Green beauty

India's beauty & wellness industry embracing organic & sustainable products

84-Rubeina-Karachiwalla Going natural: Rubeina Karachiwalla started the first range of organic makeup in India | Amey Mansabdar

Rubeina Karachiwalla worked in public relations but was always interested in beauty. Like most women, she would experiment with makeup. “The creative process of applying makeup itself felt like an art,” she says. But her skin was sensitive and would react badly to some of the makeup products. Why do we not have any alternative for people like me who cannot use such heavy makeup, she wondered. There were so many brands in the UK and the US that were offering healthy makeup, if not organic. This was five years ago, when the word ‘organic’ had not fully made its appearance in the beauty scene.

Then it struck her that nothing stopped her from starting an organic line of makeup. She bought raw materials from Princess Street in Mumbai and started off with a humble kitchen grinder. She experimented with lip balms and powder foundations from ingredients like ginger and cocoa powder. This convinced her that it was not an impossible idea to execute. After a year of “doodling with the idea”, she hired an R&D company to formulate the products. The result was Ruby’s Organics, India’s first range of organic makeup. The brand uses no chemical preservatives, only natural and organically-sourced ingredients to develop makeup staples infused with bioactive ingredients.

Forest Essentials night beauty balm Forest Essentials night beauty balm

Although Karachiwalla now faces restrictions with regard to the shelf-life and texture of her products—her foundation, for example, cannot give the same coverage as a conventional one—she feels the market is growing so rapidly that it is only a matter of time before she has access to great raw materials. At the end of the day, she says, most women are not looking for contours and highlights. They just want the basic things—a kajal, lipstick, cream and foundation—that are lightweight and allow your skin to breathe. “We are for the everyday Indian woman who needs her everyday essentials,” she says.

She might have been one of the first ones, but the trend of Indian brands coming out with organic and eco-friendly beauty products has snowballed. A number of luxury beauty and wellness companies have got on board—both mainstream ones like Kama, Forest Essentials and Good Earth and a few homegrown, indie labels, like beauty brand Pahadi Local, bath and body care brand PureSense, Ayurvedic hair and skincare brand Aveda, Soul Flower which sells spa and aroma products, and skincare brand Nuskay. Not only are all of Nuskay’s products vegan, sulphate and paraben free, but its packaging, too, is biodegradable.

Neem tulsi tea tree body scrub from Kama Neem tulsi tea tree body scrub from Kama

“Everyone used to be obsessed with foreign products,” says Jessica Jayne, founder of Pahadi Local. “I know people who, even today, use Moroccan oil during their pregnancy. We have the best oils in India, made from products like turmeric and coconut. Why go for foreign ones? [Recently], however, there has definitely been a shift in mindset and lifestyles.”

Some of these brands are not just coming out with environment-friendly products but they are also going the extra mile to preserve the environment and help local communities. Pahadi Local tied up with the forest department of Himachal Pradesh and planted more than two thousand trees. It built solar-powered heating systems at the community centre of its women tea collectors to provide vocational training for them in the winter months. It is also about to launch the Himalayan Health Project in Leh, which includes medical check-ups for locals twice a month. Forest Essentials is another company that takes giving back to society seriously. Partnering with the NGO Simple Education Foundation (SEF) in Delhi, it started Paathshala, or the ‘One-School-One-Village’ project in rural Uttarakhand. It is currently working in a Hindi-medium government high school in Gular.

Panellists pick

* True Botanical: True Botanical is a beauty brand whose products are all made of pure and potent ingredients.

* Ananda—In the Himalayas: Their spa products are enhanced by the power of essential oils and aromatherapy.

* La Prairie: This Swiss skincare brand has luxurious ingredients—like gold, platinum, caviar and white caviar—in their products.

* Paro by Good Earth: Paro is one of the top Indian skincare brands. It is rooted in Indian traditional knowledge.

* Anandini Himalaya Tea: It provides the best teas for de-stressing and detoxification. Their signature teas include Jasmine Pearls, Firdaus Green Tea, Emerald Spiced and Blush.