like Amazon and Flipkart). Unfortunately most of them aren’t marketed well. I took personal interest in understanding and reading reviews about each brand because of my need to protect my daughter’s skin from harsh chemicals. In contrast, a teenager with Rs 500 pocket money may not have the time or patience to opt for a herbal product. She is most likely to pick whichever brand is most marketed and visible on the mall counters or on websites. If herbal brands want to capture this market, they have to invest in this area. Else, they will remain a distant second choice to global brands. I believe that if something is better for health, it shouldn’t be so hard to find.
For starters, what most herbal brands appear to be doing is sharing their sample for review from fashion bloggers. Yes, India has a large community of fashion bloggers that can rival those in the West. They review pretty much any product under the sun. Unfortunately, the parameters for comparison end up being performance driven – how long the product lasts, how does it feel and look, rather than ‘what happens if I use this product for 10 days in a row’, or ‘what ingredients it contains and what are the long term benefits’. Herbal products tend to score low on the former parameters and therefore most reviews end on these lines – “the product is OK, not fabulous. For this price, what more can you expect?”.
Most fashion bloggers may not be aware of how a product is made, what goes into it and who makes these items (for example none of the beauty parlor staff that I frequent, had heard of herbal or five-free nail polish), some education from herbal companies on this front would get them better coverage. One brand that did this effectively was The Body Shop, by highlighting that they purchase only fair trade products and helped communities become self-sufficient. Do I know of any Indian herbal brand that is helping tribal women or hill folk have a secure livelihood? No. But I assume they do. Why not talk about it and make it more personal?
With greater disposable income and a more open urban society, Indian women (and men) will only increase their consumption of cosmetics. The Indian cosmetics industry is estimated to be USD 4.6 Billion large, however, the share of the herbal segment is quite small. It appears that most of Indian herbal brands prefer to export. The market for herbal products is – USD 62 Million globally , of which India’s contribution is USD 1 billion. Overall the cosmetics industry is growing between 7% and 20% year on year. As a mother with two young daughters I am committed to substituting as many chemical based cosmetics as possible with herbal based products. I wish younger folks choose these products more readily in the future.
About the author
Archana Venkat is a Marketer, new mother, former journalist and media critic, photography and yoga enthusiast. She loves to listen to new business ideas/ inspirations. The Views expressed are personal. She is based in Bangalore and also hosts the blog straighttalkwitharch.blogspot.in