A blue box arrived at my doorstep. It said it was custom-made to meet my haircare needs. It promised great texture, volume, and whatnot, but it was underwhelming. I'm talking about personalised haircare and skincare brands wildly burgeoning in the market. It's all I see when I open Instagram. These brands formulate their products after we take an online quiz. We're asked many questions — from our food habits and lifestyle to our hair and skin quality. We even list how thick our hair is — is it denser than a fine thread? AI generates our hair or skin health report; tailor-made products are suggested based on our answers. We can pick the products' colour and fragrance, which are then delivered in 7-10 days.
When I placed my first order, I was excited, not gonna lie! Perhaps it was a fleeting thought, but I imagined good days were here for my hair. I have curly hair, and most brands that I've used were, well, useless. Here's what I received in my blue box: shampoo, conditioner, and a pre-shampoo mask. The mask was decent, but the shampoo and conditioner didn't work for me — my hair was drier than ever, and although the brand said it takes a couple of washes to adjust to the products, it didn't help. I ordered thrice because the brand convinced me to take an annual subscription. Of course, I've cancelled the subscription. The brand said the shampoo doesn't froth much because it has no chemicals, but then I've been using vegan and chemical-free shampoos, and they froth all right. So, I didn't get why people raved about these brands online. Were they sponsored? Maybe the shampoos didn't work for me? I've decided to ask others who've tried these brands out.
"Last year, I decided to give a brand's hair products a shot. I loved their packaging, its personalisation, and the process of choosing something specific for my thick curls. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me once I used it. The daily grime wouldn't wash off well, and it felt sticky to the extent that I had to ditch it for my conventional shampoo. That experience deterred me from trying customised purchases despite being very invested in their campaigns and ideas. The serum was decent, though, and I continued using it. I didn't repurchase anything from the brand above," says Paulami Sen, a freelance writer and content strategist.
So, Is It A Marketing Gimmick?
After three purchases, it's best to understand a doctor's perspective. Dr Syed Shazia Fatima — a Hyderabad-based cosmetic dermatologist, says, "I am a huge fan of customised medical care, and when it comes to skincare or haircare, my stance is no different. From the start of my practice, I have ensured that no two prescriptions are the same unless the situation demands it. Each of us is unique, with a different make and habits, and customisation is the key to getting the best results in any situation."
When asked if we need customised skincare or haircare, Dr Shazia says, "I wouldn't trust a brand to customise skin or hair needs for you. It takes a lot of planning, and though I am sure some brands are backed by science and researchers, I strongly believe they can't replace a doctor's expertise or even perhaps an aesthetician. A doctor can help with the science and experience, and an aesthetician definitely with their expertise, which is usually not backed by scientific studies. You'll notice the latter with your hairstylist — they might not exactly know why a product may suit you. Still, their recommendations are sometimes pretty on point given their experience and exposure."
I've recently stumbled upon another brand that offers solutions after calculating our doshas. To understand it, I took its quiz too. There were questions about patterns of sleep, teeth, eye size, lashes, etc. I was asked how often I felt thirsty and hungry or what my social skills were like. My result said my health issues are caused by an elevated state of doshas (internal body mechanisms) in the body. While I didn't understand it clearly, the result said I needed multivitamins, especially Vitamin C and E.
I asked Dr. Shazia's opinion on brands formulating skincare based on doshas. She says, "Doshas — a beautiful field of Ayurveda that had a lot of work done on it back in the 20th century, is an age-old science of temperaments that originated in ancient Mesopotamia. I love this science and believe that one's temperament can correlate to one's health and hair and skin issues. The customisation with such parameters in mind is great. However, I am sceptical about whether a brand can identify one's dosha or temperament accurately, as it requires years of study to "diagnose" and whether it can be done on a wide range rather than a one-on-one basis. One-on-one would be an ideal diagnostic situation; once a detailed history is taken, consider allergies. I'd render them safe only after knowing what ingredients are used too. It is a great idea, and I hope to see more of it done practically, properly and not just as a marketing gimmick."
Are Consumers Looking For More Choices?
Well, yes! Aparnna Hajirnis, a freelance writer and journalist, says, "I feel customised skin and hair care need to be more democratised when choosing fragrances and products. Almost all of Freewill's products offer similar fragrances that are too fruity. I am opposed to fruity fragrances in hair and skin care. I prefer floral fragrances. Also, I feel you use one product more than others. My conditioners last longer than my shampoo because I don't always condition my hair but sometimes use a live-in serum. But with customised products, you buy the entire kit because you cannot choose individual products." Aparnna has tried several brands and discovered them online while looking for a hair loss cure and when she wanted to incorporate paraben and sulfate-free products.
Beauty Products Are Having Their Moment Though
Customised lipsticks, foundations, and creams are having their moment —mainly Tinge by Sabrina — a cruelty-free, vegan beauty brand that crafts various beauty products. Aakanksha Singh Devi, AVP of Content at LBB, says, "A friend knew Sabrina personally and suggested I check out the products. So, of course, I did and loved the product, the process, and Sabrina herself. It's a vegan, cruelty-free brand that you can customise. That doesn't happen often, but when it does in the form of Tinge, it was magic."
Padmaja Konisetti, Head of Press and Communications at the British Deputy High Commission, also tried Tinge. She says, "Lipsticks available in the market are largely designed for fair-skinned people without realising that most of us have brown skin tone. I like the concept where they design lipsticks depending on your skin tone, occasion, and choice. I also liked that they help you identify which shades work better." When asked what made her choose a custom beauty brand when there are several brands in the market, she quips, "I like lipsticks that are subtle and not loud. The ones available in the market didn't work for my skin tone. Also, these custom-made ones are not mass-produced and do not use harmful preservations. This was another step in my attempt to move to eco-friendly brands." Brands like LipHue and Emcee Beauty offer customised lipsticks.
This brings us to the main question — do we need customised haircare or skincare? It's still too early to answer. While most of these products work a lot like conventional skincare or haircare range, it's best to seek a doctor's advice for dire conditions or if we're looking at targeted solutions. Also, customised skincare/haircare are priced higher than conventional products. So, it's worth asking if we're paying more and gaining less. That said, BRB, I'm off to check out some customised lipsticks because those are the only products worth trying out, from what I see.
All pictures are used for representation purposes and are license-free from Unsplash.