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    Secret Skin founder Anisha Oberoi on her journey to clean beauty

    Sophia Dyer

    Finding purpose after a life changing event, the Dubai-resident launched the GCC’s first clean beauty retail platform

    If you’re someone who knows your citric acid from your niacinamide, it’s likely you’ve heard of Secret Skin. An online haven for clean beauty products, the e-commerce platform, turned retailer stocks ethically sourced products that are made without harmful chemicals. 

    An idea devised by Anisha Oberoi back in 2020, the tech-enabled platform became the first in the GCC to vet every ingredient of each of its products before it is accepted to be listed on the site. This rigorous process was implemented to ensure anything purchased from the site is safe for the body and planet. And, naturally, this diligence earned the site trust from investors and customers alike. 

    With a growing demand for clean beauty in the region, the harmful effects of putting harsh chemicals on the skin are becoming increasingly a part of the zeitgeist. But this was a revelation that Oberoi came to at a much younger age after a shock diagnosis and one that inspired her journey to launching one of the most successful beauty sites in the GCC.

    Augustinus Bader. Image: Supplied

    A mind of one’s own

    Growing up in the mountainous region of North India, Kashmir, Oberoi had a passion for – and wanted to study – philology. Her father, however, was keen on her studying hotel management. “Our family background is in hotels,” she explains. “I was born and raised in hotels.” Sticking to her guns, Oberoi told her father, “If you let me go and study literature, theatre, and economics, then I promise that  when I graduate, I’ll go into hospitality like you.” A promise kept, after studying in America and France, “I started working in hotels shortly after my graduation.”

    After five and a half years, Oberoi’s father sadly passed away. “I wasn’t really very motivated to stay in the industry after that, maybe because it was triggering. I don’t quite remember but I just knew I was done when it came to hospitality.”  

    Forging a new career path, Oberoi joined Ermenegildo Zegna and went into global marketing with a focus
    on fashion and luxury. “I was trying to find myself and preparing myself to enter business school, that was before I was diagnosed…”

    Dr Tanya day and night cream.
    Dr Tanya, day and night cream. Image: Supplied

    A twist of fate

    A young woman in her early 20s, Oberoi had been accepted into the prestigious business school, INSEAD. So, like any other ambitious young woman, she quit her corporate job and prepared herself to move to France. “That’s when I found out,” says Oberoi, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

    “I had a little lump on the right breast and I began missing my periods,” she explains. “They misdiagnosed me saying you’re too young, for this to be insidious.” Going through a life-changing experience, Oberoi became more determined than ever to plan for the future, “I found out in July, had surgery in August, waited a year until I got better because I needed chemotherapy and then I was at school the following August,” she explains matter of factly.  

    New passions

    Throughout the year of treatment, in a display of her grit and resilience, Oberoi did not lose sight of her vision. “I just felt that my life was waiting for me,” says the business owner. “Sometimes to run away from something triggering, you have to run towards something which is motivating. My goals kept me alive.”

    Graduating in 2012, Oberoi was recruited for Amazon while still on campus. “I was hired as the beauty editor. Then I became the head of content creative and launched the biggest fashion week in the country, Amazon India Fashion Week.” Leading the entire digital scope for the fashion week every year for eight seasons, Oberoi honed her craft.

    The lip balm
    The lip balm. Image: Supplied

    Between money and meaning

    In 2019, the corporate businesswoman moved to the UAE. “I gave up the biggest job I’ve ever had to move here with my, now, fiancé. Planning to continue working in the same field, Oberoi searched for another job but faced an internal battle as she did so. “I thought to myself, I’m hitting ten years of being in remission, what am I going to do with this experience? It was a spiritual struggle at that time between money and meaning. I could either go into a job and continue doing what I had been doing, or I could take this experience and build something that is bigger than myself,” says Oberoi. 

    A natural decision 

    Since her cancer diagnosis, Oberoi had taken an interest in the products she put on her skin. Removing all harsh chemicals from both her hygiene and beauty regime, she had been sourcing clean products for herself for the last decade. It was during her pursuit to find them in the UAE that inspiration for her ‘meaning’ struck. 

    “Nothing that I wanted to buy existed here and so I saw the gap…” says Oberoi. “I started working on Secret Skin the week the world went into lockdown and by October 2020, we were live. The e-commerce platform launched with seven brands, each hand-selected by its founder, three years later, the site has 50 brands to shop. 

    Conscious beauty 

    “Everything we put on our skin has a direct correlation to your fertility and your hormones as a woman, for men too but the point is, as women, we have to be a lot more careful. In the last 10 years, we’ve become so educated about organic food and we’re so careful with what we buy for our babies, then
    why does it stop when we grow older?” asks Oberoi. 

    SecretSkin checks each product’s eco and safety credentials before adding them to the site. The brands listed on the platform are cruelty-free, and made from nature-derived or organic ingredients. “They also have to be unique in terms of pricing and positioning, there has to be a USP (unique selling point),” says the confident businesswoman. 

    Salt and Stone deodorant.
    Salt and Stone. Image: Supplied

    Positively glowing

    In 2023, Secret Skin was accepted into the pre-seed investor TechStars which has an acceptance rate of just 1.5 percent. Receiving further investment from the Saudi Arabian government, the business has grown from just an e-commerce platform to now including business-to-business distribution, working with Bulgari Hotels and That Concept Store. “We’re currently going through another fundraiser,” says the founder, adding, “65 percent of our investors are women.” 

    Helmed by Oberoi and four colleagues, the company has grown sustainably 15 percent, month on month and continues to find new avenues of expansion. Including launching into four new geographies this year including Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and India. 

    “We are building the ecosystem,” says Oberoi. “It takes a lot of work and dogged determination.” Reflecting on her journey, Oberoi concludes, “I should have died. But the universe had other plans for me. And low and behold, I can see those plans now.” 

    Anisha's summer must-haves

    Anisha Oberoi shares her top five products for the season

    Sacred Union Scent & Dry Oil by Mauli

    A nutrient-rich multitasking body and hair oil that glides on like a mist

    Supernatural Radiance Serum by RMS Beauty 

    A mineral-based ultra-sheer tint with SPF30 for effortless blending

    The Eye Patches with Hyaluronic Acid & TFC8 BY Austinus Bader

    Eye masks infused with hyaluronic acid and niacinamide for brighter, smoother under-eyes

    Buriti Bronzer by RMS Beauty

    My favourite cream bronzer for a sun-kissed glow

    Wanderlash Mascara by Bella

    A 30-sec lash lift for Instant drama, fuller lashes and all-around glamour.

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