Tracing history, the earliest form of beauty and women in India can be seen through the paintings and sculptures that portray the beauty of a woman to be curvy with long plaited hair or S-shaped body forms. The Hindu deities are described as slim with lotus eyes and long hair in the northern region of India and curvy with big eyes and medium or dark complexion in the southern parts of India.
But western influence in modern times with liberalization and globalization changed the perception of beauty and skincare in India. Unlike now, the '80s and early 90s beauty industries were less competitive and complicated. The beauty and skincare routines did not consist of Korean beauty regimes or elaborate beauty formulas, instead, basic products were used in skincare and beauty.
With the coming of the late 90s and 2000s the skincare routines and beauty industry evolved, many products entered the Indian market, and the perception of beauty and skincare changed. A craze that continued from the 90s into the 2000s was that of fair skin and long hair. Apart from the same, the early 2000s saw beauty as a term used mostly for women and elaborate skincare products and skincare routines targeting girls and women only.
To understand how COVID 19, changed the perception of beauty and skincare in India, it is important to understand the behavior and beauty standards set in the 90s and 2000s. The skincare tips mostly referred to ways of lightening skin color and turning fair, the 90s saw the fair craze set between the women but soon the early 2000s engulfed men into the fair is a handsome concept too.
Many products were launched into the market that started to target fairness between the men audience like Emami, HUL, etc.
Be it the gods and goddesses or the influence of Victorian society in India, long hair has been associated with women's beauty for decades now. The patriarchal perception of women with long hair as beautiful and desirable has pressurized women to grow their hair in India. Until 2010, all beauty tips and oiling regimes would enhance the dream of having long and thick black hair in India.
In contrast to the early 90s, the late 90s and early 2000s drafted a new perception of body shape and size that were considered to be beautiful and perfect. Bollywood played a major role in promoting an appropriate body shape and size. Many body slimming institutes took to the forefront during the 90s and wellness and body slimming became a major business model too. Slimming tea, slimming institutes, and many such products and services were dominating the market back then.
The commercials on TV and newspapers also glorified skin that was clear of marks and acne. The skincare tips focused on the consumption of products that would clear the blood so there wouldn't be acne or pimples on the face. Creams were introduced to lighten the scars or marks on the skin.
Hence, the overall perception of perfect and desirable women would be someone thin, fair with long hair and no marks or pimples or even fine lines on the face.
As social media made it easy for the world to connect and people gained exposure with a click of the button, the beauty tips for women and skincare tips for men started to change drastically. Slowly the Indian youth realized that the fair and perfect body concept is not a global concept or the appropriate way of seeing beauty. Many girls and women took to social media embracing the way they look and feel.
Brands like Shopper’s Stop and Dove came up with creative campaigns breaking the stereotypes and appropriateness in beauty. Bollywood also started to portray women of different sizes, shapes, and colors as protagonists. Many Bollywood celebrities openly spoke about their skin tone and stood against body shaming. One of the most surprising news that took the media and beauty industry to storm in 2020 was when HUL decided to drop the term ‘Fair’ from the iconic ‘fair and lovely’ cream’
The ongoing pandemic followed by a series of lockdowns slowed the working of the world. Staying in the door gave people a lot of time to introspect and accept 'what is different in everyone. The limelight shifted from Bollywood celebrities to OTT platforms where global content was available to watch and absorb.
As people view the pandemic as an avenge of mother nature the focus shifted from 'what's pretty on the outside' to ' let's enhance what's inside'. More than slimming and hiding scars the population started to work on their health by eating well and exercising regularly to stay fit and healthy.
Skincare routines turned to home hacks and natural products. The ‘apply what you eat’ became a common mindset as most of the stores and supplies were disrupted during the COVID 19 lockdown and pandemic. Hence videos on skincare tips and home hacks are popularized amongst the youth. The beauty in COVID 19 took a 360-degree turn in India.
Makeup looks like the natural look, enhance the features instead of hiding scars and colorful eye makeup look have become famous amidst the pandemic.
Many brands namely DOVE and Bhima Jewellery have launched campaigns that embrace the versatility and diversity in beauty. From #stopthebeautytest by DOVE to the latest Bhima Jewellery campaign unraveling the transformation of a trans woman, the definition of beauty in COVID 19 and after the lockdown has surely changed in India.
For years the Indian women and men have been fighting the picture-perfect beauty one must have to be desirable in India. The concept of beauty in COVID 19 however changed altogether. Acceptance & appreciation of the natural self has become the new motto of the beauty industry now.
The fashion industry is also encouraging the new perception of beauty by promoting inclusivity amongst models and bringing to the ramp natural and unpolished looks.