Celebrating the Story of MissPalettable

Because we can’t get enough clean beauty.



Pop culture may have you believe that the so-called ‘pregnancy glow’ is practically a given, but the opposite was true for Mukta Purain. Here, the co-founder of clean beauty platform MissPalettable reveals its unexpected backstory, how she feels about elitism in wellness culture, what’s next in the industry, and more. Listen in.

Q

Let’s start with the basics. What is MissPalettable? And who is the MissPalettable woman? 

A

She enjoys using products that are palatable to the skin. She’s bright, fun, and individual but also conscious, independent, and open-minded – that’s who I think of. The online platform, meanwhile, curates independent clean brands sourced from all over the world. But we steer clear of ‘green’ branding because we think beauty shouldn’t be so serious. Most of our brands are female-founded, too, and usually not available anywhere else except on MissPalettable. That’s also why our customers return – there’s always something interesting, something new. 

Q

Can you talk us through your journey from banker to beauty entrepreneur?

A

I was actually in finance, working as a foreign exchange trader. That was in a prior life in Singapore, before I moved to Dubai because of my husband’s job. Only one year later, I was pregnant and never ended up returning to finance. I like to say I gave birth to two children simultaneously: my son and MissPalettable. My skin changed a lot during the pregnancy, as is the case for many women. But for me, those changes were drastic. I saw a lot of sensitivity develop, and almost everything I used led to redness and allergies. And of course, I saw an increase in hyperpigmentation, too. 

Only your usual, mainstream brands were available in Dubai at the time, and they were just not working for me. I had to research others, which is what led me to K-Beauty. I started having Korean skincare products shipped over, and my skin improved. The redness disappeared, and I realised they are all about hydration and correcting inflammation. The formulations incorporate a lot more natural skincare ingredients and are lighter than Western beauty brands, too. But it was a whole process getting these products to Dubai because the awareness around Korean brands was nearly non-existent back in 2016 – even Sephora didn’t carry any. The birth of MissPalettable practically happened on my couch, with me watching TV and complaining about the shipping time and costs.

Q

Can you talk us through the process of how you curate the brands carried by MissPalettable? How extensively are they tested?

A

There are a few different approaches when it comes to testing. One is with brands that I have used and loved, and therefore want them on the platform. I then reach out and bring them onboard. And on the other side are brands getting in touch to possibly be listed on MissPalettable – that’s where the curation process truly happens. My first step is always research. I like working with brands that have a strong philosophy, a strong story, a strong founder’s story. And I prefer working with founders directly. I try every single product if the brand passes the research phase, testing each for at least two weeks. If I don’t like the products or love the brand, how can I expect my clients to? Matters like importing the products and looking into registration certificates follow – we’re quite regimented that way. That’s why we’re transparent with our customers, and that’s why they trust the fact that we only carry trustworthy products.

Q

And how do you tackle testing a product that isn’t suited to your skin type? 

A

I have extremely dry and sensitive skin, but I have a Marketing Manager in my team who has oily skin, so it works perfectly for us. There’s a Korean skincare brand that we’ve been testing recently, and I felt it wasn’t hydrating enough for my parched skin. That’s when I knew it may be suited to someone with oily or combination skin. She tested it, she loved it, and we then had a detailed discussion about it. What type of customer or skin type would benefit most from it? Do we already have something similar on the site? It’s a thorough process because we don’t want any brand to cannibalise another. You also don’t want too many brands of the same type or style. Otherwise, customers get confused – you want to give them options without overwhelming them.

Q

Sensitive skin is a source of misery for so many women, whether it’s due to allergies or climate conditions or – in your case – pregnancy. Any DIY tips you can share? 

A

I recommend looking for ingredients such as aloe vera, calendula, and chamomile, and avoiding the likes of fragrance and harsh exfoliants. Personally, I struggle with dark circles because of my Asian skin – it’s genetic. I wish there was a foolproof way to get rid of them, but there isn’t. However, the one thing I like doing, especially as a green tea lover, is refrigerating the teabags in a Ziploc bag after I’m done with them. I use them as an eye mask whenever I feel I need a quick pick-me-up because green tea contains caffeine and is an antioxidant. It does help, especially if you haven’t slept properly and wake up with puffy eyes.

