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August - September 2006


Cosmetology: A reflection of the past and present - A whimsical look at the beauty industry

by Sujata Jolly

It is widely accepted that we live in a health and beauty conscious world where appearance matters. Cosmetology is a wide subject but my main interest is focused around skin disorders which are life-spoiling rather than life-threatening; however, these can have a serious psychological impact on sufferers. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, beauty clinics almost exclusively offered pampering facials, electrolysis, waxing, manicures and pedicures.

During the 1980’s the remedial side of the beauty therapy was in its infancy and I was at the forefront of pioneers who broadened the scope of beauty clinics. My contribution was Oxypeel - a range of treatments which uses oxygen therapy to treat a wide spectrum of skin disorders; Oxypeel is targeted at skin problems including acne, scarring and pigmentation, and most importantly is suitable for Asian skins which tend to exhibit the after effects of acne in the form of pitting and pigmentation.

The 1990s and 2000s have seen a quantum leap in cosmetology. Cosmetic surgery and laser became the be all and end all, a panacea for all problems – real or imaginary. With new developments flooding the market, the poor consumer has become increasingly confused. The English language is becoming enriched with new buzz words and the media, through advertisements and features, is bringing new developments to your attention even if you’re marooned on a desert island or living in a monastery. The dividing line between medicine and cosmetics is now blurred and the term cosmeceuticals has been born.

So-called “experts” on every aspect were coming out of the woodwork to pontificate on each and every aspect of our wellbeing. New esoteric names were created and problems were invented to fit the treatment. The deforestation of the Amazonian rainforest accelerated to meet the never-ending demand for books on nutrition, diet, slimming, exercise and so on. A personal trainer and fashion guru became de rigueur for the chattering classes. We were all being convinced there was something wrong with us and that we needed things like rhinoplasty, a tummy tuck, botox or one of the numerous other treatments on the market. It became apparent that truth was becoming a casualty to hype.

During the 1990s I decided to focus on developing a much needed procedure for an age-old problem, excessive hair growth. My contribution was Epil-Pro, an innovative alternative to electrolysis based on sound energy. As customers shy away from invasive methods of hair removal, the industry is seeing a major shift towards techniques such as Epil-Pro where there is no risk of scarring or pain that is often associated with electrolysis and laser/ IPL.

With internet usage soaring in the new millennium, the consumer now has a tool to make informed, and more importantly misinformed, decisions in the comfort of their home. Hence, a new buzzword “anti-ageing” was born. Eureka! now we have eternal youth within our grasp. Ladies need no longer lie about their age, they can stop and start the clock on a whim. Conventional wisdom that ageing is inevitable is being airbrushed from our memory.

Whilst the future of cosmetology looks interesting, it seems that it is being driven by greed rather than necessity. Beware of quackery and charlatans where an imaginary Midas touch is being presented as reality. The industry is now infected with a Del Boy attitude where individuals with no real experience set up shop with a view to making a “fast buck” and disappear just as quickly.

Oops….. I better stop now and make an appointment for a chemical peel, liposuction, bee-stung lips or some other procedure that I do not really need! Or maybe, I should go back to my laboratory and look for real solutions to real problems.

Sujata Jolly has been associated with certain aspects of skin and health care almost all her working life. She recently attended two professional exhibitions in London to speak about Epil-Pro, her innovative hair removal technique. She then took the opportunity to lend her support to the UK distributors of the products developed and manufactured by Depeche Mode Laboratories, the company founded by her in 1978. This provided her with the perfect chance to take a whimsical look at the changes in the industry over the past three decades.

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