I have really sensitive skin so I’m careful about what I put on my face. I’ve always been very paranoid about it, so you’ll find me at my dermatologist more often than not. I go to Dr. Micky who’s in the same building as the Cash Pharmacy in Bangalore – we’re more like friends now because I’m there so often! I just kind of hang out there sometimes until she tells me there’s nothing wrong with my skin and to go home. (Laughs) For me it’s more about covering my bases – what if I break out or get a rash? One thing she told me that I find really interesting is that it’s not about what you eat, the quality of your skin depends more on external factors like the water, the weather, your stress levels. So I don’t really do much – when I wake up I use a Cetaphil cleanser and I touch my nose a lot during the day. If it feels oily I wash it it water, which is fine because I don’t really wear makeup anyway. And then I’ll use a moisturiser by Sebamed – all dermatologist-approved stuff.
I know it’s odd that I don’t wear makeup but it wasn't always that way. I used to be obsessed with kajal; I mean, I’d wear it all the time. And I’d fill my eyebrows in to make them look darker – when I see pictures of myself from years ago I wonder how I used to walk around with this heavy goth eye. Then one day I ran out of eyeliner and my friends asked me if I was ill, because they thought I looked unrecognizable. That got me thinking about how easy it is as a woman to become dependent on things until they become a part of your identity, so much so that without it you don’t seem like yourself – and so I stopped wearing eyeliner completely.
The one thing I love is blush, because it really makes a difference to how your skin looks. On days when I don’t like my hair, or when my skin isn’t at its best and I want to draw attention away from that I wear some lipstick - I really like Lady Danger by MAC. If I want to play around with my eyes, like if I’m waiting for someone to come pick me up and I’m bored, I use a bit of a shimmery eyeshadow on the inner corners of my eyes. It adds a bit of sheen. I usually use Vaseline on my lids for kind of a sweaty, smudgy, dirty look that I really like. A friend of mine, Nikhil D, he’s also a stylist; he’s the one who suggested it. I think it’s really lovely because that’s the look that I’ve always wanted and it’s just the easiest thing to do. The one thing I’ve found that replicates that look is this eyeshadow by Chanel, which you can’t find in India for some reason. I got it when I was flying by Singapore. It’s got that slight wet kind of look that I like. I gave it to a friend because I was like, “It’s okay, I’m sure I’ll find it at a Chanel store somewhere.” And I never did.
My big eyebrows are a bit of a signature now, but I used to have them done really thin before. The first time I had them done I went to a salon with a picture of Jennifer Connelly – she’s a bit of an inspiration in general – but of course they messed it up and I ended up looking like someone really different. I’ve had my eyebrows in all kinds of shapes, from a crescent moon to the pencil thin line that used to be such a rage in like, 1998. I was like, “Wow, I’m so with it.” (Laughs) But I look at pictures from then and I look so bitchy, you know? Almost a little cruel. Now I just let them be – I let them grow out and I tweeze them into the shape I want. Nobody gets to touch them now!
I used to be one of those girls who couldn’t do without flat ironing her hair. In high school it was always poker straight and I was great at doing it, I’d blow dry everyone’s hair and get it super straight – this was in 2001. One day I stopped completely – again, it’s one of those things, why be so dependent on something just to look like you? Imagine looking so different one day because you haven’t done anything – no makeup, nothing to your hair – and people don’t recognize you. I like this whole idea of anti-aging, like you can use a couple of creams and it’s going to suddenly reverse time. I did buy an anti-aging serum by Shiseido once, the Bio Performance Super Corrective Serum, which I used for ages. It was really light and beautiful but nobody told me that I looked thirty years younger for it! I’ve come to a point where I’m happy with who I am and how I look and I don’t like to interfere with that too much.
Meghna Bhalla (and Freja, the Jossbox mascot) photographed by Komal Basith at Jossbox HQ. © Komal Basith