The basis of Ayurveda—also known as the science of life—is balance. In India, this 5000-year-old wisdom is deeply rooted in our cultural upbringing and inherently embedded in our daily lives. However, the degree to which we teach it differs.
For generations before us, Ayurveda was the only way people knew how to live. My grandfather started every day at 4 am, and he explained that it’s the ‘Brahma muhurta,’ the period before sunrise when your mind is at its sharpest. His morning routine started with a warm glass of water, two hours of meditation and yoga, watching the sunrise, drinking honey, lemon, and water, and gently knocking on every family member’s door to wake us up. Today, it’s why I love early mornings, yoga, and meditation, instinctively inch towards more straightforward ways of living.
Ayurveda in beauty is equally unique and is mainly focused on beauty from within, Dr. Manoj Kutteri, Medical Director & CEO, Atmantan Wellness Centre in India, tells us. "Ayurvedic therapies work on the principle that any application on the body is critical because the medicinal properties of the product can seep into the body through the skin and enter our bloodstream," Kutteri says. "It is important that we use products that are safe for our body and are devoid of chemicals or harmful substances." Ayurveda also focuses on balancing your body type, or Dosha, classified into three types—Vata, Pita, and Kapha—which controls the basic physiological functions of the body.
With more education and awareness, more people are drawn toward the Ayurvedic way of living today. Brands worldwide are following suit, bottling ancient remedies from scriptures or family practices that work towards the balance in our body, thereby promising glowing skin, lustrous hair, and a nurtured system. The ingredients in these products remind us of precious times when our parents and grandparents concocted masks and oils from kitchen ingredients and garden herbs. Not only do these products make us look and feel beautiful, but they revive sentimental values.
According to the Global Ayurvedic Market Research Report, the Global Ayurvedic Market is expected to reach $ 14.9 billion in valuation by 2026. Let’s journey back to where it all began to where it’s headed.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Manoj Kutteri is a qualified Naturopath from Kerala with a diploma in Ayurvedic Panchakarma and a Master’s degree in Psychology. He is also the Medical Director and CEO of Atmantan Wellness Centre.
- Mira Kulkarni is the founder and chief managing director of Forest Essentials, an Indian cosmetics company specializing in Ayurvedic products.
- Kavita Khosa is an Ayurvedic practitioner with diplomas in Advanced Organic Cosmetic Science, Ayurveda, and Vedanta. She is also the founder and creative director of Purearth and the author of Beauty Unbottled.
- Shrankhla Holecek is the founder and CEO of Uma Oils.
- Akash Mehta is the co-founder and CEO of Fable and Mane.
- Michelle Ranavat is the founder and CEO of Ranavat.
The Luxury Ayurveda Market Shift
When Forest Essentials' founder and chief managing director, Mira Kulkarni, launched the brand in 2000, there wasn't a huge market for recipes with pure ingredients using Ayurvedic guidelines. Instead, the industry was dominated by mass-produced products made with substandard components and adulterated oils to keep prices low. "I believed people would pay for the purest ingredients and highest quality products if they were available," Kulkarni says. For many years, she worked with vaids and biochemists to curate a range of beauty products made using fresh herbs, hand-pressed oils, and medicinal roots, prepared according to ancient formulations.
The idea for her first product—handmade soaps—was born when she worked on a co-operative movement in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, a hub for wellness and Ayurveda. This hub was home to hundreds of Ayurvedic doctors and pharmacies selling homemade soaps, oils, lotions, creams, and more. "Most of these local products were all-natural and free from any chemicals or preservatives, which I found intriguing," says Kulkarni. She commissioned her first batch of honey soaps to these vendors with the hope of making Ayurvedic beauty more accessible. "The products became best sellers," she adds.
Thus grew a new global segment in beauty called luxury Ayurveda. The brand recently launched skincare-infused Ayurvedic makeup, including a brow and lash serum infused with amla fruit extract, fenugreek, and olive oil. Today, many South Asian entrepreneurs are formulating products based on Ayurvedic remedies, and it's what the global beauty market has been missing.
