Himalayan salts, hand pounded apricot kernels and herbs from the Western Ghats are just some of the ingredients that go to create heritage and natural beauty solutions for luxury consumers.
LET’S face it, we are all obsessed with slowing down the effects of age, both mental and physical. Yoga, it appears, takes care of the first. Ayurvedic beauty recipes promise the second. As Vivek Sahni, graphic designer and co-founder of Kama Ayurveda, observes, ‘‘With
good lifestyle habits, you can have a youthful appearance for a long time. What you cannot hide, though, are the lines on the neck and saggy flesh above the elbows.’’ Which is why when his premium Ayurvedic brand addresses this in two months – ‘‘with an amazing Ayurvedic oil, two years in the making’’ – it will have many takers.
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LAST month, Chennai saw a gathering of 185 socialites and women entrepreneurs listen to Vivek Sahni and consultant vaidya (Ayurvedic healer) Dr VR Vivekanand as they addressed lifestyle concerns like ageing and looking ‘‘80 at 60’’! Sahni, a former graphic designer, who founded Kama Ayurveda with four friends, including Coimbatore-based industrialist Rajshree Pathy, admits that the Chennai women were ‘‘refreshingly direct and frank’’ with their questions. It has inspired them to take these workshops to cities across the country to propagate the Ayurvedic way of life. With seven dedicated stores and five others opening soon, Sahni is clear about positioning
Kama as a treatment-based Ayurvedic brand. ‘‘Essential oils are not our story,’’ he insists. Having partnered with the original Ayurvedic institution, Arya Vaidya Pharmacy (AVP) in Coimbatore, the brand gets most of its herbs (products have 40 to 60 ingredients) from the Western Ghats,and a few others from the Himalayas. ‘‘Our doctors follow traditional, 3000-year-old recipes. We have only adjusted the formulations and made them lighter and easier to use in a modern context,’’ says Sahni, who hopes to scale up operations and go
global soon. kamaayurveda.com
Ever since we went online four months ago, we have been getting clients as young as 18 years looking for oils and treatment for dandruff and acne, over the usual shampoos
— Vivek Sahni, Kama Ayurvedic
WHEN former lawyer and Hong Kong resident, Kavita Khosa, turned social entrepreneur two years ago she understood the luxury consumer’s demand for beauty products that blend ancient healing wisdom with modernity. Purearth was launched, offering modern Ayurvedic remedies, be it a sea buckthorn seed elixir, turmeric face sand or wild Himalayan rose body mist. ‘‘It is all about conscious living, where one questions the source of produce. It is no longer about just the ingredient,’’ says the 52-year-old, whose stint as a yoga instructor shaped her mission to create luxury skincare that was chemical, paraben, cruelty and factory free. ‘‘Our turmeric comes from a Vedic biodynamic farm, where a prayer ceremony is part of the harvest ritual. Teams go out into the Himalayan mountains, looking for wild pomegranate and rosehip, but we insist on mindful harvesting,’’ says the ‘skinchef’ who is busy expanding to the US and Zurich. She has a growing online following. All products are manufactured in Himachal Pradesh, except for the creams and eye serums, which are made in France on a small farm in Bordeaux.
