UN_DID: a beauty brand celebrating Indian roots and science-backed skincare
Founder Romi Dasani has a wish to make something that represents his Indian heritage and LGBTQ+ community, in an industry that can be inauthentic and performative
words Ruchira Sharma
UN_DID is a beauty brand that’s truly for everyone, according to its founder Romi Dasani. After watching countless beauty labels proclaim body positivity and pro-inclusivity in their marketing, but that ultimately fail to support these issues on a deeper level, Romi launched his own company in February last year, with a drive to offer authentic products and messaging to people.
Romi, 34, has worked in the beauty industry for 13 years. “The reason UN_DID came about is that I had been working on some huge campaigns, from really big brands with big budgets – all things that could make a difference in people’s lives – and I noticed a lot of the companies I worked with would talk about diversity and inclusion but it wasn’t really being authentically represented,” he tells Woo.
The mission of UN_DID is to appeal to anyone, anywhere on their beauty journey – irrespective of age, ethnicity, race, or gender. Romi wants to undo (hence the brand name!) the damage and stereotypes perpetuated by the industry.
Based in London, Romi is an LGBTQ+ and South Asian person, and explains that he felt more and more frustrated at how these big companies in beauty jumped onto important causes and marginalised communities when it suited them. He worked in beauty brands that made him feel burnt out and disillusioned with the industry.
It felt like a “marketing checkbox exercise,” he says. “We were championing this stuff when it came to Pride for example, but it just felt like ‘let’s rainbow wash the brand so we’re seen to be inclusive rather than actually doing it’.”
Disillusioned and exasperated, he left the company he was working at, but couldn’t shake off the experience of feeling not seen or represented. “These experiences really, really stuck with me actually. And I just thought: I want to change that,” he says. “I want to put something out there that when we champion something or say something is represented, it truly is.”
To launch UN_DID Romi used a roster of pals, peers, and industry insiders from over a decade in beauty to build his business with the help of their guidance and knowledge. “I’m not ashamed to say I really leant on people,” he explains. These friends advised him on which labs to use and which creative agencies to approach for help with brand marketing.
He truly started from scratch: “I got blank pieces over paper and covered my entire flat and asked: Who is the target audience? What’s the packaging? What’s the sustainability story? What’s our charitable stance? How will we market it? Where do we want to sell our products?”
“Our products are very easy to use; they are at a mid-accessible price point but they're all formulated with luxury ingredients and the packaging is quite premium.” The money wash cleanser (£16) is aimed for oily, combination or non-specific skin types, and is “powered by Indian super ingredients” lotus and turmeric and blended with niacinamide and glycerin. Its squeeze-top bottle resembles a luxury ombre orange apothecary bottle.
Also the lotus and turmeric are intentional nods to Indian beauty culture. “I take inspiration from my experiences of growing up,” says Romi. “So the ingredients that my grandmother used to have in her kitchen cupboard which at the time I thought were really random, I have now incorporated into products as they’re a part of my culture and heritage. She would take turmeric and mix it with gram flour and yoghurt to make a face mask or use really raw coconut oil for hair. You could leave it in for an hour before rinsing it out.”
Romi was set on incorporating the ritual-element of these self-care routines into UN_DID’s products. “So ‘meltdown’ (£15), which is one of the products designed for hair and skin, uses an upgraded kind of coconut oil with a blend of other oils to counteract the stickiness of coconut oil. So I've kind of tweaked the formula, but kept the ritual behind it.”
The products reflect his identity as a British-Asian, and fuse popular Western skincare ingredients such as vitamin C and hyaluronic acid with Indian ingredients. This desire for truth and honesty is also why he is transparent with UN_DID’s sustainability model. “We’re not perfect, but I think that’s important to share” along with how we’re trying to improve.”
Community is also key to UN_DID. Throughout the product development, he did a community trial to 30 people and adapted the formula based on their feedback. The photoshoot for the products not only featured diverse models, everyone on set came from underrepresented backgrounds. Romi felt very passionately about inclusion at every level. “I think that's important to show that you're also taking it seriously in your company's DNA, not just the brand you’re showing customers.”
Romi’s passion to offer something different is clear. “I want everyone to feel like they have a safe space here within the brand, and that it talks to all types of people.”