ONE-TO-ONE WITH VISUAL STORYTELLER AND AUTHOR ACHLA GROVER
Meet Achla Grover, a Bangalore-based visual skincare storyteller and published poet. A green beauty skincare advocate, Achla's dreamy photography and detailed and incredibly thoughtful skincare reviews, make her corner of Instagram a place to slow down and reconnect. She's a published author, poet and photographer. Here she talks about her skincare rituals, thoughts on aging, her writing and art, and the state of natural beauty in India.
Please introduce yourself to the Sarka Botanicals community. Where are you based? What do you do?
Hello, my name is Achla, I come from the land of colours – India and I currently live in Bangalore. I am a lingerie expert in the Indian market managing the innerwear business for one of the leading retail giants in India during the day. By night, I'm a skincare enthusiast exploring indie brands and researching ingredients. For the love of skincare, last year, I enrolled into the school of Formula Botanica to satiate my love and curiosity of learning more about ingredients and formulations.
I have a flair for art and I write poetry and love photography. A published poet , my solo debut poetry was launched in 2018 under the title “The Midnight Telegrams” and is available on Amazon. I am a trained classical dancer in Indian dance form of Kuchipudi.
You are a visual skincare storyteller. Tell me about how you approach storytelling and how you differentiate yourself from other people doing similar work on Instagram.
I call myself a visual skincare storyteller because I express my experience with the product / brand via my photography and content depicting their essence and my personal experience.
I believe products speak a language and most of the time what you see on my feed in terms of photography, is totally driven out of how each product has spoken to me irrespective of the cliche of maintaining a cohesive or neutral feed.
It’s very difficult to make space in this platform which is already so crowded and has become more of an entertaining platform than a place to share and exchange some real experiences and so I've invested in a website to share my experiences at length via a dedicated blog and I do feel that gives me an edge in today's saturated platform.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work with independent beauty brands?
If someone wants to work with an independent brand, I think the most important part is to connect with the brand. Most of these brands are bootstrapped and if one really wants to start working with them, a good way to start is to learn and know more about the founders and precisely why they started what they started.This will also help you understand if your and the brand's ethos are aligned.
Unlike mass produced industrial giants, independent brands are self-funded and don’t really have funds to support influencer marketing most of the time. You really need to accept and keep that in mind and approach them only if you really connect with the product and the brand.
There's a lot more than just ingredients and bottles that go into independent brands and one must approach them keeping these things in mind. It’s like approaching to the mother of a child that your child wants to have a play date with. You want to be the really courteous because it’s literally their baby.
What does the holistic/green beauty landscape look like in India?
Once I got into the holistic approach of skincare I realised India is a huge market with untapped potential. There are a few brands trying to cut a niche but are struggling since the awareness is still missing. It’s a slow revolution but I definitely see it coming. I am the biggest example of this. Until 2019 I would only wear big commercial fancy brands for my skincare needs. It was only when I discovered few indie brands and started reading and studying about them, that I was able to broaden my horizons and move into the realm of holistic and botanical skincare.
When Covid shut down and paralysed our country, the reports I studied proved that skincare industry was thriving. One of the biggest Indian ecommerce beauty aggregators was allowed to operate under the essentials category and their sales only climbed. The only two industries that thrived were underwear and skincare.
The skincare landscape is changing for consumers here. From importing foreign brands and paying shipping and customs, consumers aren’t shying away in trying indie beauty brands.
India is a young country and people have disposable income. The green and sustainable revolution is coming. I see a huge opportunity waiting to be tapped.
What are some homegrown brands and brand founders we should know about?
To name a few homegrown brands I would say Ekavi is one such brand that is cutting a niche with science-backed botanical skincare. Purearth is a brand which is headquartered both in India and Hong Kong and its products are purely rooted in Ayurveda. Both the brands have their own niche and that sets them apart.
Tell us all about your poetry.
