Like many ambitious women in their twenties, Anisha Oberoi was feeling invincible as she prepared for the next chapter in her life. Accepted by an eminent business school in Paris, she had quit her fashion job and was preparing to swap her base in India for one in the French capital. Then she was diagnosed with a breast carcinoma.
Quest for clean skincare
“I was young, there was no cancer in the family, I didn’t smoke or have any excessive unhealthy habits,” says Oberoi. “I said to myself: ‘I have to conquer this, I have so much more to do.’ I’ve always been process-driven, so I handled it like a project.”
Oberoi recently celebrated her 10-year remission anniversary, which coincides with the launch of her company Secret Skin, an online beauty platform that offers sustainable and clean skincare products.
Although sparked by her cancer battle, the venture was shaped more by serendipity than design after Oberoi relocated to Dubai last year. Intending to further a corporate career that had taken her to Singapore, Australia and India, for the launch of Amazon Fashion, Oberoi was unable to find her ideal job in the UAE.
However, she says she’d unwittingly been preparing for her latest role since treatment with toxic medication for her carcinoma drastically affected her appearance, and resulted in self-esteem issues when she was unable to use conventional beauty products.
Oberoi began seeking out cleaner skincare, but found a lack of readily available toxin-free, organic brands. This eventually inspired her to do something entrepreneurial around beauty and wellness. "I was evolving the idea, but not in a focused manner because my plan was always to be an executive in the corporate arena, as a woman," she says. "I had to get to this stage where I knew so much about what I do now, where I finally felt ready."
Ethical beauty brands for mindful living
Secret Skin went live last month, and offers beauty brands that provide sustainably packaged, ethically sourced ingredients created by “happily small” independent producers who boost the communities around them. Its curated range includes eight brands as of now, including some new-to-the-UAE names, such as UK brands Mauli and Amly, India’s Purearth and US label Ranavat, alongside Dubai’s KJ Serums and Art of Shaving items for men.
The platform is aimed at the growing clan of conscientious skincare seekers. With that, Oberoi says, comes another key Secret Skin layer: education on the need to switch to clean brands without the “nasties” found in some alternatives.
“We are, over a period of time, harming ourselves by putting things on our body that get absorbed by the bloodstream and show up much later as downstream impact, either with your hormones or fertility or, in my case, cancer.
“Clean, natural, organic are buzzwords, but customers must also understand what they mean.”
Oberoi hopes Secret Skin is a catalyst for a broader focus on mindful living, including young women seeking early detection of health issues. For instance, she wants to speak to schoolgirls in the UAE about when and how to start using make-up.
“On the outside, we’re a beauty business; on the inside, there’s a desire to educate, enable and empower a woman to take control of her health and destiny. Beauty then becomes a small part of a much larger conversation about holistic wellness. The idea is not to be the Amazon or Sephora of clean beauty, but to start a movement of mindful living.”
Oberoi is also keen to dispel the notion that clean beauty necessarily means more expensive. Sure, there will always be mass-produced products you can get for a bargain, but she says: “If you spend money on organic foods then you should also be looking at this, because over a period of time you’re overloading your body with chemicals you’re not even sure about.”