The products are small batch, with around 50 to 100 pieces each. And men have their favourites too – from the cold pressed apricot shave oil to the Himalayan
salt body polish. Purearth.asia
FIFTEEN years after it was founded by Mira Kulkarni, luxury Ayurveda brand Forest Essentials has 34 standalone stores and manages to stay ahead of the curve in the natural facial care segment. It introduced luxury consumers to premium soaps priced at `175, at a time when the most expensive offering was imported and cost approximately `100. Next came skincare solutions made from kokum, sugar (the lip balm continues to be a best-seller) and a decadent hand-pounded fruit scrub that smelled and looked like a dessert. The scrub continues to showcase the prestige qualities of Forest Essential as does Soundarya, a rich, age-delay cream, featuring 24 karat gold, no less. Interestingly, the brand has managed to stay away from the fairness debate (an Indian obsession) and focus instead on contributing to an even skin tone, skincare for young mothers, babies and brides. ‘‘When we used dusky models in our commercials, we had some people asking why we had used ‘adivasis’. Fortunately, there is a huge demand for our products from people who are not backing fairness anymore,’’ begins executive director Samrath Bedi, who is often at the Lodsi workshop in Uttarkhand, where the Ayurveda-inspired skincare products are still made by hand. Current categories include face, hair care, body care and wellness (scented candles are next, Bedi promises). When international beauty giant Estée Lauder bought a minority stake in the company seven years ago, Forest Essentials began accessing sophisticated technology and a strong research network. Today, their products can be found at leading luxury hotels, from the Taj Group to ITC, and the luxury-sustainability story is going strong. ‘‘We have cracked the South. And we introduced CSR even before it was fashionable,’’ Bedi, 40, chuckles. Swearing by the farm to bottle philosophy, they grow their ingredients, when not wildcrafting them. As for the brand, ‘feminine and strong’ continue to be the keywords. It explains why their recent commercial is themed on the Warrior princess, going to show that women in power can still appreciate and find the time for ancient and luxe beauty rituals forestessentialsindia.com
Others to know
Skin Yoga: Popular with the Instagram crowd, the brand by sisters Radhika, Jagriti and Deepika Choudhary uses raw ingredients procured from the country of origin. Delivered in laser-cut wooden boxes, they come in powder form and address relatable issues like acne, holiday tans and post workout sweat. The coffee body scrub is a hit. skinyoga.in
AMRITAm: The skincare products from sustainable lifestyle brand, Good Earth, have a huge following. Besides the extra virgin coconut oil, which fans use generously on face, body and sometimes in their food, there is the Spikenard Abyanga massage oil and Lavendar bath oil, for which blooms are harvested in the foothils of the Himalayas. Goodearth.in
IN an attempt to differentiate between herbal and organic, founder of Bangalore’s SoulTree, Vishal Bhandari, believes a third-party evaluation or certification in India can make a difference. It took the former merchant navy officer nine years before he was ready with SoulTree and he says, ‘‘Being the first Indian brand to be certified by the European Certification Agency, BDIH of Germany, means revealing to authorities and of course, our customers, exactly what goes into our products.’’ Plus, they follow the sustainable farming philosophy. ‘‘We work on a soil to shelf format, which means that we don’t buy any products from a bag. It is all grown by organic farmers, mostly in the Himalayan regions of India, whom I have hand-picked,’’ adds Bhandari. While they do offer creams, facewashes and hair essentials, what is unusual is their fully organic beauty line, Mohini. ‘‘We offer vibrant kohl and lipsticks which enhance beauty at a surface level, but improve the body too,’’ he tells us. The lipsticks, he says, will moisturise and the kohl will cool the eyes, thanks to the sweet almond oil, soothing rose and organic ghee it is made from. ‘‘While amla, brahmi, rose and chamomile are perhaps not unique, we use ingredients which we’ll never run out of,’’ Bhandari asserts, emphasising that their target audience is those who want premium but perhaps not luxury. Looking to expand across the country to gain visibility offline as well, Bhandari promises men’s and sun care ranges
soon. Details: soultree.in
With thousands of ‘natural’ skincare brands, there is some confusion when it comes to labels like organic, herbal, eco-friendly and ethical. Vivek Sahni of Kama Ayurveda shares tips to bypass pseudo green brands. ‘‘Ask for the complete list of ingredients (by Indian law skincare companies don’t have to declare every ingredient on the label). And check certification (if it’s Ayurvedic or cosmetic),’’ he says. Dr VR Vivekanand, who comes from a family of third generation vaidyas (healers) in Kerala, and has worked with Kama Ayurveda on awareness activities, has this note of caution, ‘‘The 3000-year-old texts on Ayurveda medicine were clear about where the herbs must be grown and how. So when tulasi is grown in 10 different areas now, for mass production, the properties inevitably change.’’
By Rosella Stephen