Not So Fair and Lovely

Not So Fair and Lovely

While mall trotting,I usually never stop at retail kiosks.

While mall trotting,I usually never stop at retail kiosks. Most of them sell candles or scented soap,or cushions where you can get your face printed on the cover,or some such silly stuff. But there’s a tiny kiosk,under the escalator in an obscure corner of Select Citywalk in Delhi,where some cheery and extremely persistent salesgirls lure you into their modest space promising miracles to your complexion,only once you’ve bought their products,of course.

Seacret sells products from the Dead Sea,made from minerals that allegedly nurture and rejuvenate your skin. My experience at Seacret (such a clever play with words!) started off as usual. “Let me show you what beautiful nails you have,” said the salesgirl,and she pulled out a buffer. I swear,within five seconds,I had nails so shiny that I could have been a hand model. Then she pitched me a cuticle oil,“for my brittle nails”. My friend,seeing the miracle the buffer had wrought on my half-chewed nails,began toying with purchase options. The salesgirl,sensing she was onto a sizable sale,quickly switched to selling her a far more expensive mud face pack,that allegedly revives your skin with its biomagnetism and microelectric currents. It worked its magic on our arms and we were sold on it. “Rs 5,000 a jar,” said the salesgirl,calmly. “5,000!” we shrieked,not so calmly. We’ll think about it,we said,as we began edging our way out of the kiosk. “I can give you our special price,just for today. Two,for the price of one,” she offered,fast. Though we should have found it dodgy that she had dropped the rate by half in exactly 30 seconds,in a moment of recklessness,we were the owners of a Seacret Mud Mask for Rs 2,500 each. We now console ourselves thinking of its dual purpose; even if its not transforming our skin,we can use it on Halloween to scare children.

Women around the world are ready to splash out serious money for any skin transforming elixir. Price it high and inexplicably,it becomes reassuringly expensive and suddenly,in your head,the money is an investment,not a mindless splurge. That’s the secret to the success of Estee Lauder’s Creme De Lar Mer,that costs upwards of 500 pounds for less than 300 ml. But apparently,Jennifer Lopez slathers it all over her body and we’ve seen what a glowing complexion she has. De La Mer is available only in the most expensive stores. Created by an aerospace physicist in the ’70s,he devised a formula from algae and seaweed (that are considered to be high in antioxidants),to treat his own scarred skin. Its magical properties have found a following among rich,image conscious women around the world.

Luckily,we live in an age where you can check the claims made by cosmetic companies and go through customer reviews on the Internet to check satisfaction levels of people who’ve bought the product. Creme De La Mer has excellent reviews by users,but that could also be people who are guiltily justifying their expense. Seacret is not so good,with most people regretting the purchase,almost immediately. The Seacret Mud Mask notwithstanding,I liberated myself from buying endless jars of cream and lotions after reading an article in the New York Times some years ago. It put forward a very logical argument that all creams share some basic ingredients of petroleum jelly,glycerine and eucalyptus oil with minor variations in the quantities of oil and water used. And,one should work as well as another. The difference is in the packaging and fragrances used.

The current favourite product among women who are ready to spend big bucks on their skin is the Japanese brand Obagi Nu Derm,allegedly another breakthrough in anti-aging. Skin care experts around the world are recommending it. Again,it is exorbitantly priced with a whole range,in face wash,toner and moisturiser,but unlike plain creams it also has a peeling effect,so anyone using it has to be prepared to look red-faced for two weeks. With impulse purchases,so much is about perception and pretty packaging and even if you’re aware of smart marketing gimmicks,it’s hard not to succumb. After all,who knows,maybe,by a stroke of luck,this one has hit on the eternal youth formula?