Hello everyone, sorry for the prolonged absence. I have just gotten back from an incredibly fruitful and humbling research trip to beautiful India, and am now thrust back into the thick of work (and soon, school once again)! But before I really dive headlong into routine, here is a quick rundown of the arsenal I brought with me on my two-week trip.
I owe this travel kit to my awesome research supervisor, who gave it to me the day before I flew off. I love that I have a supervisor who believes in doing solid research and looking good while doing it. It consists of a tube each of shampoo, conditioner, and leave-on brilliance cream, and one slim spray bottle of shine mist. What can I say? The supe raved about how much she liked these products, and her love is justified. This stuff kept my hair happy, shiny, smooth and non-frizzy throughout my trip. And believe me when I say this was much appreciated – the temperature averaged about 39 degrees Celsius while I was there, and humidity was off the charts! I must also mention here that this collection smells gorgeous.
dom gave a very positive review of this cream-gel, so I thought why not tote some of the stuff with me to India? Boy, am I glad that I did. It was light, absorbed rapidly, and helped keep my skin comfortably hydrated throughout the day – essential for Indian summer travels. Also, this stuff smells fresh and invigorating, so it was perfect for early mornings. I am a fan.
This stuff saved me a lot of hassle. Convinced by SdV’s rave review (and compelled by the fact that I’d be spending a fair amount of time in planes, trains and cars), I bought a pressurised can of Klorane’s dry shampoo to take with me – and it really helped keep my hair and scalp from being too greasy when I didn’t have the chance to dunk my head under a shower. This is by far the best dry shampoo I have used to date: it smells powdery fresh but not overpowering, and doesn’t leave heavy residue on the hair and scalp after brushing out. Genius. I’m not going back to Batiste or Tresemme (review forthcoming!) after this!
I cannot emphasise just how important – no, essential – antibacterial wipes are to a trip to India. The cleanliness levels of bathrooms are not always consistent, and Indian cities can be quite dusty. I found that having these wipes on hand meant I could keep my hands clean after every meal and trip to the bathroom, wipe toilet seats/chairs with dodgy stains on them, rub dirt/dust off my skin after being out for a few hours, you name it. I took an embarrassing amount of small packs over, and ended up using most all of them.
Going to India and doing fieldwork and interviews meant traipsing all over the place. A lot. I spent a fair bit of my time in a rural town six hours out of Delhi by overnight train, where it was very hot and dusty. I elected to bring with me a body wash that was not only antibacterial, but also smelled light and refreshing, to overcome sweatiness and grime.
I took two small spray cans of Avene Thermal Spring Water with me after a friend who had been to India in the summer before warned me that this would be a lifesaver on particularly hot days. She was right. This stuff soothed my reddening skin when the weather was out-of-control hot, helped me chill out when I was feeling faint from the heat, and kept me feeling fresh and functional on long train rides. So despite my male friends’ persistent cries of “It’s a huge scam! They’re making you pay so much for what is essentially pressurised water, damn it!”, they will not sway my belief that Avene Thermal Spring Water is good for your skin. Tough luck, guys.
If I haven’t emphasised this point enough by now, Indian summers can be pretty brutal. The skies are clear, crisp and cloudless – which means a great deal of direct exposure to harmful UVA and UVB rays. Luckily for me, dom gave me a tube of Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer with a very high SPF (previously reviewed here) to keep my skin protected. Thanks dom! I am not a big fan of the fragrance, but I like that this sunscreen dries quickly, doesn’t grease up, and does the job well.
I also took with me my trusty Avene Cleanance Soap-Free Gel-Cleanser to keep my skin clean and happy 🙂
And in closing, just to share, here are some random beauty-related observations I gleaned from India:
- The sociocultural emphasis seemingly equating fairness to beauty is extremely pronounced. These standards of beauty apply not only to women: there is an abundance of whitening creams and facial cleansers targeted specifically at men (and hawked by Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan).
- Ayurveda is very much alive and kicking in the beauty and makeup industry in India, with many international brands like Garnier branching into making products such as neem facial wash. So intrigued I was that I bought a little tube of the stuff to try out. Oops. (Review forthcoming!)
- I discovered a really great local makeup and skincare brand called Lakme, which is owned by Unilever. I’m impressed by their range of products and colours, and I can’t help but wonder why they haven’t expanded to Southeast Asia yet – their foundations and concealers come in such a wide variety of tones suited to Asian skin! I only managed to pick up two Lakme products: a liquid eyeliner (Lakme Absolute Shine Line in Brown, which actually comes off a glorious taupey brown) and a pretty pink lipstick from their Nine to Five range, targeted at urban working women. Reviews forthcoming!
- Pioneering Indian skin and body care brand Himalaya Herbals is incredibly affordable in its place of birth. I was amazed at just how cheap their products were – less than half what they cost in Singapore! I snapped up a couple of tubes – a neem facial cleanser, a lemon-honey facial scrub, a neem masque, and a mud pack. Oops. (Reviews forthcoming!)
All beauty-related twitter aside, India was a remarkable experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. In no other country have I been shown so much kindness, warmth, unassuming friendliness, assistance and hospitality by both friends and strangers, whether or not they spoke my language. And yes – the levels of inequality and poverty in India is very real and difficult to watch unfold before one’s own eyes, but the seeds of hope and positive change are everywhere, with many locals devising innovative solutions to overcome the challenges of food and nutritional security, health care access and affordability, clean drinking water, and energy efficiency and provision.
I left feeling very humbled by India, and I believe in its future. I am already making plans to return – but perhaps to a different city, who knows! 🙂