Turmeric in your new serum. That breathwork trend you’ve just heard so much about, or even just your weekly yoga sessions. We engage with so many South Asian beauty rituals and wellness practices on a regular basis and for somebody who is Indian, it’s something I’m immensely proud of.
But it’s also something that riles me up. Why? Because the most celebrated brands utilising Ayurvedic techniques and monetising yoga sadly aren’t owned by people from that culture. In fact, most often they’re owned by giant conglomerates who are now so far away from the source of their products, they’ve forgotten entirely about the origins. And whilst the beauty industry collective coos over Scandi beauty, K beauty, French beauty and so many more, it doesn’t always feel like South Asian beauty gets its own plaudits for time-held rituals it has created.
One of the biggest rituals – yoga and Vedic (mantra) meditation aside – is Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. It was developed in India in 6000 BCE and is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body and spirit. It encompasses a system of doshas of energies present in our bodies which require balancing.
Those energies are called Vata (wind), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (water) and when we’re in balance, we feel great. When we’re out of balance, we need to adjust our diets and lifestyles to counteract the off-balance and come back to centre. Makes sense, right? It’s that moment we realise we need a digital detox or feel like we’ve overdone the wine a little or just haven’t had enough downtime recently (ahem, guilty, on all accounts.)
It’s no wonder that Ayurveda, and South Asian beauty and wellness in general has a legion of fans: it’s earned it. Whilst it would be great to see big retailers encouraging South Asian-owned brands more, we can harness our purchasing power and go direct to the source. With that in mind here’s an edit of the South Asian-owned brands I’ve found and loved over the years.
When Shrankhla Holecek moved to Beverly Hills from India, she found the misappropriations of Indian rituals and Ayurveda pretty galling (I hear ya!) Fuelled with a sense of wanting to change, she harnessed the ingredients grown in her family’s meadow (which also provides ingredients for other big brands like Estee Lauder); she created a range of Ayurveda-inspired skincare based around the properties of beautiful, nourishing oil blends – like the Pure Bliss Wellness Oil which uses clary sage, rose and sandalwood to help bolster mental focus.
Fact fans, Ben Gorham – yes, he of fashion-fave fragrance, beauty and lifestyle house Byredo – hails from Sweden, and was born to an Indian mother and a Canadian father. He’s woven his Indian heritage into some of the products by the brand, namely this Chai candle and fragrance Flowerhead which smells very distinctly of Indian jasmine (the very kind we had in my grandparent’s garden in India). He told The Cut: “My mother is Indian, so I traveled there many times from birth, and I have quite vivid smells associated with those trips.”
This US-based brand is part Indian owned by Kavi Ahuja and is the epitome of Brooklyn hipster chic. Their fragrances are beyond unusual – inspired by everything from death rituals to violin bowmakers. They even have one called Radio Bombay, which is described as: “Transistor radio hewn of sandalwood radiates ragas in the Bandra heat. Hot copper tubes warm the soft wood, releasing blooms of must, cream, peach, ambrette, coco, cedar distillates.” It smells as dreamy as it sounds.
Founded by Nikita and Akasha Mehta, this brother-sister duo created a hair care range built on the principle of Ayurveda and traditional Indian wellness. Their HoliRoots Hair Oil is the solution for frazzled, lacklustre and dry locks as unlike traditional Indian hair oils it’s not too thick or greasy. Use it overnight with a shower cap for a mega dose of nourishment.
Founder Nitasha Buldeo uses traditional Indian ayurvedic principles – inspired by her grandmother, who an ayurvedic practitioner and priestess (how cool!) – to create her beautiful range. Fusing science, technology and tradition means that they are really wearable products that combine the best of east and west. Their Rasayana serum, which combines six serums in one, is the perfect lightly active serum for skin looking for a vitality boost.
Created by Kuldeep Knox who was inspired by her grandmother’s beautiful luscious hair secrets, this Ayurveda-inspired brand is created and produced in the UK. Chämpo (pronounced shar-pour) means shampoo in Sanskrit and all you have to do is take the online quiz, work out your dosha and select the products that cater to your hair type. Simple, effective and a super-cool way to add a little Ayurveda to your life.
This luxe Ayurvedic brand is the brainchild of Anita and Bittu Kaushal, who are immersed in the world of Ayurveda (Anita studied Ayurveda and Bittu’s father is an Ayurvedic doctor.) Mauli is an amalgamation of their passion and traditional Ayurvedic principles, all wrapped up in beautiful, shelfie-worthy packaging. Try the Spirited Kapha Body Oil, which makes for the ultimate post-shower, pre-work ritual to alleviate that morning sluggish feeling and help energise you for the day ahead. It’s better than an espresso shot, I guarantee.
Based in the US, this cult brand is the creation of beauty influencer Deepica Mutyala, who wanted to build a multi-cultural community to discuss all things beauty, after being fed up of not anyone like her seeing herself included in magazines or ad campaigns. Since then she’s launched her own brand Live Tinted, whose hero product is the Huestick which utilises the traditional make-up artist trick to hide dark circles (which can be hereditary in south Asian skin), using a red-toned colour corrector. And, these handy sticks can also be used on lips, eyes and cheeks too. What’s not to love?
Barrister Sonal Keay’s range of pillowcases and sleep turbans made in the heaviest silk are inspired by the incredible quality silks she remembers from her childhood. She wanted to create a silk range that was the top quality, making them more durable and easier to wash by machine. “Our pillowcases are a 22 momme weight of silk. This is heavier than most pillowcases on the market, which are either 16 momme or 19 momme,” she says. Choose from a plethora of chic silk items – including masks, scrunchies and more. Sleep…but make it fashion.
“I wanted to create beautiful skincare that worked with modern women’s lives, and I drew upon my inherited knowledge with a focus on Eastern plant botanicals which are at the heart of our products,” says founder of ilody, Deepika Patel. That’s exactly what the brand represents with modern ayurvedic-inspired skincare. Ilody means ‘garden of the gods’ in Sanskrit, and that’s exactly what’s inside the Luxmi Hydrating Radiance Serum which is ideal for dry skin, and uses calming kombucha extract, antioxidant rich snow mushroom and vitamin-packed bearberry leaf alongside the naturally occurring arbutus plant to help to brighten skin.
More South Asian beauty brands you need to know about:
When a beauty brand is founded by a scientist and has an Ayurvedic doctor on staff, you know you can expect a high-tech offering that is still grounded in tradition. This cleansing balm is great for melting away stubborn makeup and daily grime. But the victory blow comes via the cocktail of oils (sunflower, sesame and blue tansy), which bolster the skin barrier and lock in moisture. Lean on this cleanser during the winter months, when skin is more fragile.
A core tenet of Inde Wild is what founder Diipa Büller-Khosla describes as “ayurvedistry” – where conscious chemistry and 5000 year-old rituals meet. It’s hard to know what we love more about the brand’s latest launch, the Dew Lip Treatment: the hefty dose of hydrating hyaluronic acid and peptides for plumping; the fact that it is clinically proven to increase lip moisture by 114% for up to 8 hours or the scent of rose and lotus that turns a mundane task into a decadent ritual.
Since his chance discovery of ancient Ayurvedic texts in Kerala, India, founder Vivek Sahni has been on a journey to bring this ancient healing practice into the modern world. The Legendary Glow Facial, which is available at Harrods, uses 56 specific movements to stimulate the marma points – that is, energy points on the body – in order to boost circulation and expel toxins. At home, indulge both your skin and your senses with the Urjasara Watery Cream. Don’t let the lightweight texture fool you, the formula packs a hydrating punch with both botanical oils and plant-based hyaluronic acid.