“When I was younger, I suffered from excessive acne. Nothing really worked until I used ayurvedic methods like they do in India”

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Après Pacific Is the Skincare Brand Behind Products That Honor South Asian Beauty Practices
Credit: Courtesy

When Neel Patel graduated from one of the top business schools in Canada and started working as an investment banker, he realized he wanted to do more.

But Patel didn't magically just quit his day job. It took some thinking about how he could do something more meaningful with his time. Remembering the time spent living in India for the first nine years of his life, he went back to how his cultural roots helped him deal with major skin issues.

"When I was younger, I suffered from excessive acne. Nothing really worked until I used ayurvedic methods like they do in India," Patel shares with InStyle. "It's very effective, and I realized North American culture doesn't know about secrets from the Pacific or things we use, such as food, spices, and skincare that have been tried and tested for thousands of years."

Despite going back to his roots, still had a lot of doubts, especially as a man and first time entrepreneur who was trying to enter the beauty industry.

"There's a lot of brands started by men but maybe not front-facing," he shares. "The story and ingredients are authentic to me so I connect with it, but whether you're of Latin American, Indian, or African American descent, hyperpigmentation is the biggest problem for those with that skin tone, so they can definitely relate. And I realized if I'm not going to take the risk at this age, I'll never do it."

From there, the 23-year-old went back to his time in India and thought about how so many people around the world suffer from common skin issues, like acne and hyperpigmentation. Patel started to become more interested in those who struggle with these issues, along with the general public who care about their skin. He was ready to build something of his own that would add excitement to people's daily lives and make them more confident.

Après Pacific Is the Skincare Brand Behind Products That Honor South Asian Beauty Practices
Credit: Courtesy

Inspired by ayurvedic and Indian beauty practices, this led him to create a clay-based face mask made of aloe, amla berry, and turmeric: the keystone mixture for his brand Après Pacific. Today, we speak with Patel on honoring South Asian contributions to the beauty space, the frustrations and positive impacts of educating about Pacific beauty, and the benefits of ayurvedic methods.

How did you go from being concerned about your own acne to creating an entire skincare business?

The idea really generated from me having acne when I was around 13 or 14, I tried pills and prescriptions — nothing worked. I started using this natural vegan formulation that my Indian mom came up with, which was a turmeric, amla berry, and aloe mask. Slowly, I started seeing results, and it helped get rid of my acne. For friends of mine and even people in my family who suffered from dark spots, my mom had recommended the same mask. They started seeing results too. At the time, I didn't know it was special or beneficial to a lot of people. Now I know it was, since everyone had tried so many different skincare products, but it wasn't until they tried this natural recipe when they started seeing lasting results. So, when I was looking to create a brand as a solution to a problem, I realized we could use what my mom had created and turn it into a product that a lot of different people could use for their issues.

Last year, we tested 87 people from September to February with all different skin types to make sure the product works. People loved it.

What was the process of making face masks like?

The face mask isn't actually made at home. We have a manufacturer that we worked with to nail down the formula, after 10 rounds of sampling. We've worked together to use the ingredients that my mom's original face mask is based on, while still keeping everything natural. At first, the process felt exciting, but I had my doubts. I thought about targeting men first, but they're not a convincing market. As a guy, I know I like my Irish Spring body wash. A lot of them have this mentality of, "I won't give anything else a chance because this body wash works." I found out a lot of beauty companies are led by men, directed towards women, because from a business perspective, women are more open to giving new products a shot. But I also know that women are a gateway to the men's bathroom because they usually buy products for their husbands or boyfriends. We actually had a story about two girls raving about the smell of our mask, so their boyfriends got curious too. They tried it with their girlfriends and fell in love with it. It will take time to show that it's not emasculating to take care of your skin — plus, women do appreciate guys who have great skin.

How do the clay mask ingredients honor your South Asian roots?

These ingredients really take care of hyperpigmentation, which is the key issue we really want to target. Amla berry is our main ingredient because it truly is a holy grail of beauty, and turmeric has been long used in India. In Indian culture, turmeric is often something you apply before your wedding. It's a celebration in hopes of having glowing skin. It's an ingredient that authentically highlights the South Asian community and is significant to someone's life in general because of its connection to marriage and everyday life, being used as a supplement and in tea. In these ways, we can highlight our history and customs that are ingrained in our culture for other people to respectfully enjoy. Our chosen ingredients modernize the brand and appeal to everyone, but don't let us forget who we are and the rich culture we're showcasing.

Where did you get the name from?

For three weeks straight, I went back and forth between 25 names. A lot of the names we had were related to this one face mask product, but we might not even be just a skincare brand. We want to be positioned in a way where we could become a health and wellness brand — I wanted the name to be reflective of these potential changes. I realized making the brand very modern was very important to me. I came up with "après" because "après" is the French name for "after." Then, I came up with "Pacific" because the ingredients are from the region, and now we are transporting them to North America. It's about bringing in the secrets and tried methods of the Pacific — bringing them here is the after. I find the name keeps it broad enough, but also makes you feel like you're escaping into travel, a fresh breeze, and happiness. When you think of the word "Pacific," you think of escaping into the beauty around the Pacific Ocean, and really enjoying life; savoring the good life.

Tell me more about the face mask and what people have been saying.

The smell of the Pacific Glow Face Mask  is something everyone seems to be loving. There's no fragrance in it, except for the very minimal concentration of essential oil to hide the smell of turmeric. Again, the scent transports you to a fresh, Pacific vibe. As soon as you put the mask on, it has this instant cooling effect. After 10 minutes, it will harden on your skin like botox, really targeting and cleansing your pores. People say they don't need to put moisturizer on afterwards because the hydration from the mask leaves their skin already quite smooth. After two to three times, redness and inflammation are reduced and after two weeks, people have started seeing their dark spots fade. Everyone who has sensitive skin is usually hesitant to try clay masks, but they seem to love it! It doesn't irritate their skin. We suggest applying the mask one to three times a week for oily skin, hyperpigmentation, or just feeling good. The general public is concerned that the turmeric will stain your skin, but ours is stain-free because the amla, aloe, and other ingredients dilute the color, and we worked hard to overcome the staining effect.

Education and integration are really important to you. Why is it important to educate people on South Asian beauty practices?

Everyone here in North America is consuming turmeric lattes and turmeric shots, so they know about the benefits of turmeric. I tell them, "Why not apply it with a mask that doesn't dry out your skin?" Amla hair oil also blew up on Tiktok recently and has educated people about South Asian beauty practices, but there are gaps in showcasing the culture of India and what we've been using. There is this generational and cultural importance that isn't known to the general public. We want to deliver this significance, along with something that adds value to their lives. In the future, we will  focus on donating 1% of our annual profits to South Asian-based charities, which is vital to our community in order to bring awareness for worldly issues.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.