Despite its long and radiant history of beauty rituals and home remedies for skincare, India has been a rather late bloomer in the beauty industry. We may swear by our besan (gram flour) face packs and castor oil eyelash enhancers, but only a few brands have managed to market these as cosmetic products.
While early players like Shahnaz Husain and Biotique made their mark in the 1990s with products based on Ayurveda and home remedies, newer brands like Kama Ayurveda and Forest Essentials have given these rituals a more luxurious spin. Now, a new wave of home-grown brands is creating products that are natural, cruelty-free and minimally reliant on chemical preservatives. These brands may be inspired by Indian ingredients and remedies, but their formulations and packaging are au courant and in sync with the global beauty industry.
Cinnamon lip plumping scrubs, moisturizers whipped from ghee, a blue face cleanser packed with avocado butter—the Delhi-based natural beauty label Enn’s Closet repackages natural beauty hacks. These products are likely to catch your eye for their quirky names, but founder Nandita Manchanda, who ran an e-commerce site for natural brands before launching her own label, insists her ingredients are the real heroes. “We strive to create seasonal preparations using fresh fruit and plant extracts and infusions of essential oils,” she says of the skincare brand. “We will be launching an extensive haircare range by the end of June,” Manchanda adds.
Founded by Mumbai-based entrepreneur Siddharth Somaiya, this label sources ingredients from across the world—from the Western Ghats to the South American rainforests—and manufactures the products in New Zealand. Aiming to declutter skincare rituals, it offers only four products: two serums to combat acne and pigmentation, an anti-pollution moisturizer, and a body cream. “My goal was to declutter our lives, make it a simple range so that you don’t have to waste time thinking,” says Somaiya. “We want to work on longevity and empowerment through knowledge. We want our customers to ask why we have used certain ingredients and why we stay away from others.”
“For far too long, Indian men have been offered either an ultra-macho take on grooming that ignores real science, or a one-size-fits-all ‘fairness cream’ as a panacea for all skincare needs,” says Shankar Prasad. The founder of popular cruelty-free and vegan beauty brand Plum has launched Phy, an extension of Plum’s values, but aimed at men. The product categories are practically designed: a sulphate-free face wash for acne-prone skin, a mineral oil-free beard oil or a tan-removal face and body scrub. Spiffy men will have a tough time staying away from this one.
Ever heard of a natural hair gel without side effects that keeps your hair in place? Dhruv Madhok and Dhruv Bhasin got it right when they turned a home remedy used by Bhasin’s mother into an effective nature-derived hair gel, the first product of their Delhi-headquartered brand Arata. What started as a line of haircare products for men has expanded into skincare and now markets itself as a unisex brand.
“We realized that a lot of ingredients that were giving (conventional) hair gels a bad reputation were also present in other products,” say the co-founders about their expansion. “We also realized that men comprise a very small part of any personal-care market. Most of them are women. Skin is skin, and hair is hair—so if we are going to create a clean label brand, it should be for everyone.” Madhok and Bhasin are currently engaged in rebranding Arata and promise a new look in the coming months.
The name may be derived from the Urdu word nuskha (meaning remedy), but this brand founded by siblings Pooja and Drishty Chhabra finds inspiration in ingredients from across Asia. Be it ginseng, orchids and chrysanthemum extracts in a dewy 24-carat gold serum or activated charcoal in a purifying scrub, they offer a combination of familiar and exotic ingredients in three formulations. “On my travels, I discovered quite a few plant-based and super ingredients such as ginseng, aka ashwagandha, which has high anti-inflammatory properties and is good for digestion as well. It was wonderful to discover that almost every Asian country has its own ginseng variety,” says Pooja, who specializes in trichology. “The other super ingredient is marine algae, which we are exploring for our upcoming products.”