Manushi Chhillar as Estee Lauder's global brand ambassador. (Image: DC)
When TMC MP Mahua Moitra took pains to explain that all that she got from her close friend and industrialist Darshan Hiranandani as gifts was a Bobbi Brown lipstick and eye shadow which he bought for her from Dubai, apart from a scarf — it just re-established the fascination Indians have for ‘phoren’ beauty products from labels like Charlotte Tilbury, Too Faced, Huda Beauty, Pat McGrath, even Lancome. Recently Zara entered the market, with a collection of lipsticks, lip oils, nail paints and eye shadows.
‘Desi’ Vs ‘Videsi’
While the beauty industry in India dates back to ancient times when women believed that regular kitchen ingredients had healing and beauty properties — Mahua’s revelations has brought the spotlight on ‘desi’ Vs ‘videsi’ stuff. This comes at a time when the country’s make-up industry (in 2023) is growing at a rate of 20 per cent annually. There is a simultaneous rise in the number of local businesses such as Juicy Chemistry, Neemli Naturals, Sugar, and Mamaearth, which promise to provide excellent products at more affordable costs.
Are Indian brands still no match
International brands and their raw materials are much better, their quality is better and are available in a more pure form, says Dr Jaishree Sharad, celebrity cosmetic dermatologist and board director, International Society of Dermatologic Surgery.
"But it is limited to some reputed brands and not all of them. But now you do have a lot of cosmeceutical brands in India as well, mostly the pharmaceutical driven ones where there is adequate research and even the raw material is sourced from countries like Spain and France."
Indian beauty brands have started to gain recognition both nationally and internationally, thanks to better understanding of Indian skin type, innovative formulations, and affordable pricing, says Dr Niti Gaur, MD, Fellowship in Cosmetic Dermatology (Singapore, USA), Board Certified Dermatologist and founder of Citrine Clinic, Gurgaon. "These brands have successfully catered to the specific needs and preferences of the Indian population, offering products that are suitable for Indian skin tones, hair types, and climate conditions," adds Dr Niti.
Best face forward
Stating that most Indian brands were not up to the mark for these reasons in the past, Dr Jaishree feels it’s about the people’s mindset as well.
"Well known influencers and stars like the Kardashians, Bella Hadid among others endorse the products which makes the consumers feel that the nicely packaged international products are definitely better. They are marketed well," she says. She feels that one should not go with very low end brands or brands which are unheard of, whether they are national or international.
"Look for reviews, the ingredients, the concentration of the ingredients and check how much research has been done. All of that is usually mentioned on the package itself and it’s also there on line so you can see all of that and then you can decide," suggests Dr Jaishree.
Focus on high quality ingredients
Dr. Pawan Singh, consultant dermatologist, Regency Hospital says Indian beauty products have a long history of using natural and Ayurvedic ingredients, which can be beneficial for skin and hair health. "However, foreign products often come with advanced research and technology, and sometimes stricter regulations regarding ingredient safety," he points out.
To make Indian beauty products more competitive on a global scale, Dr Singh says it’s crucial to focus on research and development.
"Invest in research and development to create innovative formulations that combine traditional knowledge with modern science. This can help improve the effectiveness of Indian products."
Dr Pawan Singh says ensuring rigorous quality control measures have to be put in place to meet international standards and assure consumers of safety and efficacy.
"Indian brands need to educate consumers about the benefits and uniqueness of their products compared to foreign brands. Increased transparency about ingredients, manufacturing processes, and sustainability initiatives can help build trust and loyalty among consumers," says Dr Niti.
"We need to work with regulatory bodies to establish clear and stringent guidelines for ingredient safety, labeling, and product claims," says Dr Pawan Singh adding, "Indian brands have the potential to compete with foreign ones if they focus on these aspects while continuing to celebrate the rich heritage of Ayurveda and traditional remedies."
It is important to highlight that "matching" foreign beauty products should not be the main goal.
"Indian brands should focus on their strengths, celebrate their cultural heritage, and offer products that meet the specific needs of Indian consumers, while also exploring opportunities to cater to a global market," concludes Dr Niti.
International brands and their raw materials are much better, their quality is better and are available in a more pure form. It is limited to some reputed brands and not all of them. But now you do have a lot of cosmeceutical brands in India as well, mostly the pharmaceutical driven ones where there is adequate research and even the raw material is sourced from countries like Spain and France." — Dr Jaishree Sharad, celebrity cosmetic dermatologist and board director, International Society of Dermatologic Surgery
Indian brands have successfully catered to the specific needs and preferences of the Indian population, offering products that are suitable for Indian skin tones, hair types, and climate conditions." — Dr Niti Gaur, MD, Fellowship in Cosmetic Dermatology (Singapore, USA), Board Certified Dermatologist and founder of Citrine Clinic
India was ranked fourth in the world for income generated by the beauty and personal care business in 2021. According to Statista, the beauty and personal care industry is predicted to reach $33.33 billion by 2027, rising at a rising at a CAGR of 6.32%. Pandit Nehru & Beauty.
Many may not know that back in 1952, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was concerned that Indian women were wasting precious foreign exchange on cosmetics, had asked the Tatas to manufacture them in India.