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The Cosmo of Cosmetics: India’s Beauty Standards

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At an all-time high, the Indian market has a specific adulation for cosmetic products, and with an ever-increasing consumer base, a significant population loves to devour these maquillages which marinate in their own means.

The era of the 90’s witnessed a new wave in India, with the country celebrating its colours in epic proportions, the new
vigour was fuelled by the liberalisation policies which were brought by P. V. Narsimha Rao and Dr. Manmohan Singh; India expanded with bigger aspirations and many anticipated what they called as a ‘bright future’ for India. But, with this celebration of colours, the decade also witnessed a market that sought to reimagine India’s beauty standards with a reiteration of the pigmentocratic demarcations. The global cosmetic industry couldn’t have asked for a better pedestal to showcase its capitalistic endeavours, especially at a time when India’s women were busy clinching international beauty pageants, and giving India and its millions of women, all the more reason to be proud of.

In a single decade, India won seven beauty pageants, beginning from Sushmita Sen who brought home the most coveted title of ‘Miss Universe’ and Aishwarya Rai being crowned with the title of ‘Miss World’ in the year 1994, three years later Diana Hayden clinched the Miss World title again in 1997, and Yukta Mookhey
repeated the world rule in 1999. The year 2000 registered itself on the onus of India’s modern goddesses, as Lara
Dutta brought the Miss Universe title back home, and Priyanka Chopra did the same by clinching the Miss World title. Dia Mirza completed the triad by becoming the second Miss Asia Pacific from India, setting a unique record for any nation by winning up all the beauty pageants in a single year. Subsequently, these women stepped into the film industry and the world of advertising that sought to entrust these women for mediating the dreams of Indian women through the products they endorsed, that majorly involved the cosmetic and cosmeceutical objects.

 India finds its reverence for adoration and beauty since the ages of Ayurveda with Kajal, and Vermillion as its forerunners, the British Colonialism that exacerbated colorism has driven the societal perceptions to an extent that cosmetic industries exploited heavily. The formula for a successful and empowered lady was apparently sold in tubes and compacts that promised unprecedented prosperity, hair colour sought to reflect the confidence of women, and facial features were ought to be highlighted. Companies justified every new product
as an irrefutable need catering to the requirements of the women and soon men.

Over the years, the cosmetic industry has revamped tremendously, especially with the online market boom and diversification of products that has seeped into every bag holding. Major brands have shown interest in this field that is increasing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 25 per cent and is all prepared to mark India among the top five global markets. This also saw the rise of new brands like Nikal, that planned to bridge the gap between efficient consumer requirements and the grand brand show. But, amidst this stiff competitive market, this industry tends to forget the colour prejudices that it injects in a multi-racial land, and materialistic representations that might not represent a Pan India scape or the child labor that is involved in mica extraction for beauty products especially in states like Odisha and Jharkhand where the extracted mica is sent to corporates for products like
eyeshadow, blush, and lipstick that add a reflective finish to them.

Many major brands still resort to the practice of animal testing for checking the safety and hypoallergenic properties that is often crude and immoral. The long-awaited Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is just a small step in this affair that could ban promotions of fairness or anti-ageing products. and the advocacy by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Humane Society
International (HSI) with regard to animal rights is gaining recognition continually, yet the future of this industry can turn
chaotic in the cosmos of cosmetics.

Image Credits: Deccan Chronicle

Faizan Salik 

[email protected]

Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history. Freedom to Express.

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