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How to navigate a noisy beauty industry

A new book on skincare by dermatologist Dr Kiran Sethi busts myths about skincare and delivers essential truths

Actives-based skincare is the norm today
Actives-based skincare is the norm today

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Keeping it simple is often the key to good skincare. But we are offered mind-boggling choices today, from Ayurveda-inspired ‘natural’ skincare products to what sounds like the entire inventory of a chemistry lab. Dr Kiran Sethi, MD, skin and aesthetic specialist at Isya Aesthetics, offers some answers in her new book, Skin Sense, published by HarperCollins India. The book has been written as a skincare manual and is full of easy, practical advice.

Dr Sethi discusses how skincare has changed over the years, and which rules remain the same.

How has skincare changed?

In the past 10 years, skincare has changed completely. Ten years ago, people only wanted natural solutions. They wanted home remedies, they wanted DIYs, and actives-based skincare was frankly unheard of. Yoghurt packs were the norm, and sunblock was a new concept. Most people were also shy of treatments and lasers (forget botox and fillers), which were thought of as unnecessary and ‘scary’.

Today, lasers and other technologically driven facials won’t just rule 2022 but are here to stay for the future. Unlike before, now nearly everyone has been to a dermatologist, most people have heard of laser hair removal or have had it done, and nearly everyone knows someone who has had botox or fillers. Actives-based skincare is the norm, and everyone walks in asking for vitamin c or retinol. Everyone has purchased multiple actives-based skincare products, and most are comfy with a multi-step skincare routine. Haldi and turmeric are now things of the past.

Everyone wants a tailored skincare routine, with good active ingredients that work for improving their specific skin concerns. There is more open-ness to facials, lasers and other therapies designed to make their skin look better.

What are some of the myths that have been busted?

The biggest myth that has been busted today is that laser is harmful to your skin. Most men and women have had laser exposure, without seeing long term effects. Another myth is that only natural things work, has this has changed. Most people understand now that natural DIYs only have minimal efficacy, and just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe. Some natural things can be dangerous for the skin (even turmeric or lemon, which Indians have used forever for at-home treatments), and people today know that everything natural isn’t always the answer.

Another very important myth that has been busted is that PCOS can’t be treated. Diet and lifestyle and even some natural supplements are a great help in improving and treating PCOS so that you can live life normally. My chapter on PCOS goes right into it and how you can manage it and not live life hampered by it.

How has social media changed the way we approach skincare? Is there too much information?

Due to Covid and avid consumption of content on social media, people are more aware and ready to use the tools to make themselves look better. Everyone who has ever looked at a beauty reel on Instagram should try to find out what is true and what is not about what they have been exposed to in the past five years and that is what I am trying to do with this book. The book is supposed to arm you with enough knowledge to understand the information thrown at us and navigate through a noisy beauty and aesthetic industry.

Skin Sense: Dr Kiran's Guide to Being Beautiful; published by HarperCollins 
Skin Sense: Dr Kiran's Guide to Being Beautiful; published by HarperCollins 

Has anything remained the same?

What remains the same is that diet is still important to all of us. I think that’s one of the best things about India; people understand that food is very important to health and appearance. That’s why my chapters on diet and gut health are so important because it answers the questions that people have about how to improve each of their concerns, like ageing, glow, inflammatory issues, rosacea and more with their diet. Another thing that remains the same, is people still want to know DIY solutions. But the difference is they want to know the DIYs that work. The book includes many points on ‘skinmilism’ and intuitive skincare— where a simpler routine is more effective than a routine that has 10 different steps. We knew this before when we would keep it simple with our skin cream routines, then we got a little lost with the Korean routine concept, but now we’re back into understanding that less is more - although intelligently. We may have a skincare routine but it’s three or four steps instead of 10. We may do treatments but it’s no more than one or two in a month. We give our skin a break when it feels irritated. Essentially, we operate more intuitively when it comes to caring for our skin.

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