When it comes to finding trust-worthy skincare on the internet, we always look for skincare enthusiasts who are knowledgeable and well-researched and lately, SKÖG has been seen a few times on our timeline – thanks to it’s simple looks and mindful social media presence. One look at SKÖG with its impeccable glass packaging, unique product line-ups and the offbeat ingredients, and you can draw parallels to cult beauty labels like Aesop or even a bit of Fresh. And that comparison ends with packaging and looks.
And as you lean in further into the philosophy and mantra that drives it, you quickly realise that SKÖG stands alone in the Indian beauty luxury space for having a personality of its own. It’s a modern label bridging curated ingredients with the subtle but impactful minimalism of European skin and hair care.
The brand is inspired by the Swedish way of life – the peaceful balance, an eco-conscious way of living, being mindful of nature and it’s bountiful supply, and to be connected to your surroundings. SKÖG was started in the east coast of Sweden in 2018 by Gautami Agarwal with an eye on creating and curating the very essence of Swedish bliss.
Each product that we saw is testimony to the fact that our skincare routines and regimes need multi-purpose, versatile products in the line-up. At least, that’s how the future of skincare will look like in a post-COVID world. We spoke to Gautami Agarwal, the founder of SKÖG to give us a peek into how the label works and how it envisions the skincare market in India. Gautami’s philosophy is pretty simple, “Skincare is not just about the ingredients used or how it works but also pleasing the senses it engages. So creating a whole experience is important,” she explains, and that’s why SKÖG works.
Tell us a bit about SKÖG? How did it come about?
I have a sensitive skin that reacts with everything. Even a little temperature difference in my surroundings can affect it. So since childhood, I have always been inclined to using what was readily and freshly available in the kitchen. When the world was running behind commercial skincare, I was the one sitting at home with yoghurt in my hair. So I always felt a need for clean and natural skincare products. A lot of ‘all-natural’ beauty products that I saw in India at least never stood out to me in terms of aesthetic.
During my journey, one of the countries I lived in that I got inspired by was Sweden. It was beautiful to me that nature was not a luxury, but it was at your doorstep. You do not have to plan a vacation or go to the city outskirts to feel closer to nature. The people and their lives revolve around it. My education and work experience have been in international luxury markets for many years. So in 2018, I started SKÖG (which means Forest in Swedish) as a small side project in which I would make little natural formulations using the local ingredients for people around me. The formulations seemed to work well, and by the end of 2019, I decided to move back to my country and take SKÖG to the next level and launch it as a brand.
What makes SKÖG different from other beauty labels?
The one thing that sets us apart is the formulation and the products. SKÖG products are researched in Sweden and the ingredients we use like Birch, Elderflower, Petitgrain etc. are not common in beauty here in India. The fact that our ingredients are natural and pure is also an add-on. SKÖG is a clean, vegan, natural, cruelty-free and toxin-free label. Also, all our products are unisex and come in neutral fragrances. Taking care of your body is everybody’s right regardless of their gender.
Creating a brand like Skog from scratch, how challenging was it?
As my education and work experience has been in international markets, it was a great learning curve to work in India. Finding the right ingredients has been quite challenging here too – there’s a lot of green-washing and false claims on purity, so one needs to be careful and test everything properly. Everything at SKÖG needed to be natural and created with high-quality ingredients, so sourcing and testing have been a big challenge. The brand is also founded by a curious and finicky person like me who needed to learn about chemicals, ingredients, skincare and haircare to create what I wanted, so I’m now pursuing dermatology on the side.
Tell us a bit about the bestsellers and your opinion on using local ingredients in skincare?
Our best sellers are our Repair Oil roll-ons, Frizzy Hair Repair and our Face serums. We use local ingredients from Sweden as well as some new fresh ingredients that no one has heard of not only in India but around the globe.
Where does SKÖG stand on in terms of sustainability?
All the ingredients we use are natural and pure and are not harsh on the skin or the environment. We use glass bottles and feel being sustainability is our responsibility.
What is the need of the hour in beauty and how does SKÖG fill the gap in the market?
In recent years, there has been a shift in the beauty market towards clean, natural, toxin-free beauty products, and the clean beauty market has been rapidly growing globally. Today, the customer is more aware of the ingredients, and they shop wisely. There is a lot of noise about staying away from products with parabens, silicones or sulphates, but how does one know? At SKÖG, we take educating our consumer very seriously. Not only about our products but clean beauty in general through free digital consultations. We are trying to bring new high-quality ingredients and formulations to the market too. The need of the hour is to be transparent and honest – that’s our mantra.
Is it intentional that yours is a global label?
I would answer that with a question that I always had in my mind seeing huge stores of international brands in India – “How many clean beauty brands we see in the country that can be as big as these international brands?”. That is a question I could never answer. We are quite open about drawing inspiration from and being researched in Sweden and made in India. So it is not intentional but this is just how the pieces fell in place for us.
How has the luxury beauty market evolved over the years?
Millennials worldwide are more conscious of chemicals in beauty, they are passionate about sustainability, are aware of environmental ills, etc. Today, brands need to be transparent about ingredients, packaging, ethical practices, and even marketing. Consumers don’t want to see celebrities talking about the brand when they have been associated with other brands too. They want to see real testimonials from real people, and that’s interesting.