Grounded in holistic wellness traditions, the Indian subcontinent’s skin care philosophy is a composite of diverse medicine systems, including Ayurved, Adivasi, Unani and Siddha. Of these, Ayurved (often called Ayurveda in the West) is the dominant healing framework. And today, Ayurvedic texts are still considered important allies in the pursuit of wellness and beauty, and consulted in the formulation of skin care remedies.
In Ayurvedic skin care, ingredients are graded for vitality, factoring in aspects like seasonality and provenance, and blends are deemed fortifying only when made with absolutely natural or unprocessed ingredients.
For the majority of Indian women, a good skin care regimen is natural and has a legacy component that is mostly Ayurvedic. Recipes for that perfect mask or scrub go back generations and can usually be mixed quickly in a bowl with ingredients from the kitchen or local grocer. Skin goals have remained unchanged over centuries: Good skin is clean, even-toned and has tej ― an indefinable, almost god-like radiance that comes from within.
Even so, Vasudha Rai, former beauty director at Harper’s Bazaar India and author of “Glow: Indian Foods, Recipes and Rituals for Beauty, Inside and Out,” gently warns against the blind embrace of regimens that feel Ayurvedic but, in reality, comply only loosely with the system’s principles. “The prescriptive aspects of Ayurved are extremely complex and call for serious commitment in the form of time and intention, if we are to achieve any sort of radical transformation with our skin,” she told HuffPost.
“Plus, context has changed irrevocably since these texts were written ― modernity has turned our lives upside down. We’re not eating healthy, living right. Thanks to GMO and pesticides, our food is tainted, and the pollution, stress and lack of exercise don’t help,” she told HuffPost.
“This is why I think Ayurved, when coupled with advances in skin care science, is pretty unbeatable,” Rai said. “So many Indian brands are combining both in a bottle ― deeply traditional ingredients and a very current, very scientific sensibility.”
We rounded up 15 Indian skin care brands that promise gorgeous skin with that lit-from-within glow.
Neemli’s voluptuous facial oils and serums deliver a one-two punch, making your skin feel and look better. Founder Bhaskara Seth is uncompromising about quality ― this explains the brand’s insanely loyal fan base. “Transparency is a core philosophy,” Seth told HuffPost. “For example, if we’ve used preservatives, we openly state that we have. This is why we prefer eco-certified plant-based preservatives. We’re dead against greenwashing.”
This brand doesn’t kid around ― their stuff is strong-smelling, potent and delivers glorious results. Founders Ashok and Chandrakanta Gupta’s formulations have dominated shelves in northern India’s Ayurvedic pharmacies for years. Amrutam’s products harness wisdom from the ancient classics. You can feel them working even as you apply.
The brand’s pure, natural offerings from the lower Himalayas enjoy a cult following. These restorative products are unisex and suit all skin types, making them perfect gifts. Founder Jessica Jayne is particular about “safeguarding the integrity of the people,” she told HuffPost, “so we work with women’s self-help groups and do afforestation drives.”
Dr. Sheth’s products factor in bad influences such as poor diet, stress and pollution, and deliver targeted healing. Founder Rekha Sheth, a cosmetic dermatology pioneer in India, insists that Indian skin doesn’t respond as well to Western skin care. “In the West, a lot of the procedures and treatments tap into the body’s wound-healing mechanisms to stimulate new cell production,” her son and co-founder Anish Sheth explained. “This isn’t a big deal for Caucasian skin ― there’s a little redness and then it heals. In Indian skin and skin of color, however, it results in pigmentation.”
No one does luxe simplicity better. Founder Kavita Khosa distills 20 years of experience practicing Ayurvedic principles into a tightly edited set of exquisite products you’ll want to drown your skin in.
Sunayana Walia’s honest skin care line is the stuff of desert island lists ― you’ll want to be marooned with these products. Walia is emphatic about viewing skin care as part of a lifestyle choice. “Skin care is just a tiny part of sustainable living,” she told HuffPost. “I believe there is no way but to live clean and green.”
The brand only sells “products that are safe for every skin and for the environment,” founder Robin Gupta said. Proven ingredients come together in a beautiful, therapeutic line that works across genders and skin types.
Kal Hans is for true beauty minimalists who want solid, no-fuss skin care. These products come from a place of healing and resolve. An accident that left founder Lisa D’Mello physically scarred has her using “only the most efficacious and nutrient-rich ingredients nature has to offer,” she told HuffPost.
Founder Prasanthy Gurugubelli combines cutting-edge science with wisdom gleaned from Indian texts written in the 6th century B.C. into clean, powerful products. Her sumptuous formulations will trigger an endless restocking loop.
The brand’s sophisticated medicinal products overdeliver, especially on problem skin. Results can be visible in mere days. “We are open, ethical and believe in involving our customers in the littlest details of product development,” founder Nikita Deshpande said.
Enn’s makes hardworking products that are almost good enough to eat. Founder Nandeeta Manchanda puts fresh, lush ingredients together in exciting ways.
“Everything you need for healthy and beautiful skin is available in nature, and believing that labs can produce better ingredients than Mother Nature is not OK,” founder Pritesh Asher told HuffPost. His wholesome, robust line is proof.
Zahara Nedou’s rich, luxurious blends draw on age-old Kashmiri skin care traditions and are best known for her use of unconventional ingredients. “I want to share my culture ― the beauty, the skin care secrets,” she said.
Krithika Prasad’s products have the irresistibly earthy, hearty qualities of a grandmother-approved recipe. She sources thoughtfully and likes to educate followers about her methods.
This brand was born out of a crisis-shopping trip for shampoo. The small print on the “organic” product label left founder Isha Bharti aghast ― the key ingredient was a compound she was using in a biotech lab to clean dishes and denature proteins. Unsurprisingly, the shampoo left her already stressed hair in ruins. “I vowed to create effective natural products for myself and my family,” she told HuffPost. Her products combine Ayurvedic knowledge with a deep love of scientific research to rave reviews from customers.