For most of my childhood, the smell of amla, coconut, and jasmine lingered in my braided hair. I wouldn't say I liked oiling my hair, and I hated how my mom massaged it into my scalp. I especially wasn't fond of the lingering greasy feeling or scent. Despite that, my mom would tell me constantly that a woman's beauty is in her hair. I was taught to take care of my hair and treat it delicately. I paid no attention to her as a nine-year-old kiddo. However, now as a college student far from home, I've found myself missing my mother and reclaiming my culture in any way.
As an adult, I've found great pride in taking care of my hair. I've gone on a personal hair journey of sorts to find products that kept my strands healthy but reminded me of the attention my mom gave to my hair as a child. Ayurveda was the heart of these hair practices my mom taught me, and so when I heard about Shaz & Kiks, an Ayurvedic-inspired haircare line, I was personally inclined to learn more.
The line was created by two Indian sisters, Shaz Rajashekar and Kiku Chaudhuri, who were inspired by their heritage for healthy hair. "Our grandmother would always make these beauty recipes from her garden, with her flowers and oils and herbs," Shaz told Byrdie. "Anytime we went home to our parent's house in Houston, we would always leave the house with the best feeling hair because our mom would bring back ingredients from India."
Those visits sparked a lightbulb moment that encouraged the sister duo to bottle their family's secrets and share them with the masses. Two years ago, Shaz and Kiks began conceptualizing their unique idea of haircare inspired by the Ayurvedic practices they loved. They narrowed down on ingredients like moringa oil, shikaki, neem, and Multani mitti, all prevalent in Ayurveda. The sisters wanted to create products that would deliver results but remove that burdensome feeling of styling your hair.
Last year, the brand launched its first product, the Back To Your Roots scalp and hair pre-wash, created to enhance the cleansing experience. The pre-wash process is also traditionally practiced by many South Asian women. The goal for Kiku was to bring your grandma's secret hair recipe to your shower caddy. "The smell captures notes of all these different herbs, oils, and flowers that have so much history," she explains. "We wanted to keep the integrity of the ingredients. You eat them, you put them in your body, and you use them topically—we didn't need to change them." The Back To Your Roots Pre-Wash has a creamy texture that dissolves as you massage it into your hair. It has a bold earthy smell that's authentic to the recipes the sisters grew up with and one that will feel nostalgic to many.
"No one knows the art of taking care of your hair like a South Asian woman does," Kiku told me confidently, and I can't say I disagree. I was taught early on to take care of my hair and pour love into it. The art of taking care of our hair goes beyond physical appearance and is deeply rooted in culture, which Shaz and Kiks are dedicated to paying homage to. "It goes back to the power of collectively taking care of one another," says Kiku. "We thought about the women in our lives, our moms, aunties, grandmas, and how we witnessed them taking care of one another."
The power of women uplifting women is an integral part of the brand's story, and an illustration of two women is featured on the packaging for that reason. "We want to be a brand that celebrates women coming together and caring for one another," Kiku says. Part of celebrating all women was making sure Shaz & Kiks products cater to many hair types from fine, thick, dry, frizzy, and curly. "We also intentionally avoid words like de-frizz or smooth, that are specific to one hair type," Kiku says, emphasizing the need to be more intentional with the words we use to describe what "good hair" is. "It's about unlearning and reclaiming beauty ideals that aren't rooted in self-love and celebration," she says.
Each sister also has personal hair concerns that shaped their approach to developing a versatile line of products. For Shaz, maintaining her naturally fine strands and oily scalp was a priority. "Our scalp is an extension of our skin," she says. "The approach we take with skincare can be similar to our scalp." According to Shaz, the pre-wash formula improved her routine significantly. Kiku is partial to the brand's Home-Combing Queen neem hair comb. "I can't detangle with anything else," she says. "It's part of my daily routine." The comb is made by a wood artisan collective in Bardhaman, India, who grows neem trees and handcrafts each comb, another nod to the sister's rich culture.
The Shaz & Kiks lineup has been full of Ayurvedic treasure, and its newest launch is no different. Its new Moringa Hair Oil launches today and is the first product from the "With Love, India" collection, described as a love letter from India to the world. The brand ethically harvested moringa oil from India to ensure high-quality ingredients and fair practices. It's, again, another great example of how this brand's putting hair and culture at the forefront of its innovations, and the haircare aisle is so much better for it.