Ancient Ayurveda Influence
"I grew up in a mohalla (a small town neighborhood) when supermarkets did not exist. Local hakims and vaidya's dispensed Ayurvedic and Unani remedies for common illnesses," says Kavita Khosa, founder of Purearth, an Ayurvedic skincare brand.
Khosa formally studied Ayurveda under the tutelage of veteran experts like Dr. Vasant Lad and Dr. Subhash Ranade and practiced it in her daily life. A trip to Tibet two decades ago inspired her to harness the air and the spirituality of the Himalayas, now home to Purearth. "I spent months traveling around the Himalayas in 2011 to understand the ecosphere, Ayurvedic medicinal plants, and indigenous practices in this region. I met with numerous NGOs and self-help groups who have since become family, friends, and sources for most of our ingredients," Khosa says. "When it came to launching my brand, the Himalayas became the wellspring of my inspiration."
Purearth's Kwansha Facial Beauty Coin is handcrafted from a special metal alloy, designed to bring balance, symmetry, and vitality to the face by working the underlying connective tissues and boosting immunity. A facial massage with the coin will help with microcirculation, promoting oxygen-rich blood flow to the skin. "The coin draws out pitta and heat, acidity, blockages, impurities, and toxins from the skin and the system," Khosa explains.
Fable & Mane's founder Akash Mehta says that family rituals like 'champi' or head massage using herbaceous oils are at the core of his brand. "Growing up, our grandma used to visit us from India, bringing with her amazing plant roots and oils and massaging them into our scalp while telling us stories," he says. Years later, as hair loss and damage crept in, Mehta and his sister decided to return to their childhood rituals to create the brand in 2020. He calls it a modern hair wellness brand on a mission to share ancient Indian beauty secrets.
For some others, turning to Ayurveda while developing brands came from realizing the beauty industry could use some cleaning. "My history with Ayurveda and clean ingredients intersected with my life in the U.S. and sparked the idea of launching Uma Oils," says the founder Shrankhla Holecek.
Holecek set forth to create 100 percent organically-sourced oils and launched the brand five years ago. "Uma is very focused on educating people on essential oils and the science behind our products," she says. Uma's products are handcrafted in small batches and packaged in hand-embroidered silk bags, an intentional choice by Holeck. "They generate valuable employment for underprivileged women in India," she says. Beyond slathering on an oil, Holeck encourages consumers to immerse themselves in the beauty ritual with a face massage. "To me, that is the age-old idea of luxury we practice in India, and I wanted to bring that to the world through Uma," she says.
The Ayurvedic Process
Extracting benefits from botany is a delicate process, though. Traditionally, steam distillation, cold pressing, and handcrafting make up the foundation of production in Ayurveda. These methods preserve the efficacy of the plant's vitamins and minerals. Then, each herb has a unique formulation journey before it ends up in your night cream. "For the saffron serum, we go through a 14-day process to infuse the oil with saffron and fresh herbs, which are hand-stirred in a copper vessel," Ranavat says.
Khosa discovered Himalayan bitter apricot oil in 1979 at the Osho Ashram in Pune, and it later appeared in Kullu around 2011. That became Purearth's first product, a single ingredient 100% pure oil. When you understand the delicate and tedious harvesting process of a flower or herb, you realize how precious the process of Ayurvedic beauty is.
"The truth about Ayurveda is it suggests various tools and recommendations optimize our mental health and nourish our bodies with ingredients suited to your specific 'Dosha,'" says Kulkarni. Today, you can enter a Forest Essentials store and consult with an Ayurvedic doctor to determine what your skin needs and get a customized cream.
Beyond consumers looking for better ingredients in beauty products, Ayurveda is more prevalent than ever as consumers become more mindful of their routines. "Ayurveda is great because it is completely immersive," says Ranavat. "When I use my saffron serum, my skin feels amazing, but I also feel calm and serene. After a stressful few years, we have turned our routine into ritual."
While everyone's preferences and routines are unique, there's a strong case for incorporating Ayurvedic practices into yours. Ayurveda is about slowing down the pace and enjoying the process. It's about taking in life and removing toxicity. Ultimately, it's about finding the right balance for you, and luckily, there are a lot of incredible products and innovators to help get us there.
What are the ayurveda doshas? Vata, kapha, and pitta explained. Healthline.