India’s Gen Z skin whisperers

With real-life reviews and a passion for skincare that puts the emphasis on ingredients, these youngsters are not impressed by brand status or merely growing their followers

You know there’s a generational chasm when you struggle to find a decent moisturiser while your daughter has not only perfected the art of double cleansing, but also knows the difference between alpha arbutin and niacinamide. While Gen X and geriatric millennials (an unfortunate moniker for those born in the early ’80s) were obsessed with make-up growing up, for today’s younger lot, it’s all about skin.

“Gen Z spends more on skincare than their previous generations and are adopting it earlier, as they know it’s prudent to start young,” says a Nykaa spokesperson. A 2019 white paper by New York-based trend forecasters WGSN, in collaboration with Cosmoprof Bologna, states that Gen Z is also the most self-educated generation, with access to tutorials on any conceivable subject. Being 16% less influenced by celebrities, these skin connoisseurs do their research with real-life reviews on Beautypedia or r/SkincareAddiction, the cult Reddit forum, before buying a product.

With more access to both information and products, we now have a new brigade of young ‘skinfluencers’, who prefer easy routines with maximum results. Though they still come under the micro category, averaging between 11-15,000 followers, their sticky content, modern aesthetic, and high engagement are attracting the attention of the most established beauty brands.

“I never review products just to generate content.” As someone who divides his time as a content creator and a freelance social media strategist, Singh understands the importance of thoroughly testing products. He doesn’t change his cosmetics often or incorporate more than one active at a time. “I also stopped using tretinoin because I felt it was too strong and I wouldn’t be able to give my 100% honest opinion about other products,” he says. Perhaps that’s the reason why he has bagged promotions with legacy brands such as L’Oréal, L’Occitane and The Face Shop.

HG product: Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant

“I test a product for a minimum of four weeks — skincare takes time and I don’t like to rush it.” Armed with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology, Islam also works as a freelance fitness instructor. Her skincare style is “minimal/ lazy girl” and her feed only features cruelty-free cosmetics. “I don’t believe vanity should come at the cost of cruelty,” she says. Her holistic approach toward beauty has garnered attention of brands including Lakmé, Just Herbs and Shesha Ayurveda.

HG Product: Re’equil Ultra Matte Sunscreen Gel

“Whenever we start using a product, we keep track of everything, from first impressions, to the consistency and other parameters consumers would look for in a review,” says Gulam. As medical students in their second year, the two best friends get down to the tiniest details and ensure that they don’t use a similar ingredient during the testing phase. After correlating their experiences and checking whether the product lives up to its claims, they come to the final conclusion after five to six weeks. In terms of collaborations they have associated with brands such as Re’equil, Limese Connect and Juicy Chemistry.

HG product: The Vaunt Barrier Boost Face Formula

“Our skin is a reflection of the rest of our body, and what you eat, how you sleep, and your daily habits.” After studying psychology and fashion business management, Biyani works at her father’s denim business and consults part-time with a skincare brand. She mostly features products she’s purchased on her feed, accepting only limited PR gifts. “I get stressed with the pressure of a brand dictating what I say, but of course, I’m grateful to come from a place of privilege where I can afford the products,” she says. Biyani also likes to finish a product and only then form an opinion. To date she has done three collaborations: Limese Connect, Rovectin, and Cosmix, a wellness brand.

HG product: Sunday Riley Good Genes

“I’ve been blessed with good skin, but I enjoy looking after it. Over time it has evolved into more than just skincare — it’s therapeutic for me.” After graduating from Northwestern University, Illinois, USA, with a bachelors in finance and entrepreneurship, Sutaria heads the creative division at Hiraco, a family-run business of lab-grown diamonds. She tests every product between two and four weeks. “The effect of cleansers, sunscreens and simple moisturisers are apparent within a few uses, but serums and actives take longer. So, I test them for three to four weeks,” she says. Her clean, contemporary aesthetic has got her collaborations with brands such as ESPA, L’Occitane, Biore, and The Face Shop.

HG product: Biologique Recherche Lotion P50W

Skin deep on Reddit

“With the widespread prevalence of undisclosed ads and sponsorship among the beauty influencer community, we consume their content only casually, for entertainment,” says Aayushi, one of the four moderators of Indian Skincare Addicts (r/IndianSkincareAddicts), who wishes to remain anonymous. As influencers become the new celebrities, beauty enthusiasts (me included) are turning to Reddit for real reviews and shared experiences.

“This forum was formed in 2018 to discuss and crowd-source accessible, science-based skincare solutions catered towards an Indian audience,” she adds. The four moderators span from late 20s to the late 40s and come from professional backgrounds such as finance, education, and the social sector. Today, the forum has more than 12,000 members. “We noticed a significant increase after certain informative and investigative pieces, written either by the users or us, such as my expose on a large number of Indian skincare brands operating without meeting the requisite national and local licensing standards [in June 2020].”

HG products: L’Oréal Paris UV Perfect Super Aqua Essence SPF 50 PA++++, Ipca Acne-UV Gel SPF 30, Physiogel Hypoallergenic Calming Relief A.I. Lotion, and The Simple Kind to Skin facewash

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