This is a typical problem I face when I enter a make-up store here - I'm bombarded with scents and colours as well as products such as foundations, concealers, BB creams, tinted moisturisers, lipsticks, lip stains, cheek stains in a multitude of shades and brands. Not to mention the bright lights that make the place all the more intimidating.
I get even more nervous when the sales assistants come up to me and suggest new products or start to slather liquids or paint colours on the back of my hand. And when I do get some time alone, I try on a couple of things and see if the shades suit me but I am never satisfied with the end product. Either the colours are not quite right on me or the price tags are out of my budget. I leave the store feeling more confused than ever, empty-handed. And this isn't a problem I face alone.
Says Singaporean fashion and beauty writer Faz Abdul Gaffa: "I can't even begin to describe how frustrated I get when I'm told the darkest shade of foundation available is a light beige. That would suit the palm of my hand, thanks. It's laughable sometimes, the fact that darker- skinned women can't actually pop by a store for a foundation their shade."
The 27-year-old, who runs her own blog www.fazabdulgaffa.com and contributes articles to the American beauty and lifestyle blog xovain. com, told tabla! she purchases some beauty products that she cannot get here by ordering them online.
"Of course, if you have more money to spend, there are always brands like Bobbi Brown which have a wider range of colours for brown women," she adds.
For centuries, Indian women have been raised to believe that fairness is beauty and this has given rise to a vast and ever-growing skin-whitening industry in India. A recent advertisement for a skin lightening product attracted criticism from netizens and the media, who say that the obsession with fairness has gone too far as it delved into parts of the body other than the face and hands.
India's domestic cosmetics industry is set to grow to US$3.6 billion by 2014, according to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India. The skin-lightening cream market alone was worth US$432 million in 2010 and growing at 18 per cent annually, according to an article in the Asian Scientist.
On this note, Ms Gaffa says it's time Indian women stop equating fairness with beauty. "I believe in celebrating your own skin colour, and I often take that specifically into consideration when writing about beauty. It's not about changing how you look, it's about enhancing what you already have," she says.
The Indian skin has a wide spectrum, ranging from the deep dusky hues like that of international model Lakshmi Menon to wheatish and peachy complexions like that of Bollywood actresses Sonam Kapoor and Katrina Kaif. Even then, Indian women today should not think of make-up as the solution to make them fairer, says make-up and beauty professional Bubbly J.
"You can't put on a lighter shade of foundation on your face and think you look okay when the colour of your neck or arms are completely different," she says.
Ms Bubbly, who runs her own make-up business Looks Studio, along with her aunt Baljit J., continues: "The first thing any Indian woman should do is get her base and foundation right. I suggest they avoid foundation shades that have pink undertones as Indian skin tones, although of a huge range, have similar yellow, orange undertones.
Pinkish bases will not match their skins."
"And Indian women should never leave home without eyeliner. Their eyes are their best features and a slight kohl would make a world of difference or they can opt for a smoky look for a night out," adds Ms Bubbly.
Zulu Style Beauty and Bridal Service's owner Zulaikha agrees.
"These days, the trend is to have a more neutral, clean and glowing look.
No one has a caked base.
A clean look which is slightly more bronze and a bright lipstick such as red and bright pink works very well on most Indian women," says the 34-year-old, who has been running her business since 2010.
When buying makeup products over the counter, Ms Zulaikha has a word of caution: "The bright lights at these shops do not show how the make-up will actually look under normal conditions.
And it may not be what you expect. It's always best to seek an expert's advice." She adds that she provides free tips and teaches make-up tricks to her customers.
And these days several top make-up brands have also taken into account such trends and have come up with new ranges for the modern Indian woman.
One make-up range to look out for is the long-standing Indian brand Lakme's Absolute range where the new lip and eye palettes contain peachier and nude shades. It also includes the must-have Absolute Mattreal Skin Natural Mousse, which is a two-in-one formula that gives a feather-light finish concealing pores, fine lines and uneven skin tone.
"And always have a lip balm wherever you go.
Lipstick on dry, chapped lips is a big no-no," adds Ms Bubbly.
These days Indian women are mostly on the go, busy with careers and family responsibilities, juggling both with equal passion and fervour. Unlike the Indian women of yesteryear, they rarely have time to cook up home remedies for facials and haircare.
Graveyard shifts, late evenings at parties or at home with the children and even the weather can take a toll on the skin. While an occasional trip to the beautician for a facial can be relaxing and beneficial, skincare should start at home and it can be really simple, according to the experts tabla! spoke to.
"I don't use a lot of make-up on a daily basis - most days I leave home with sunscreen, mascara and concealer," says Ms Gaffa. She adds: "I can't emphasise the use of sunscreen - it's not about fearing getting darker, it's about all the damage too much sun can do to your skin!"
The Lifestyle Clinic's Dr Komathy Rajaratnam could not agree more.
"Skincare should start as early as when women are in their 20s. Cleanse, tone and moisturise and never leave home without sunblock," says the general practitioner who adds that the most common skin problems among her Indian patients include skin pigmentation.
"The Indian skin has more melanin and the darkening of the skin is one of the most common problems I see," says Dr Rajaratnam. "There are treatments for these problems but the women will have to go to the right places to seek the right treatments," she adds.
Also many Indian women are coming forward for hair removal procedures, adds Reflections Medi Aesthetics's medical director Dr Suresh Mahtani.
"For these problems, I highly recommend laser treatments instead of the Intense Pulsed Light or IPL treatments. This is because IPL isn't suitable for the darker skin that has a higher melanin content.
And many Indian women have experienced side effects from that," says Dr Mahtani.
Maya Raj of Maya Beauti Concept adds that women, in general, should take time out to pamper their skin with facials and proper skincare regimes.
When asked for her advice to women on skincare, she says: "Never sleep with your make-up on."
And there are also supplements that women can take as part of their skincare regime. One brand that provides supplements for both men and women of varying ages is Imedeen Beauty Supplements.
Developed in Scandinavia and based on naturally sourced ingredients, these supplements are rich in proteins and polysaccharides similar to those naturally found in the skin's connective tissue.
The manufacturers claim that taking them would stimulate and improve the quality and structure of the dermal supportive tissue, leaving the skin more moist, smooth and supple with a radiant and even complexion.
And drinking a lot of water and having a balanced meal with generous amounts of fruits and vegetables can also help in maintaining a healthy skin.
And as they say, beauty is, after all, skin deep.
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