Passionate about all things skincare, Delara Lalwani is on a mission to help women put their best face forward with the aid of a new app Beauty Button. Susannah Jaffer chats to the tech entrepreneur to find out more.
Tell us where your fascination with skincare came from.
My immersion into the world of beauty began in Mumbai in 1993. I had just gotten home from playing sport, when my grandmother let out a shriek. I thought someone had died, only to realise that she was shaken up by what she saw on my face: freckles. That might not seem like a big deal to everyone – after all, freckles are normal – but to my grandmother it was the end of the world. Next thing I knew, I was sitting in a dermatologist’s office. I was eleven years old.
After analysing my face, that dermatologist prescribed me a sunscreen. Back then, not many people knew what SPF was in India; even the local pharmacy didn’t have one! My uncle, who was a pilot, bought me one back from London. It was a thick white paste that looked like diaper rash cream.
Fast forward to 2002, I began my career as a copywriter at a renowned advertising agency. One afternoon in the office restroom, I was reapplying sunscreen (it had become a good habit!) when our creative director walked in. She watched me intently, which made me feel a bit uneasy. Then, she said the magic words that would change my life: “How would you like to make a skincare commercial?’
From that day, I found myself working with international beauty brands, which essentially meant I was working alongside top Bollywood actresses who were brand ambassadors. It was everything I had imagined, and more. While working closely with these incredibly beautiful women, I learnt that their skin isn’t always as fabulous as it appears in the movies. They also suffer from breakouts and other skin troubles. The difference is that they have a team of experts at their disposal to help solve these issues, and they work hard to get their skin back on track by diligently following skincare routines.
After almost a decade in beauty advertising, I got a call that would once again change the course of my life. I was to pack my bags and move to Singapore, as I landed the job of Creative Director for an ad agency to lead luxury skincare brand SK-II.
How did the idea for the app, Beauty Button, first come about?
I travelled extensively to Japan and Korea, where regular women, not just celebrities, have the most flawless and glowing skin. I wondered, what were these ladies doing right? The answer turned out to be so simple: they consistently followed a rigorous skincare routine, just like the Bollywood A-listers did.
This made so much sense to me. Skincare is actually a lot like exercise. If you want to improve your body, you need to work out religiously. If you want to improve your skin, you need to follow a routine just as strictly .When I returned from my travels, I was buzzing with a newfound energy. What if every woman could have great skin simply by following a proper regime?
I started experimenting on my friends and family, and soon discovered that it’s not that simple. We all have different skin. What works for one may not necessarily work for another. A routine needs to be customised for every woman based on her skin type, skin issues, age and even the climate she lives in.
In my spare time, I started writing a personal skincare blog called The Beauty Wonderland. I wrote about my experiences in skincare and the things that I’d learnt over the past 15 years in the industry. Before I knew it, women from all over the world were connecting with me, exchanging stories and giving me a peek into their skin struggles. Almost all of these women were asking me to customise a routine just for them. It was then that I knew I was onto something.
So, not long after that, I quit a decade-long career in advertising to create Beauty Button. I teamed up with beauty and tech experts to build a proprietary algorithm that would take each user’s skin info such as type, problems, age and climate to serve up a personalised skincare regime. After years of research and development, Beauty Button was finally launched this year!
Congratulations! So who would enjoy the app?
Beauty Button is like having your very own skin advisor. It’s no longer something that only celebrities have access to, it’s for anyone who wants to improve or maintain their skin. Aside from providing tailor-made routines, the app also allows users to log their daily skincare steps so they can stay on track. Daily reminders and personalised skin tips also help a great deal.
The app also recommends a range of products meant specifically for the user’s skin and budget. The Photo Compare feature is a really useful tool – you can take before and after pictures to see how your skin has progressed over time.
You make a point of wearing little or no makeup, and also set yourself a goal not to wear makeup on your wedding day. Why?
My mum had gone sans makeup for her own wedding, and she looked absolutely stunning. Her skin was clear and radiant. When I asked why, she nonchalantly replied: “Every bride glows on her wedding day. Why cover that glow?” Ever since then, I always wanted to do the same – walk down the aisle without any makeup.
Unfortunately, my skin is extremely oily and blemish-prone. So, six months prior to the wedding, I began to follow a rigorous regimen to improve its quality.
To cut a long story short, I did end up getting married without makeup – except for eyeliner, but that was more for fun than to hide my flaws! My skin looked just as clear and radiant as my mother’s had done.
It’s been more than eight years since then, and I still religiously follow a skincare ritual every morning and night. No one can tell that my skin type is actually oily and acne-prone!
Beauty question! If you had to pick one skincare must-have, what would it be?
You might think it was sunscreen, but actually it’s facewash. My day begins and ends with a thorough cleanse. At night, I wash my face to remove all the dust, sweat, sebum (oil) and sunscreen that’s stuck to it. This stuff may not be visible, but it’s there. You should never ever sleep with this gunk on your face, because it doesn’t allow your skin to repair itself the way it should, and you’ll wake up to a complexion that’s dull and congested.
I always wash my face first thing in the morning, too. A lot of people don’t because they think it’s still clean. It’s not! Dead skin cells and sebum have collected there overnight, and they clog the pores. My favourite cleanser is Chanel Mousse Rinse-Off Foaming Cream. It’s so luxurious, I feel like I’m cleansing with a cloud!
What’s been your biggest entrepreneurial lesson?
Listen to feedback, never to criticism. They may seem like the same thing, but there’s a big difference between the two. Feedback is helpful. It’s productive, empowering and positive. Criticism is the opposite. It’s hurtful. It’s meant to throw you off course, and it breaks your spirit.
You can immediately tell whether someone is giving feedback or is criticising your work. If it’s the latter, tune it out. If it’s the former, listen carefully. It might just give you your next big idea!
What advice would you have for fellow (or potential) mumpreneurs when it comes to juggling business and family life?
Motherhood has actually made me take more risks. After giving birth, I was convinced I could do anything! I want to lead by example. I want my son to grow up believing that women can do just about anything, and I want my daughter to dream big. To all the mothers out there who want to do something but are unsure, I’d say, “Do it for yourself, but more so, do it for your kids!”
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