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Mindfully Beautiful In The Smartphone Age

They seek out associations and experiences that give them deeper satisfaction than what instant gratification can provide. And that's good news for brands that are genuinely seeking to do good!

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There was a time, not so long ago, when "beautiful" in India meant being described using a fairly predictable set of adjectives, starting with the most predictable one: fair. And the list then expanded to slim, sharp-featured, pleasing personality and so on. With perhaps the exception of slim, the others were mostly a function of how genetically well-endowed (or otherwise) one was. For those not so well-endowed, "help" was readily available in the form of creams, lotions, face washes, even soaps, potions, tablets, syrups and everything in between. In reality, it's more hope, than help.

Cut to 2018. Smartphones, cheap data connections and auto-correct are everybody's weapons. People are able to broadcast their views (and selfies) to ever-growing circles of interest and influence, ostensibly without fear. But have the notions of beauty changed? What do people aspire to be? Who do they want to look like? Is the "hope in a potion" industry dead, or is it growing faster than ever before? While the pessismist's answer is probably "nothing has changed, and it's business as usual", my answer is a lot more optimistic. As a man in the for-women beauty industry, I am seeing common notions of beauty slowly, but surely, transform. Here are 3 definite trends that I'm seeing:

What's changing: Dark. And proud of it. 
From movie stars, to digital influencers and brands that take a stand, women are becoming increasingly comfortable in their own skin, and aren't afraid to express their originality. Several digital hashtags routinely take on the "fair is beautiful" notion, and I've been pleasantly surprised at their popularity.

Why it's changing: There are many good reasons for this, but I find this one the most interesting. Thanks to the smartphone phenomenon, people are today able to express countless facets of themselves. There was a time when a boy used to select a girl (or vice versa) by just looking at a post-card size photograph. The judgement was basis a static picture. But today, you Google the guy/girl's name and the rest, quite literally, is history. You understand their personality, strengths and lifestyle choices, even before you've met a person. That automatically takes the focus away from the one dimension that people used to be obsessed with earlier: whether the girl has a fair skin. But we still have a long, long way to go before the obsession is completely gone.

What's changing: Body-shaming is uncool. 
As kids growing up, being called lambu, motu, chashmishetc was par for the course. But try doing that on social media today - the "lynch mob" will likely be at your digital doorstep before you can hit refresh on your feed.

Why it's changing: I'm not a psychologist, but here's what I think. In the "physical taunting" era, it was far too risky for a good samaritan to speak up to the bully - for fear of physical harm. But in the digital world, everyone's equally armed and dangerous. And there are good samaritan supporters on standby, the moment the first one picks up the courage to call out the bully. A bully fears nothing more than social isolation.

What's changing: Mindful choice of beauty products
While a lot of our "beauty" has got to do with our genetics, taking proper care of oneself does make good look better. And more than ever before, consumers are choosing products not based on promises, but based on ingredients, facts, reviews, and that all-new smartphone-era phenomenon: social proof. And to a small but growing number, it's not just about the product, it's the philosophy behind the brand that matters equally.

Why it's changing: This is a worldwide phenomenon. As increasingly prosperous generations enter the consumption zone, their needs move rapidly up the hierarchy of needs, wants and desires, and into other things that give them satisfaction. They seek out associations and experiences that give them deeper satisfaction than what instant gratification can provide. And that's good news for brands that are genuinely seeking to do good!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Women's Day

Shankar Prasad

The author is Founder and Director, Plum

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