As a young, first-generation Indian-American girl, I’ll never forget smelling like coconut oil while my friends had the essence of American Dove soap. I remember getting made fun of for bringing spice-filled rice dishes to school when everyone else was chowing down on PB&Js and Lunchables. But here’s the thing — what I remember the most is not really caring about being different — I’ve always love the dichotomy.
I grew up in Tennessee, but spent many summers in India running around with my cousins in the monsoons, waking up to my grandmother making masala-spiced eggs with fresh, pillowy roti flatbread, and of course, experimenting with slightly off-centre Eastern beauty techniques. I also spent time in Nashville, enjoying buttery biscuits, taking trips to Target to rummage through the makeup aisles, and trying out the latest Neutrogena skin care products (shoutout to its Oil-Free Acne Wash for getting me through my teen years).
As an adult I've reverted back to the natural beauty remedies I learned from my time in India — many of which have become commonplace on Instagram and YouTube. The things I won’t take with me? The skin lightening products like Fair & Lovely that my aunt would scrub on me in hopes that I’d look like the ultimate light-skinned Bollywood starlet (Madhuri Dixit or Karisma Kapoor at the time). But alas, those lightening products didn’t work (whew) and I was left admiring the holistic beauty secrets that had been passed down through the generations instead. I’ve come to realise there is a better option than splurging on pricey brands, especially when I can make my own effective, natural products that cost far less.
Inspired by holistic ingredients, Indian beauty solutions are where it’s at, but be warned that it's similar to Indian cooking — there’s a historic foundation to the techniques, but there’s always room for interpretation. To help cut through the countless tutorials online, I've rounded up the seven ingredients that are the base of legit Indian beauty secrets — and paired each ingredient with a tutorial that makes it easy.