Shweta Gupta and Darshana Balagopal promise ethical sourcing, sustainability and transparency for all their 1,000 curated products

We hope to encourage smart buying decisions and induce higher levels of mindfulness to the environment using fewer highly efficient products - co-founder Balagopal

Just how organic is your organic moisturiser? How would you really know that your all-natural shampoo is completely chemical-free? For the well-meaning shopper, it can be hard to decipher what is truly eco-friendly with all the greenwashing that goes on in this loosely regulated industry.

Helping to demystify some of the ambiguity in this area are Chennai-born beauty junkies and best friends Shweta Gupta and Darshana Balagopal, who have done the hard work of researching, analysing and testing clean beauty brands from around the world and shortlisting only the best for their conscious beauty platform, Aardae.

The duo founded and launched Aardae in Singapore last September to bring trustworthy and effective conscious beauty products to Southeast Asia. “There are many brands that call themselves clean and we know that they are not. At Aardae, we have a team that sift through hundreds of brands to single out only highly-efficacious products that are organic and toxin-free with transparent processes and cruelty-free production. We also look at brands that are committed to reducing their carbon footprint with minimal environmental impact,” says co-founder Gupta who takes care of business operations for Aardae.

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While researching for markets to launch in, they found out that before the pandemic, there was a steady increase of around 20%– 30% in the number of consumers choosing organic, clean beauty products in Singapore. But now the demand has risen to 70%–80%. Despite not residing here, they felt that Singapore was the natural choice for them to register the company.

According to Gupta, Aardae’s philosophy is sharing knowledge about products that are not merely heavily embedded in conscious beauty — organic, sustainable, non-toxic, ethically-sourced, thoughtfully-manufactured, cruelty-free, and so on — but also promise result-oriented formulas that will nourish you from head to toe.Aardae carries several Ayurvedic and organic brands from India

Curated for the Southeast Asian market, the website currently carries over 1,000 products from 40 indie brands including international cult favourites such as Dot & Key, Juicy Chemistry, Oceglow, Purearth, Earth Rhythm and Omorfee — all of which underwent stringent inhouse consumer testing before being added to the catalogue.

The pair are also using this opportunity to showcase some popular Ayurvedic and organic brands from India that carry the highest standards of certifications like Cosmos, Ecocert, Australian Certified Made Safe, and so on.

“With so many complex options available globally, the challenge before us was to consider and shortlist products that were safe for our consumers as well as the planet. We hope to encourage smart buying decisions and induce higher levels of mindfulness to the environment using fewer highly efficient products,” says co-founder Balagopal who handles marketing for Aardae.

In this interview, they share about their truly clean and conscious beauty platform.

How did the idea for Aardae first come about?

We first started in late November last year, when there was a huge shift in consumer behaviour globally towards beauty during the heightened pandemic. People were inclined to be brand-centric but now they are into results-driven, ingredient-focused products.

We have millennial brands in India that meet all these demands and have huge potential internationally, but due to the gap in the supply chain in the industry, they were not able to attain that stature. So, we decided to take on such brands by taking care of the entire logistics, supply chain and giving them exposure worldwide.

At Aardae, which means “Earth” in Dutch, we look at mirroring the Earth’s beauty philosophy. We’re a unique platform of carefully curated conscious beauty brands that specialises in ethically-sourced, cruelty-free and sustainable products. Our team of experts handpick beauty labels that are equally committed to our principles of conscious and sustainable living.

What does conscious beauty mean to you?

For us, it means safety sourcing, sustainability and transparency. We aspire to be a platform where other clean beauty brands choose to fit their needs with us. At Aardae, we want to make our sourcing and certification so strong that when the awareness starts growing, there is never a finger pointed at any product on our platform. So, we have someone on board who has the expertise and goes deep into every product that we are onboarding to make sure that the products are fine to be there and falls under our philosophy.

Why was Singapore chosen as your flagship?
Singapore was chosen as Aardae’s flagship destination in Southeast Asia due to its knowledgeable market, one that is always seeking to evolve and experiment while retaining a holistic commitment to sustainability.

Can you explain your shortlisting process?

We have a checklist and have clearly laid out what a conscious brand means. This checklist involves six factors — safety and certifications, sourcing, sustainability, transparency, efficacy and brand positioning. We make sure that the products are safe for the consumers and the environment by themselves and when they are used in a beauty product, they should be cruelty-free, dermatologically tested and safe for sensitive skin. Next, we see the source, meaning, we make sure that the ingredients are sourced ethically and naturally or are a combination of synthetic and naturally derived. We also check for sustainability in terms of packaging. We take products that are entirely transparent around ingredient sourcing, purity and composition. We check for their efficacy and see whether these products address the respective claims and concerns raised by us. Lastly, we take a brand on board if their philosophy matches with our own.

What would you say are the biggest beauty concerns for the Southeast Asian market?

One of the biggest concerns is dry, brittle or thinning hair caused by chemical treatments like hair straightening and colouring. That’s why we carry a lot of hair products that boost and revitalise the hair. Moisturisers and the serums are also very big for the Singapore market. This is also the first time that a platform is bringing out a curated product list for teens, who tend to start their skincare regimen early in Singapore.

What is your hope for Aardae?

We want it to be the cleanest platform known worldwide. When you say “clean”, or “ethical”, we want the first name that comes to you to be Aardae. That is the vision we are working very hard towards, and we really hope that we’re able to achieve it.

The Earth Collective Scalp Tonic

Brillare Hair Fall Control Shampoo

Earth Rhythm 10% Niacinamide Barrier Support Serum

Aminu The Ultra Modern Longevity Serum

Global Beauty Secrets Body Moisturiser