By now, a curiosity in “clean,” or plant-based beauty solutions might have led you to either sip some golden milk (traditionally known as haldi doodh) with the goal of brighter skin, mist your face with some refreshing rose water, experiment with coconut oil for thicker hair, or all of the above. But centuries before the current clean beauty movement, there was Ayurveda—which literally translates to “knowledge of life.” One of the world’s oldest approaches to holistic healing, Ayurveda is based on the belief that full health is dependent upon balancing the mind, body, and spirit using only our bodies and ingredients from the earth.
In most South Asian households, evenings are often spent watching our grandmothers dig through the pantry to mix homemade face, body, and hair elixirs with ingredients like chickpea flour, coconut oil, jasmine, and lemon. One night a week is also reserved for hair oiling and DIY face masks (my family’s go-to anti-inflammatory acne-fighting mask is a turmeric, antibacterial honey, and rose water concoction).
Board-certified, Miami-based dermatologist Manjula Jegasothy, M.D. touts the benefits of a clean, Ayurvedic approach to your beauty regimen. “Products only have long ingredients lists and chemicals in them to act as preservatives,” she says. “By buying products based in Ayurveda, you’re eliminating all of those ingredients. No matter what skin type you have, you may experience fewer sensitivities, allergies, and clearer skin because of the smaller, cleaner ingredient list.”
“South Asian-owned brands have always had an implied Ayurvedic foundation,” adds Nikita Upadhyay, bestselling author of Indian beauty tip bible Roots To Radiance. “South Asian-owned brands have been doing clean beauty since before brands were even using the term ‘clean beauty’. We are, by nature, the authority on all things clean beauty because we grew up having fewer resources that led us to DIY Ayurvedic beauty rituals out of necessity,” Upadhyay says.
Yes, I love my CTZN Cosmetics lipstick, because they make the only true nude I can rely on for my brown skin. Ranavat’s Jasmine Tonique is the one toner I always keep stocked on my vanity at all times, and Live Tinted’s Hue Glow is like IRL Photoshop on my medium-toned legs. Buying these standout products from the below brands is putting your hair and skin—and your money—in the hands of the original authorities on clean beauty.
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NUDIVERSAL Lip Duo
Because one nude lip shade absolutely does not fit all, Pakistani sisters Aleena, Aleezeh, and Naseeha Khan founded inclusive makeup brand CTZN Cosmetics to solve the problem they saw: In addition to mass beauty brands not serving an inclusive shade range, brown-skinned models in beauty campaigns were rarely ever South Asian or Middle Eastern.
Their mango butter-infused Nudiversal Lip Duo is the first nude shade I’ve ever used that suits my brown skin and mixed undertones. The 100 percent vegetarian and cruelty-free brand asks users to take a quiz to match the exact right nude shade for your skin tone. You can even see what each shade looks like on multiple skin tones.
Sculpt and Shine Beauty Baton
Founded by Shalini Vadhera after the Indian government specifically called upon her to help disenfranchised girls in the country, the brand assists girls with opportunities ranging from career mentorship to small business funding and even scholarships, in partnership with Vadhera’s philanthropic foundation, Power Beauty Living.
Ready Set Jet’s easy-to-use line of baton-shaped clean beauty products feature ingredients like antibacterial seaweed extract and collagen-boosting algae extract.
After a trip to India in 2018, Raisa Mirza wanted to inspire Indian girls to prioritize self-care, and understand confidence that it instills. Out of that desire, she created vegan and cruelty-free Rella Beauty.
Her launch collection features lipsticks built specifically for brown skin and the mixed undertones South Asian women have. For every lipstick purchased, one is given to a woman in need.
Royal Tonique Hydrating Jasmine Mist
Ranavat literally translates to “royal”, which is completely fitting for this holy grail jasmine toner mist: The highly potent vegan skin, hair, and body care line is a nod to the rituals of Rajasthani Kings and Queens. Leveraging the secrets of the ancient elixirs and potions they’d use for beauty and a long life, founder Michelle Ranavat is the ultimate modern alchemist of mind, body, and spirit beauty.
Back To Your Roots Scalp + Hair Prewash
If scalp-to-strand hair health has been a goal of yours for some time now, try Shaz and Kicks. Indian sisters Shaz Rajashekar and Kiku Chaudhuri’s namesake Ayurvedic hair care brand was founded out of the siblings’ fond childhood memories spent in India. Their grandmother spun beauty blends out of ingredients from their pantry and garden.
Their luxurious concoctions feature nourishing pre-wash hair masks for every hair type (yes, I’m talking to you, my curly-haired girls) with scalp-loving ingredients like coconut and turmeric root oil.
Founded by Indian corporate finance executive-turned essential oil and plant extract researcher, Asmi Mahableshwarkar makes fragrances that are perfect for anyone with a sensitive nose.
They’re all built with the Ayurvedic foundations of aromatherapy in mind, and I love her “nektar” floral scent so much, I’ll wear it even when I’m home alone just to have an excuse to smell the scent for myself.
AVYA Skincare Night Moisturizer
If you’re an Ayurveda newbie, Avya Skincare is a great gateway brand. The ultimate East-meets-West skincare brand, Deepika Vyas and Dr. Tanuj Nakra built Avya skincare on the foundation of using technology to enhance the healing powers of Ayurvedic ingredients. Their powerful formulations feature blends of natural neem leaf extract and coconut oil with potent retinol and Vitamin C.
Cira Natural Organic Nourishing Brow Oil
Yes, I might be biased, but South Asian women are envied worldwide for their thick, healthy hair and brows—mostly due to our grandmothers’ love for massaging oils into every surface of our skin. Deepa Khambe’s line of oils pay tribute to the ancient Indian art of hair oiling.