I wrote my first poem in 1993, when I was just 12 years old. My father and my English school teacher encouraged me a lot. It started with me observing people and writing my thoughts in a poetic way and soon I became talk of the school. My father kept encouraging me stating that if I wrote more than 50 poems, he would get my book published one day. I kept writing and reviewing my work and was never satisfied enough to approach publishers until 2012. And then started a series of rejections and no responses from publishers until 2018, when an Indian press accepted my manuscript titled “The Midnight telegrams” and agreed to publish it.
My poetry is free flowing verses, painting visuals in words irrespective of length – it varies from a single line to two pages, depending upon how much it takes to visually paint static imagery with words. The book has been reviewed by some eminent poets as “short songs of desires, mining the darkness of night”.
My inspiration comes from everyday life and emotions that leave you wanting for more, these could be mundane tasks like knitting a sweater or dark desires . A favourite from my own book is:
his dusky desire
perpetually on fire
now, his days are charred
and nights ablaze
the smoke of his cigar
still bears her scar.”
The book is available Amazon for a worldwide audience. Prior to this I have been fortunate enough to have been published on few international websites as well such as Danse Macabre and featured in some homegrown Indian English poets anthologies too.
What’s your approach to ageing and has it changed over the years?
I'm 40 and I barely had any thoughts on aging until two years back. I have been blessed with good genes and my lifestyle choices, including my eating and sleep habits have been really good too; so, I've never had to rely heavily on topicals until age 38.
I believe aging is intrinsic and I am totally ok with it, lets accept it's inevitable and that we really need to come to terms with it.
What am not ok with is the sun damage and hormonal imbalances erupting on my skin. I do put a lot into making sure I use the right products to help me maintain my skin, including antioxidants, exfoliators and hydration serums to maintain a healthy skin barrier. My goal is to age gracefully, with a lit within glow shining through my wrinkles.
Tell us about skin care rituals or products that you love?
I love cleansers, hydrating toners and facial oils. These are staples for me unless I am healing any active acne or using treatment products to tackle acne marks. Products that multitask are a boon. For me, topical treatments for hormonal breakouts are a must, but I take care of my skin gently, I prefer cushioning and protecting rather than overloading it with actives.
In the treatments category for my acne scars and pigmentation, I really like the Isclinical Proheal, Sachi Triphala Pigmentation Corrector, Biologique Recherche Iso Placenta cream and Jan Marini Duality. I am a facial oil lover and can never have enough, few of my favourites are Sarka Botanicals Vitamin C Face Oil, Sleeping Beauty from Achilles Skincare and Odacite Ca R booster.
I use sunscreen religiously even indoors but I am not loyal in that category and I keep switching. Currently am using the Isdin Fotoprotector Fusion water SPF 50+.
How do you keep your mind youthful and healthy?
Music relieves me. Books are my escape and poetry is meditation for me. Every single time I write poetry, it’s like a flower that blooms in my head. Every step is lighter then and some gravity (of any situation) has been taken off my feet. It really makes me feel light and I can think through things clearly.
I am someone who can imagine anything under the sun and books take me to many worlds. My favourite author is Haruki Murakami. I relate to his writing a lot. I love music and it’s such an instant mood lifter for me. I am not much of a television person. These are few of my favourite practices that make my head and heart a very happy place.
I can get bored easily and I need challenges to keep my mind youthful. I look for these either within my work life or by picking a new hobby or something I have always wanted to do. It helps me keep looking forward to life.
I want to have my stories of accolades and failures to tell my grand children and that just keeps me going. You would agree with me that the potential of healthy mind is huge.
What’s a life changing realization you’ve had?
I am yet to have that moment in my life. Amen.
When do you feel most beautiful?
I feel the most beautiful when am just being myself. Dressing up is nice, but ‘feeling’ beautiful is an inside story. Like I mentioned in the beginning I am a dancer, throw me a pair of shoes, play good music and let me sway. I have never felt more beautiful than when I dance. My flaws become non-existent and my worries evaporate. Then it’s just me and the music. The world becomes my stage and I am the hero of my life. The free flow of energy is a healing power in itself and for me dancing brings that, connecting me to who I am at that point of time.