WOW | Coffee Break
Are beauty standards unrealistic today?
Text by: Pabita Dahal
ARE BEAUTY COMPANIES PUSHING TOO HARD?
In this edition of Coffee Break, WOW talks with Rajani Shrestha, Director and owner of Spawake; Sudiksha Dhungana, Business Development Executive of Lotus Herbals: Swati Roongta Agarwal, Owner of L’Oreal Professional and Mina Lama, Professional Marketing Executive of J&J Pvt. Ltd. about their perception of beauty and what is the influence of the beauty industry on today’s woman.
What is your definition of beauty?
Rajani: Beauty is a quality of being attractive and pleasant to look at.
Sadikshya: Beauty is a combination of two aspects: appearance and inner quality. Former consists of colour, shape and charm which can be observed immediately, whereas the later consists of a sense of humor, thoughts, self-esteem, confidence, perception, etc.
Swati: I believe beauty is what everyone sees in themselves. We can’t and shouldn’t define beauty by how others see us but rather how we feel about ourselves.
Mina: It’s not just appearance but also a compassionate heart and soul.
Is beauty and self esteem interrelated?
Rajani: Beauty and self-esteem are two parts of the same coin. Beauty is about physical appearance and self-esteem is your own self worth. When you are comfortable in your appearance, your self-esteem automatically increases.
Sadikshya: Many factors affect self-esteem, among them, beauty is the most prominent aspect.
Swati: If you feel great about yourself and believe you are beautiful, it can work wonders for your self-esteem. Inversely, we shouldn’t let our insecurities affect our self-esteem.
Mina: Beauty and self-esteem are interrelated.
What is the beauty industry’s influence on women?
Rajani: The beauty industry has a huge impact on women of all ages. Everyone loves doing makeup and looking beautiful and beauty products fulfill this wish. However, due to lack of knowledge, most women are following fashion trends blindly without adequate knowledge about duplicate and original products. They proudly say I am using this and that brand, but with so much fake stuff in the market, they are actually harming their skin. Also it’s very important to know your skin type and what really suits you, besides what and how much to wear and when. For example, lady traffic police standing in highly crowded and dusty roads are wearing lipstick, eyeliner and mascara in uniform, or young school girl using eyeliner and lip gloss in uniform… this is inappropriate and speaks volumes.
Sadikshya: I think the beauty industry has a positive effect on those women who know their products and use it properly. The industry provides them the opportunity to be more beautiful and to know the importance of beauty in their life.
Swati: In a lot of ways the industry is overburdening women to try to conform to the so-called ‘ideal’ standards of beauty defined by others. However, modern self-aware women need to fight the excesses of the industry and get what they want and need only.
Mina: Women usually tend to follow the information relayed by the industry through advertisements with unrealistic images of beauty. In some cases, it has resulted in anxiety, low self-esteem, and lowered self-confidence. Most of these negative emotions come from dissatisfaction regarding your physical appearance. If the portrayal of beauty is realistic, it builds confidence but if it is unrealistic it actually plays with sentiments.
What is the reason behind increasing consumerism of beauty products?
Rajani: Sales and demand for beauty products has increased abundantly these days. The major credit goes to social media, electronic media (especially cable networks), and lifestyle magazines. People get easy access to the world’s top brands at a click nowadays. No matter how expensive a product is or how difficult it is to get the product, high demand makes it easily accessible in the valley.
Sadikshya: Awareness of beauty is very high and women are using beauty product abundantly. Products also cater to protecting the skin from changes in environment, pollution, sunlight and weather.
Swati: Beauty products have a huge global market. With the massive use of internet and social media, today’s consumers are well aware of brands, products, and trends from all across the globe. This is the time of rampant capitalism which provides an abundance of products and consumers are always excited to use a new product.
Mina: Women are increasingly financially independent, they understand beauty products not just for enhancing looks but also to protect their skin and as anti ageing methods, for these reasons there is a high demand for beauty products.
Do you think the cosmetic industry has also set an unattainable beauty standard?
Rajani: Of course, social media and advertisements play a vital role in making a beauty product a “must have item”, in a woman’s priority list. Products are packaged and shown in such a way that women have a hard time resisting it. They are also projected as quick fixes to many problems.
Sadikshya: I think beauty products should be used to enhance your look and to protect your skin but you must know what works for you really.
Swati: I don’t think the industry as a whole is to be blamed; rather its particular products and brands which tend to push the envelope and use tools like Photoshop to portray something which simply isn’t true. While social media has great influence on consumers, these media don’t only spread propaganda but also promote the truth by advertising and showcasing women in all their forms. It is up to the customer to find the truth and decide herself.
Mina: Unattainable standards lie everywhere. For example, actress Deepika Padukone is the global brand ambassador of L’Oreal Paris now. Her look in the advertisement is just not accessible. Women try to look like Deepika by using L’Oreal products., but that’s impossible. A teen girl from Kalanki, a big fan of Deepika, can’t afford L’Oreal products. She buys alternatives which are cheaper but those don’t give the result. And even if she uses the same products, she can’t meet that standard. All women wish to be good looking and get praised but this is just the influence of advertisements on life.
What is the biggest challenge for the cosmetic industry in Nepal?
Rajani: Consumer awareness and grey market are the biggest challenges for this industry. In fact, hardly 30% of the total cosmetics market is occupied by original brands, the remaining 70% is full of fake and duplicate Chinese items.
Sadikshya: Duplication, low-quality products, inappropriate government policy and lack of brand-conscious consumers are the biggest challenges.
Swati: Piracy, duplication, and counterfeit products are the most notable challenges. Without a strong control mechanism, Nepal is filled with duplicate, low-quality, harmful products which claim to be world-class, branded products. It is imperative that this needs to be cleansed.
Mina: Nepal is a landlocked state, which makes access to market a big challenge. Imports become difficult because of expensive transportation. The major challenges are affordability – of being able to buy better quality products, lack of proper knowledge of using cosmetics and the side effects of using extra chemicals on the skin. Creating proper awareness among users is essential.
What kind of beauty products are most popular among women here?
Rajani: There are different categories of customers in our market. Certain consumers want quality products at higher prices. However, the market is dominated by consumers who demand good quality products at affordable prices. In terms of items, eye products are mostly in demand.
Sadikshya: Herbal and natural products without any harmful chemicals are in demand. Skin care products like sun block, whitening cream, anti-aging, moisturisers, face wash, toners, and make up is hugely purchased.
Swati: Having launched the biggest brand in the professional category, L’Oreal Professional, I am proud to say that today it is the no.1 preferred brand of consumers in Nepal. We also have a brand, ‘Matrix’ which follows the same quality standards of L’Oreal Professional at affordable prices and accessibility. These are the two highest preferred brands for hair care in Nepal.
Mina: Nepalese women are more concerned with their face. Most trends that you see in the streets of Kathmandu and other metropolitan cities are adopted from the West. The popular beauty products are face foundation, lipstick, eyeliner, nail polish, compact and loose powder, body lotion, moisturiser, hair colour.