Seeking herbal alternatives for better health in India

It is no surprise that herbal products are safer for human consumption. But, it is a wonder how little of herbal items occupy our cupboards, bathrooms and kitchen shelves. I discovered this the hard way when my five year old daughter insisted on using my lipstick – not once but multiple times. Despite asking her to refrain from touching things that didn’t belong to her, she would stealthily take the lipstick and apply it in my absence. (Her preening off to my baby sitter was how I found out).

When I discussed the ill effects of using the lipstick with her, she asked me point blank, “If it is that harmful, why do you use it?”. It got me thinking. After all, if the chemicals were very bad for a child, they couldn’t possibly be harmless on an adult. While we may not have enough empirical evidence to link cosmetics usage with serious health issues like cancers, one never knows what will be discovered in the future.
Speaking to my mother didn’t help. “Stop using all cosmetics. If you don’t have any lipstick in the house, where will your daughter get one from?, ”were her words of wisdom. It didn’t matter that she had been a copious lipstick (and other cosmetics) user in her younger days. Her response to how she kept me away from her cupboard was – “You were too dumb to understand there was something called lipstick. I would not apply it in front of you. You simply assumed I had maroon lips.”
Well, it is not that easy to fool young urban kids any more. Definitely not my daughter, who even makes out I have used tinted lipbalm when I come out of the bathroom. Abstinence from cosmetics is easier said than done, especially when today you are expected to look your best and are bombarded with products to enhance every feature of your face. I abstained from using any cosmetic – besides sunscreen, face powder, and Vaseline – during my pregnancy last year. Partly due to fear of transmitting some chemicals to the baby and partly because of a medical condition that made me lose 14 Kgs in the first trimester (throwing up everything that I tried to eat), leaving me completely drained for any efforts to look presentable. The absence of cosmetics from my face didn’t deter my daughter. She simply saw others using it and insisted on getting her share. (My baby sitter uses lipstick – a garish violet that surprisingly suits her skin tone).
So I bought her a Maybelline Baby Lips tinted lip balm, which everyone assured me was safe if used moderately by a child. My daughter damaged the tube in a week and I refused to buy her the next one. After that incident, the next item I got her was a biotique lip balm, which was entirely herbal, followed by the Biotique Kajal. I did not see any impact of these items on her with moderate use during functions and birthday parties.
Just as I thought the lipstick craze had vanished, it reappeared in the form of a school dance performance where all the kids got make up done on their faces to look “pretty”, as my daughter put it. Seeing my daughter in garish red lips, rouged cheeks and badly applied eye liner left me mad. But the teachers mumbled a “its for performance only” excuse. Once the make-up was removed, my daughter had a small rash of sorts that disappeared in a couple of days. Even that didn’t refrain her from asking for the lipstick. It was this act that drove me to do research online on child safe cosmetics.
I discovered 3 things –
1. Child safe cosmetics have been available in the western world for ages for very affordable prices. Almost all products labeled child safe in the West are herbal and some of them can be made at home, including lipsticks, lotions and balms.
2. Several Indian herbals brands have a full-fledged cosmetics line that is very reasonably priced.
3. India is going through a cosmetics revolution.
There isn’t a better indicator of globalization than a child asking for cosmetics. In the West, children start using cosmetics as early as 6-8 years (lip tint, nail polish etc) and by the time they hit puberty most of them are using practically every cosmetic item the face can withstand. Given the exposure our children get to “perfect looking people on TV” with flawless fair skin, rosy lips, dark eyes and lush free flowing straight hair, the aspiration to look like them is only bound to increase.

I don’t see a scenario where many urban parents can avoid questions around cosmetics, unless a child is genuinely uninterested. In the second part of this series I will look at some options that we have to use cosmetics that are natural and better for the health of the skin. As always comments and suggestions are welcome. I would also encourage you to send in your solutions, either by commenting on this post or by posting your commenting on the Facebook page.


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

Dr. Vikram Venkateswaran

Management Thinker, Marketer, Healthcare Professional Communicator and Ideation exponent

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