What would you do if you get a chance to interact with one of the most respected voices of authority in India on beauty and wellness? Ask her about her insider beauty secrets! And that is what our consulting beauty editor did when she met Geeta Rao, previously beauty Director at Vogue India, and now an influencer, content creator and brand storyteller. Her works continue to be featured in India’s leading publications – Vogue, The Times of India, The Hindu and Lifestyle Asia, and she shares her take on beauty, art, fashion and luxury through her blog geetaslist.wordpress.com. Aparrna Gupta quizzes Geeta on everything, right from her favourite products to how to build a skincare closet. Read on as Geeta shares a page from her wellness and beauty diary.
What’s your idea of beauty?
Geeta Rao: Beauty is both an attitude and passion. I love beauty but I like to believe that I am not a slave to it.
Geeta Rao: To select the right products, it is really important to get to know your skin and trust your beauty radar. I always advise young women to listen to the small voice within. If a brand does not resonate with you, however famous it may be and however many fans it may have, it is not for you. When it comes to skincare, do read reviews carefully and find a few beauty experts who you trust. Please read labels carefully before ordering anything online.
What are your tips and tricks to build an effective skincare closet ? What products (product categories) are the essentials and which are the desirables ?
Geeta Rao: For an effective skincare closet, you need to start with the rituals you follow and build on that. Cleansing, exfoliation and hydration are essential steps in my opinion. Once you work on these you have to segment choices according to your skin type and age. Nothing is cast in stone and you need to revisit the products you use regularly because a lot of things impact your skin condition.
Investing in a good makeup remover is non-negotiable. If you double cleanse, then balance with two cleansing products. Finish with a serum or facial oil. A cleanser, serum, and CC cream are great for the day. For the night serum, night cream (yes, a night cream even if you are in your twenties especially if you sleep in an air-conditioned room) and a separate serum for the under-eye area works well. Surprisingly a lot of young women have premature ageing around the eyes so this will help.
Don’t overload your skin with too many products. Don’t sleep with more than three products on your face. If you simply must use six products, then have alternate days or cycles.
You are a big advocator of clean eating. What are your diet rules to get glowing skin?
Geeta Rao: I am not sure how clean my eating is as I have no control over most of my day but breakfast is a meal I spend time on and plan so that is usually healthy. I eat eggs as I think they are an easy source of protein but I try greening them up in as many ways as I can think of with herbs, veggies, and millets. Breakfast is more of a meditative exercise for me. We lead busy lives so one meal should be a slow one.
You have a deep understanding of Indian herbs. Which are favourite herbs and how do you use them in your wellness regime?
Geeta Rao: Turmeric and sandalwood. I prefer to ingest turmeric in smoothies and as a sprinkle over salads either in raw or dry powdered form with a little bit of pepper (as pepper activates the curcumin). I don’t use turmeric on my face because I already have a very yellow undertone and it tends to stain my skin. Sandalwood works in multiple ways for skin and just a bit of sandalwood paste is a terrific face pack and conditioner. You have to get a piece of real sandalwood and rub it with a little water on a marble pestle for the real experience but otherwise, sandalwood powder from a trusted source will do.
What do you suggest a customer should check out while reading the labels, especially when she doesn’t have a science background, and all chemicals sound threatening?
Geeta Rao: Check for Phthalates, some forms of petroleum and SLS which can cause more harm than permissible parabens. If a product has a laundry list of ingredients you may want to check why it has so many and whether they are all safe. Google is very helpful!
Is there any home beauty remedy which has been passed on by your mum to you?
Geeta Rao: My Mom and Grandma both swore by fresh fruit peels and whenever melon or papaya especially was cut they would rub the peel over their faces. I thought it was totally yucky and uncool when I was growing up but find myself doing the same thing now. I now know that papain the enzyme in papaya is a powerful antioxidant and that fruit acids are great exfoliators.
What about Just Herbs appeals to you?
Geeta Rao: I like the fact that Just Herbs backs all its claims with the correct certification. For me, this is the test of a committed brand because words like ‘organic’, ’Ayurveda’ and ‘natural’ are used a little too freely by beauty brands with no supporting evidence whatsoever.
Geeta Rao: Beauty Bytes
The first beauty/skincare product you use in the morning…
Cold water on my face.
Beauty must-haves (fragrances, colour cosmetics, hair care) on your vanity dresser now…
I always have a bright pink lipstick like MAC chatterbox, a shimmer eye shadow palette in neutrals and golds (I currently am using the Pixi by Petra palette) and facial oil or serum, Sephora’s eye makeup remover on my dressing table.
The beauty ritual gives you an instant high…
Putting on my lipstick always gives me a high – the brighter the better.
Beauty essentials you never leave home without…
An Ayurvedic rose water spritz, a lipstick and a powder compact.
Beauty products you never fly without…
Clinique’s moisture surge, rose water and cold cream.