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The Power Behind the Mask

Sindy Kaur’s experience in the beauty industry spans more than two decades. She spent over 10 years at the HQs of a blue-chip multinational, holding various roles in international marketing, market development, strategic marketing, global brand management, & trends prediction. Although Sindy left the corporate world some years ago, she remains a Chartered Marketer and still feels very much part of the beauty industry she loves. These days Sindy balances her busy social and family life with her roles as Founder of Challenging Perceptions of Beauty, make-up specialist, and coach.

The Mask is the face we put on for the outside world… the ‘creation’ we hide behind in order to fit in and be accepted.

On one hand it can be the persona that people working in a corporate environment create because they feel they need to conform in order to ‘fit in’….

On the other hand, it’s created by women who won’t be seen without their makeup, because they feel vulnerable showing the world who they really are…

But there’s a problem. The pressure of keeping this mask on can repress our true potential, suppress our creativity, and lead to stress. The true power of both individuals and of a workforce lies behind the mask, when individuals are allowed to step up, do things differently, make mistakes, and learn and grow together, without feeling judged.

I’d love to share my experience with you. I started off my career in the corporate world, and I spent over a decade working in marketing roles within the beauty industry. After leaving corporate life I made the decision to diversify and expand my understanding of women and their relationship with beauty.

I trained as a Life Coach, and then a makeup artist and started working with women on the other side of the industry. Why? Because I was always fascinated by the relationship between women and makeup, and wanted to understand more about this thing called self esteem which kept cropping up in market research. In hindsight, I realise this was partly because no matter how ‘successful’ I was on the outside, on the inside I felt like a fraud – something I’ve since realised is really common amongst successful women. It’s called the ‘imposter syndrome’. In response to what I found through working with these women, I founded Challenging Perceptions of Beauty.

I knew from research that women often use makeup as a mask to hide behind, but actually coming face to face with outwardly successful women, then seeing what was really happening ‘behind the mask’ made me think. Was I so different when I was in the corporate world?

On the outside I was doing really well. Promotions, pay rises, globetrotting in luxury… but it seemed the more ‘successful’ I became, the more disconnected I grew from myself. There was something missing. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely loved what I did, but I almost felt guilty for being where I was! Sometimes I felt like I was wearing a heavy cloak that weighed me down as I tried to ‘fit in’ and be accepted. I dressed and behaved in ways that weren’t ‘me’ and tried to squeeze into a pigeon hole that just wasn’t my size.

Interestingly, it was when I became part of a pilot programme that took our retail stores overseas that my career really took off. The culture in that team was a ‘give it a go, shout if you make a mistake – let’s see who it affects – put it right – learn the lesson and move on.’ Things moved so quickly we didn’t have time to point the finger of blame or beat ourselves up – we were moving too fast. This was much more aligned with my personal values – it felt like ‘me’ and it allowed me the sense of freedom and adventure that I needed to fly.

Since training to become a life coach, I have stepped out from behind my mask. I have re-connected with the values that are important to me, and let go of worrying about what others think. This has allowed me to give myself ‘permission’ to try things that I previously thought were out of my reach or capability. I’m less fearful of failure, I don’t have to be perfect, and therefore I strive for much bigger goals.

Looking at the relationship between the beauty industry and consumers, I wonder whether there is a sense of disconnect there too. It almost feels like a co-dependency relationship where both sides need each other, but there is some kind of fear holding and driving the relationship. The consumer needs the help of the beauty industry to provide products to meet her needs so she can address the parts of her that she doesn’t feel good enough about, and the beauty industry needs the consumer’s money. To ensure her purse is always open, we bombard her with messages about how she can reduce her wrinkles, or cover her grey hair.

What would happen if we changed these messages? Instead of promoting messages that instil fear around ageing and other issues that really don’t make her feel good about herself – how about we shift our message to… ‘we understand you’ve reached a stage in your life where your skin is changing, but don’t worry – we’ve got a product that will make your skin feel amazing just as it is…’

Just to be clear, the purpose of this piece is not to criticise the industry – after all as a makeup artist I’m part of it. It’s more to share insights from working with women on the other side, and to stimulate thinking. Women will always buy into the beauty industry – but isn’t it time we started challenging some of the messages that we’re putting out?

As a beauty industry, we may be more like our target audience than we realise. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all take down our masks and work together to find win:win outcomes that consumers are delighted to pay for… and in the process create an ethical way to boost profits!

In the words of Marty Rubin, “Behind every mask is a face, and behind that a story”.

I wonder how many doors would open up if we tried to understand other people’s stories, instead of trying to fit them into ours…?

Contact Sindy Kaur via or visit

The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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