Life & Style

Dinyar Workingboxwalla is bottling secrets to movie star skin

Dinyar Workingboxwalla | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Were you a heavy bleeder?’ asks Dinyar Workingboxwalla, Mumbai’s most-experienced beauty therapist and author of several beauty books. He’s visiting Delhi for the launch of Beauty by Bie, his skincare range, co-founded with jewellery designer Queenie Singh. As he pinches and prods my skin, he accurately guesses that I have an unresolved cavity and was feeling particularly anxious that day. What amazed me most wasn’t just that he knew about my heavy periods (I had grade IV endometriosis), but also that the question was posed in past tense, meaning that he could also tell I didn’t bleed heavily anymore (post-hysterectomy).

His microscopic observation skills, holistic approach and science-based protocols make him stand apart in today’s very binary beauty scenario, sharply divided, with procedures, injectables and science-based actives at one end, and ‘clean’ ingredients sold on the basis of fear, on the other. It’s no surprise that he’s loved among his extremely loyal clientele as he looks into the real, root cause of poor skin.

Beauty by Bie

Beauty by Bie | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Growing pains

Workingboxwalla, 71, is himself no stranger to the agony brought about by poor skin. He suffered from severe cystic acne at a mere 11 years of age. “I had bumps not just on my face but also back, chest and thighs,” he says. “I had to go through so much humiliation in my formative years that even today I shy away from the camera.” To clear his skin, he was asked to use 501 detergent soap and a pure acid toner to clean his face, eat only boiled food, while some doctors even implied that masturbation was the cause behind the severe acne. At the age of 25, frustrated with his condition, Workingboxwalla decided to educate himself. A two-and-a-half-year course at the New York based Wilfred College of Cosmetology followed. It took him a year and half to control his acne.

Later, he signed up for a multitude of courses that built up his credentials as a beauty therapist, including an INFA (International Federation of Aesthetician) course, the gold standard for beauty professionals around the world. He set up his clinic in the early ‘70s and has since grown a loyal following of customers that visit him generation after generation, including film stars such as Bollywood actors Shakila, Mumtaz, Padmini Kolhapure, and Twinkle Khanna. Even Mickey Contractor was one of his students before he became one of the most celebrated makeup artists in the country.

Queenie Singh

Queenie Singh | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Energy exchange

Workingboxwalla’s clients visit not only for his beauty therapies but also his comforting presence and ‘healing hands’, a phrase that has become synonymous with his facials. “Since I began visiting his clinic in 1986, he helped completely clarify my skin; even today I have strangers walking up to me with compliments,” says Sunita Bafna, a housewife in Mumbai.

Sharmila Bharwani, a sub-broker in Mumbai, who has visited him for more than three decades, echoes similar sentiments. “He helped clear my skin after a bad bout of acne at 17.” But after she hit menopause, the old acne scars began to remerge because of fat loss, and she visited him regularly once again. “Over the last two years, I got weekly facials that have completely restructured my face, making it look toned, smooth and sculpted.”

“I don’t have fancy names for my facials,” says the 70-year-old beauty expert. Every treatment is bespoke, taking into account the skin condition of the client. It begins with a thorough cleansing, then therapeutic grade ampoules with ingredients such as fruit stem cells or silk proteins, followed by a massage and mask. “Skin changes shape depending on the season, stress levels and even the time of the month,” he says. The facials, which cost Rs 7,000 at the most, are the primary focus of his clinic.

Beauty by Bie

Beauty by Bie | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Gentle path to skincare

What I love about him the most is that he has no agenda, he doesn’t care who you are - you could have money or status, but when you’re at his clinic you have to wait in line just like the others,” says Queenie Singh. The clinic itself is in sharp contrast to the glass-and-chrome salons of today. It’s a modest, one-bedroom apartment, which is also his home, in Mumbai’s Lamington Road, run by him and a single assistant who is merely there to apply and remove face masks. “His values are nonexistent in today’s world,” she adds.

While he chose to go solo all this while, Workingboxwalla is finally releasing his beauty secrets into the market, benefiting people beyond his client list. Though he cannot bottle his astute observations, he has bottled the formulas he’s been working on for 50 years with his new skincare range - Beauty by Bie. The products are vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free and contain natural ingredients with modern formulations. They are also FDA approved. My personal favourites are the Melt-Away Gel-to-Milk Cleanser (Rs 1,249) that emulsifies as soon as you touch it with water or the ultralight Halo Face Oil (Rs 3,799) with saffron, marula and meadowfoam seed oils.

But beyond the skincare and expert facials, I appreciate what he stands for. Especially in today’s beauty scenario where invasive procedures are aggressively marketed to increasingly younger audiences, he shows us that there is indeed a gentler route to being beautiful.

Vasudha Rai has authored Glow: Indian Foods, Recipes and Rituals for Beauty Inside and Out  and blogs

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Printable version | May 12, 2022 5:11:45 pm |