Q

Wellness culture – clean beauty included – can often feel elitist, but the products listed on MissPalettable feel accessible and are surprisingly affordable. Was that a conscious decision? 

A

I feel like there’s a spectrum within the clean beauty space, and certain brands sit on one extreme. But we’re in a more balanced place in the sense that we’re not here to clean-shame you. For example, there have been a lot of conversations around what products qualify as clean. Does that mean everything else is dirty? No. People don’t realise that the term is derived from clean eating, which is simply eating real and wholesome foods. Of course, there’s no real definition of clean beauty because there’s no regulatory authority in place, so customers should do their own research – even if a brand claims to be clean. One thing we stand by is that nature and science can coexist, the two don’t have to be at odds with each other.

Q

If you were writing the Clean Beauty for Dummies guide, how would you explain the term? 

A

Clean beauty doesn’t mean cruelty-free, and cruelty-free doesn’t mean clean beauty. Similarly, clean beauty doesn’t mean vegan, and vegan doesn’t mean clean beauty. People get confused, which is understandable. Cruelty-free basically means a brand doesn’t test on animals, vegan means the ingredients used are not derived from animals. That’s the difference. The reason cruelty-free is significant is because there’s only one country in the world where animal testing is mandatory, but that one country happens to be a huge commercial market for many brands. Nars and Bobbi Brown, for example, started off as cruelty-free brands, but are not anymore. That’s why thorough research into a brand is so important for us. As for my take on clean beauty? Every single ingredient within a formulation serves a positive purpose.

Q

MissPalettable launched in 2017, a time when clean beauty wasn’t particularly known in this part of the world. What challenges did you face?

A

We didn’t have too many options when I started. There were two extremes – you had Sephora and department stores like Harvey Nichols, which carried high-end products, and then you had drugstores. Oh, and a few natural brands through Organic Foods and Café. That was it. You didn’t see a lot of e-commerce in the region either because people were sceptical about using credit cards online. There was also a bit of a herd mentality at the time; women were using whatever Kim Kardashian was using. These were just some of the hurdles I encountered. 

Nothing happened at first because nobody knew about us, so a lot of time was spent in building brand awareness. And once that happened, there were so many stereotypes to break. Not many people knew what clean beauty was, so I used terms like ‘natural’ and ‘organic’. But the association there was someone who is vegan, into yoga and journaling, and living this minimalist lifestyle. What if you were someone who went partying in DIFC after a long day at work? They wouldn’t see the appeal of clean beauty. I felt the need to educate customers on the fact that beauty shouldn’t depend on one’s lifestyle. It’s about options – Korean skincare products in particular, which are lightweight and so easy on the skin.

Q

Is Korean skincare still the focal point?

A

We’ve shifted focus, bringing more cosmetic brands and ayurvedic brands on board. Like I said, the idea wasn’t to go from five to fifteen skincare brands that were all similar in formulation. And I’m the reason behind the shift – my interest and forte has always been on the makeup side. It’s selfish in a way, but it’s because I want more clean makeup options here and we now have a lot of fun brands in the pipeline. That’s our joy – finding lesser-known brands with unique backstories. I also find that most recently launched clean beauty platforms primarily focus on skincare, not makeup.

Q

What one product on MissPalettable do you wish more people would try, and why?

A

I’d say the makeup in general. Yes, it’s not going to have the pigmentation of, say, a Huda Beauty product, but give it a shot. The lipsticks by Lily Lolo and Hynt Beauty are amazing. The BB cream by Lily Lolo? It really smooths out the skin and preps it for foundation. Hynt Beauty’s concealer offers full coverage – it even covers up my dark circles! Again, the stigma is that clean makeup brands aren’t as high in quality, but ours have been very popular with customers who have sensitive skin. What I also like is that they’re all working to be more inclusive, to increase their colour range.

Q

What, according to you, is the next big trend in beauty?

A

Circular beauty, or upcycled beauty, is going to be huge. There are several brands in the start-up phase that are formulating products using waste. We’ve already seen it happen in fashion, and that’s now starting to happen in beauty. Of course, it’s still early days, but it’s something to look forward to. Inclusivity is also a big one. Right now, especially in the United States, you see emerging beauty brands founded by African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and even South Asians – all promoting their side of the story. That’s where it’s getting a lot more interesting.

Samia Qaiyum

Samia Qaiyum

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