WORDS EMILIE LOUIZIDES
Think of your favourite skincare brand. Can you name the person who started it? Understand why they saw a need for the products they decided to create? Dr. Nina S. Naidu is the founder of natural skincare company anokha - and she's worth getting to know. With over twenty years of experience, Dr. Naidu specialises in aesthetic breast surgeries, body contouring, and non-surgical facial rejuvenation. She approaches each patient consultation with education at the forefront, and prioritises integrity, honesty, and patient safety above everything else.
In 2004, Dr. Naidu recognised the demand from patients for medical-grade skincare products that wouldn't cause harsh impacts on the skin. As a plastic surgeon, with limited education on skincare specifically, Dr. Naidu devoted years to independent research and the study of cosmetic chemistry, which ultimately resulted in the launch of her brand. anokha, an Urdu word meaning unique, is a name that encompasses the brand in all aspects.
Much like a skincare routine, anokha is layered; the company's active ingredients, including Japanese yuzu, Indian rice bran, and Bulgarian blue yarrow, are derived from some of the world's most potent plants. Tried and tested over thousands of years, the ingredients are backed by independent clinical trials. During the formulation process, anokha takes care to keep parabens, sulfates, artificial colours and fragrances, and petrolatum out of their products. A percentage of each sale is donated to a recognised charity, meaning that an anokha purchase is always one you'll be able to feel good about.
Complete with a range of products and accessories for the skin and body, and how-to guides to find solutions for the skin needs of each individual, anokha mirrors Dr. Naidu's patient approach. Dr Naidu was kind enough to answer some pressing questions about anokha. Her words are refreshing, honest, and ambitious - everything there is to love in a person and their skincare brand.
Emilie Louizides: As a plastic surgeon, what initially fascinated you about skincare and made you want to explore creating your own products?
Dr. Nina S. Naidu: As plastic surgeons, we receive very limited education on skincare and skin health during our training. I never thought about skincare until I was a surgical fellow and attended a lecture given by a colleague who presented some very impressive facelift results. His results were notable not only because of his technical skill, but also because of the quality of his patients' skin which had also been treated. It was the first time I really thought about the role that skin plays in the overall appearance of health and beauty. When my own patients started asking for non-medical grade skincare in 2004, it was a natural progression for me to explore launching my own brand.
EL: Is there one universal anokha product that you believe everyone should try?
DN: The jasmine serum is one of our hero products and has been a bestseller with both women and men since we launched in 2008. It's a versatile and fragrant moisturizer which can be used alone or layered under a heavier moisturizer if your skin is particularly dry. We've had patients and customers tell us that they've used it following laser procedures to calm their skin, and we use it following facial procedures in my own office.
EL: Your products are incredibly nourishing and effective. How have you achieved this?
DN: Just as I am a data-driven surgeon, anokha is a data-driven brand. Our ingredients are intensely researched for both safety and efficacy, and we source from manufacturers and suppliers who are uncompromising about the quality of their ingredients. This means that our prices will be higher, and that some products will only be run as limited editions, but quality is the driving factor.
EL: It isn't often that plastic surgery is associated with being natural and yet your surgical results look incredibly natural. You also formulate your skincare products with natural ingredients. Why is 'natural' important?
DN: Thank you for this kind comment - the definition of "natural" varies from one person to the next, but it's been a driver for me because this is what my patients and customers have demanded. For me, natural plastic surgery means achieving a result in which the patient looks like the best version of herself - not someone else. For customers of anokha, natural skincare has become increasingly important because they are simply unable to tolerate harsher medical-grade products. My goal is to equal or surpass medical-grade skincare with botanical-based products. This is an ambitious goal, but it can be done.
EL: Do you notice any common threads between at-home skincare, dermatology, and plastic surgery?
DN: All three are about feeling at peace in your skin and body. This applies whether you're performing skincare or a procedure for reconstructive or cosmetic purposes.
EL: Are there current or past trends in both skincare and plastic surgery that you can't get on board with? How about trends you're a fan of?
DN: At the risk of irritating some of my colleagues (and I'm ok with this risk), I have never understood the appeal of buttock augmentation. It's a high-risk surgical procedure and in many cases just doesn't look aesthetic to my eyes. I do like the trends of facial massage and gua sha, which are both really a form of lymphatic drainage. This is a gentle, noninvasive, and highly effective method for increasing blood flow, decreasing swelling, and subtly contouring the face. It's a traditional technique that's made a lovely comeback.
EL: Is there an ingredient or product you believe the skincare industry has become oversaturated with?
DN: I would say that the skincare industry itself is saturated. We have so many brands and products that it's often overwhelming (albeit exciting) for the consumer. We need products that work better, not just more products. We need brands that do more, rather than simply exist for the sake of being.
EL: In 2022, a percentage of each of your sales were donated between the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and United Nations (UN) Women. You are also a Leaping Bunny certified, cruelty-free brand. Why do you believe beauty should have a conscience?
DN: In the spheres of plastic surgery and skincare, it can be very easy to lose sight of the larger world around us. We are incredibly privileged to be able to purchase luxury products, or to undergo elective surgery. But, we can use this privilege to help those around us. As a surgeon and a mother, I have a duty to uphold that conscience.
EL: Do you have a message for people who believe skincare and plastic surgery are solely superficial and vain?
DN: Both can indeed become solely superficial and vain if we lose sight of why we started doing this. Look deeper and see if the brand and the surgeon put their words into action.
EL: If there's one promise you can make about anokha, what is it?
DN: True to the meaning of the word "anokha", we'll always be a little different. anokha is rebellious and quirky, but always dedicated to safety and efficacy.