BYREDO Rose Of No Man’s Land Body Lotion
Mentored by some of the greatest perfumers of our time, half Indian, half Swedish founder Ben Gorham is the ultimate fragrance whisperer. Renowned for their luxury candles, Byredo also makes the indulgent body cream that I reserve for only the most special occasions.
Meltdown Acne Oil
I wish I could have given their famous Melt Down acne oil to my 13 year-old self. One of them sells every 8 minutes, and if you try it just once, you’ll know exactly why.
Hyperpigmentation is especially prevalent in South Asian women, something the Western beauty world never responded to—until Influencer-turned-CEO Deepica Mutyala came along.
Her line of vegan, cruelty-free multitasking huesticks came from her passion to make beautiful, glow-inducing products, but more out of Mutyala’s deep-rooted desire to dismantle colorism in the beauty world.
Visha Skincare Fitness Scrub
We love a good dermatologist-founded brand, and this one by Dr. Purvisha Patel built for the unique complexities of South Asian skin is no exception. Their products feature ingredients like activated charcoal, sea salt, and sunflower oil that I often rely on to pretend my shower is actually a spa.
Like most South Asian women, Rooshy Roy too was inspired by her grandmother’s homemade beauty creations. With skincare products, like this hydra-whip body butter, rooted in the ancient rituals of our ancestors, the brand gives a portion of all proceeds to their partnership with the Indian Shanti Bhavan School to help provide disadvantaged youth with an education.
Nourish Face Cream
Indian entrepreneur Lisa Mattam founded the plant-based, eco-friendly beauty brand out of a desire for wanting to surround her two-year-old daughter with nourishing, chemical-free products. Every single one of her products feel just as amazing on your skin as they will look on your vanity.
The Power Couple
Turmeric is a star skincare ingredient in Ayurveda for its anti-inflammatory properties. Born out of a shared love for our favorite DIY ingredient, life partners Jaz Fenton and Jamil Bhuya created a clean line of turmeric-focused skincare products. Plus, a portion of all their proceeds fight to put an end to child marriage.
Liquid Glass Radiance Serum
Millions of followers (including my teenage self) were copying influencer Farah Dhukai’s homemade, DIY hair and skincare masks on YouTube for over a decade before bottling up her vegan, cruelty-free elixirs.
Smooth 2.0 Large Pure Bristle Brush
After years of styling hair for some of the most glamorous red carpets in the world, Indian and Anglo-British founder Feisal Quershi made a brush for himself to use on his clients when he couldn’t find one on the market that he actually liked. The secret got out, and out of it a full line of clean, cruelty-free luxury hair care products, from pH-balancing shampoos and conditioners to fragrances, was born.
One of the few South Asian-founded makeup brands on the market, this one’s a must-have for every brown-skinned makeup wearer who’s struggled finding the right shade. Indian founder Monika Deol’s career started as a TV personality, so all of her cruelty-free products are lightweight and camera-ready.
HoliRoots™ Pre-wash Hair Treatment Oil
You get the idea that a big part of Ayurvedic beauty is rooted in oils—especially when it comes to the healing powers of ancient hair oiling rituals. Indian power siblings Nikita (master formulator) and Akash Mehta (Unicef Global Guardian) founded the cruelty-free, vegan brand in homage to their hair oiling grandmother and healer grandfather.
Cinnamon Chai Candle
Indian founder Sonya Malani Panchal somehow found a way to melt down the key fragrances of every South Asian household with candles like cinnamon chai, mango lassi, and even Indian monsoon. Panchal’s aptly-named Scrumptious Candles are fun to gift, for a scent that elicits some serious nostalgia.
Indian Summer Golden Hour Brightening Cream
Desi girl Kajal Patel founded her Ayurvedic skin care brand out of a desire to make clean products to treat her son’s eczema as well as her own acne. Desi Roots takes Indian rituals blends them with her own powerful innovations, like this 100-percent-natural face cream, containing turmeric, zinc, Indian frankincense, and carrot seed oil.
Lawyer Sara Shah founded Journ Beauty out of her personal struggles with acne scars—something South Asian skin is particularly susceptible to. A brand of color correctors made specifically to help improve and treat skin for the long run rather than conceal it, the minimalist-loved brand is the ultimate makeup-skincare hybrid.
Mitti Raw Honey Face Mask
After leaving a life in private equity law, Kavita Khosa founded and ran a non-profit yoga school before starting slow-beauty, zero-waste brand Purearth to bottle up ingredients from the Earth in limited batches. Each ingredient in her skin and body care essentials, including this raw honey clarifying mask, is carefully curated to fuel and energize your skin.
Payaru Mung Bean Face Scrub
Made for the ultimate clean beauty fan, Priyanka Ramesh’s line of face scrubs and oils have short ingredients lists, most of which feature antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory mung beans—another staple in every South Asian household. The protein-rich ingredient is made to replace the harsh plastic beads that exist in traditional scrubs. Where those microplastics pass through our water filtration systems, and often end up in the ocean where marine life mistakes them for food, mung bean is instead biodegradable, gentle, and even more effective.
Liquid VO2 Undereye Color Corrector and Concealer
This sister-founded makeup-skincare hybrid brand is all about high-performance products that are cruelty-free. From childhood, sisters Pinki Gosal along with Monal, Gargi, and Priti Patel were shamed for the genetic hyperpigmentation and dark circles that comes with South Asian skin, so they decided to feature shade inclusive products that have a focus on color correcting the under eye area specifically.
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