The 1997 book “Absolute Beauty: Radiant Skin and Inner Harmony Through the Ancient Secrets of Ayurveda” was required reading for perfect-skin obsessives of a certain age.
A primer on the millennia-old system of Indian medicine written by Ayurvedic doctor and Soho spa owner Pratima Raichur, it assisted readers in deciphering the enigmatic dosha (bodily energy). Once you’d determined whether you were more vata, pitta, or kapha (air, fire, or water), you could tailor your beauty routine to balance your physical, mental, and emotional states.
Ayurveda is making a comeback after being pushed out of the spotlight by K-beauty, J-beauty, and “cleanical” skin care free of parabens and phthalates. Though it is primarily associated with hair care and traditional Indian rituals such as scalp oiling for lush locks, Ayurvedic skin care for the face and body is gaining popularity as well.
Why is it now? Our love of self-care got a kick in the pants during COVID-19, according to the signs. Ayurveda ticks a lot of boxes for stressed-out wellness seekers as a means of balancing the body, mind, and spirit to promote health, with an emphasis on yoga, a diet, and personal care products steeped in plant-based, organic ingredients.
“The last two years have taught us a lot about stress, and we now see a very clear connection between inner and outer beauty,” says Michelle Ranavat, a first-generation Indian American and the founder of her own Ayurvedic beauty line. “Ayurveda is a very unique discipline that combines both a holistic and a science-based approach, which is very appealing in this day and age.”
Soma Ayurvedic’s Arjun Sampath believes that “the Whole Foods grocery ecosystem” has helped popularize several of Ayurveda’s core adaptogens, such as ashwagandha, moringa, and turmeric, in foods and beverages, priming the pump for beauty. “The US consumer has already used Ayurvedic remedies; they just didn’t realize they were Ayurvedic in origin,” he says.
Searches for bhringraj, an Ayurvedic herb derived from a type of sunflower renowned for its hair-strengthening properties, are expected to increase by nearly 30% over the next year, according to market research firm Spate. The ingredient is featured in both Vatika Ayurveda’s Pitta four-step hair care system and Rthvi’s Bhringraj Oil.
“Hair oiling has been the most popular beauty ritual in India for centuries, practiced by people of all ages, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds,” says Meerika Khanna, founder of Rthvi. “Ayurveda views beauty through the lens of wellness, and our hair is viewed as a mirror of our health.”
Danielle Conte, the founder of Conscious Coconut, has been collaborating with spas to develop protocols that incorporate Ayurvedic practices centered on coconut oil, which is regarded as healing in Indian culture. Shirodhara is one such treatment that involves gently massaging the head while dripping a steady stream of oil on the forehead in alignment with the “third eye” chakra.
“The process is gentle, and its application is deliberate,” Conte says. “To finish, the guest’s hair is wrapped in our recycled water bottle quick-dry towels.” They have to be.
Despite how hot it is, Ayurvedic experts don’t see a ’90s-style flameout this time. “I’m a firm believer that Ayurveda is not a fad, but rather a megatrend,” says Sampath. “It’s still in its early stages.”
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