8 Indian Beauty Rituals To Try NOW

Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Every other weekend when I was a kid, my parents would hustle my sisters and me down to Gerrard, a strip in east Toronto known as "Little India." My mother would shuffle from store to store, gathering up everything from brightly colored spices and fresh meat to fragrant hair oils and boxes of powdered henna. As adults, my sisters and I continue that ritual every so often, with a special interest in the natural beauty buys this special part of town has to offer.
While most of the beauty world is focused on the high-tech innovations coming out of South Korea — from alphabet creams to skin-sloughing lotions — another resurgence is taking place, one that looks squarely toward the past for its beauty inspiration. Don't get me wrong, I, too, am a firm believer in the power of Seoul's spas and serums, but there's something special about tapping into India's ancient remedies and beauty secrets, which have stood the test of time.
While oil cleansing and herbal treatments may seem new to our pharmacy aisles, women in India have been practicing natural beauty treatments for centuries, from ayurvedic recipes tailor-made for different skin and body types to the beautifying, spice-based rituals used by everyone from Bollywood stars to teens in Mumbai. And, if it's good enough for Aishwarya Rai, it's good enough for me.
So, whether it inspires a visit to your own Little India or a closer look at the shelves of your corner shop, here is a beginner's guide to some of the best beauty rituals from the subcontinent. Ahead, we rounded up some of our favorite ready-made Indian beauty buys, plus some tips on how to make DIY treatments at home. Read on to learn why India is a total beauty hot spot.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Dabur Hair Oils
We know hair oil is nothing new for you seasoned readers — from coconut-oil masks to argan hair treatments, the use of oils as beauty treatments has exploded in the last few years. But, women in India and Pakistan have been hip to this beauty secret for decades. The Dabur line of oils offers a cocktail of fragrant mixes with coconut bases spiked with everything from amla oil (a.k.a. gooseberry) to neem oil, and they smell like jasmine and rose. Best of all, almost every bottle is under $5.

Dabur Vatika Enriched Coconut Hair Oil, $8.86 for pack of two, available at Amazon.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Looking for a way to recreate the experience at home? Mix your favorite coconut oil with drops of amla, a few drops of almond oil, and your favorite nourishing essential oil for some aromatherapy. Slather the mix on your hair for a few hours (or better yet, overnight), and let your hair soak in the moisturizing treatment.

Optimum Salon Haircare Amla Legend Rejuvenating Oil, $10.99, available at Walgreens; Now Solutions Sweet Almond Oil, $7.99, available at GNC.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Turmeric Skin Cream
We love adding a pinch of turmeric to our green juices in the morning, but on our skin? We were surprised at first, too, but kept seeing this spice listed prominently on skin-care products in our favorite shop on Gerrard. A little research pointed us to the use of turmeric in ayurvedic skin treatment for ages — purportedly healing everything from blemishes to fine lines.

This sacred Indian spice is adored in Southeast Asia for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it's used heavily for everything from digestive disorders to a pre-wedding glow for brides-to-be. On the face, turmeric is an amazing blemish fighter and can even tackle hyperpigmentation. We like to use this skin cream at bedtime when our skin is particularly inflamed after a night (or two) out.

Vicco Turmeric Skin Cream With Sandalwood Oil, $5.99, available at IShopIndian.com.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
For a brightening mask similar to what brides in India use, mix one-quarter teaspoon of turmeric with yogurt, honey, and a few drops of almond oil. Slather on and enjoy a prenuptial glow with or without an engagement ring.

Kohinoor Turmeric Powder, $21.99, available at So Good It's Green, Kalona Supernatural Organic Plain Yogurt, Kalona Supernatural for store locations; Clarks Clear Honey, Clarks for store locations.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Chandrika Soap
We are obsessed with this soap — well, as obsessed as a person can be with a bar of soap. The scent is definitely not for everyone, but when we discovered this innocuous little green box, we fell in love. Chandrika is an ayurvedic soap that claims to use the right blend of herbs to harmonize your mind, body, and spirit. Ayurveda translates as the "science of life," and the ancient Hindu practice was developed to treat all manner of ailments in a holistic and natural way, in tune with the body and the universe. The mix of sandalwood, cinnamon, and orange oil in this soap wakes us up and makes the shower smell incredible first thing in the morning. And, the coconut-oil base is extra moisturizing, especially after a long, dry winter.

Chandrika Ayurvedic Soap, $.99, available at The Vitamin Shoppe.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
You can incorporate sandalwood, orange oil, and cinnamon into your post-shower routine for a similar effect by adding drops of each oil to coconut oil and using the blend as a moisturizer.

Floracopeia Cinnamon Himalayan Essential Oil, $12, available at Floracopeia; Young Living Orange Essential Oil, $13.99, available at Scenting.com; Aura Cacia Sandalwood Essential Oil, $36.01, available at The Natural Online.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Ayurvedic Tooth Powder
Herbal toothpastes are cropping up everywhere, and celebs like Shailene Woodley are turning to alternatives like clay powder to treat their dental concerns. If you don’t want to replace your toothpaste of choice, tooth powder can be used as a treatment for your mouth — incorporating a mix of herbs to give your teeth and gums a little TLC. Herbal powders can be less abrasive than traditional toothpastes and often target specific ailments, such as inflamed gums. You can add the powder to your wet toothbrush or massage on teeth and gums with your finger.

Vicco Vajradanti Pure Herbal Tooth Powder, $6.84, available at Amazon.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
We've been using an oil version of this Healthy Gums blend from Living Libations, which is just as heavenly and has taken away some mild inflammation in our gums. Recreate it at home with drops of cinnamon, clove, tea tree, and peppermint oil. Mix the oils together and, before brushing, massage a drop or two on gums, or add a drop to your toothbrush.

Living Libations Healthy Gums Drops, $30, available at Living Libations.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Neem Oil
Available in everything from shampoos to skin creams, neem oil is definitely considered a bit of a magic oil in our house. I initially bought a bottle of the cold-pressed oil to treat some eczema on my fiance’s hand and ended up using it in my hair masks, putting a few drops in my oil cleanser and even massaging it on my gums. Neem oil is pressed from the neem tree and is considered a necessity in India, prized for its powerful antifungal, antiviral, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. It's also used for bug bites, cuts, and to combat acne.

Theraneem Organix Neem Oil, $7.09, available at Amazon.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
For an ultra-nourishing anti-dandruff treatment without all the chemicals of a traditional dandruff shampoo, add a few drops of neem oil to coconut oil, apply on scalp and ends (giving the scalp an extra-long massage to allow the oil to penetrate), and leave on for at least 30 minutes.

Nature's Way EfaGold Pure Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, $18.49, available at The Vitamin Shoppe.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Fuller's Earth
Similar to other oil-absorbing clays like kaolin, Fuller's earth has been used in India and Pakistan as a beauty treatment for everything from acne to dry hair. Containing magnesium chloride and rich in minerals, Fuller’s earth has incredible absorbing powers, making it an excellent detoxifying face mask and a gentle but effective dry shampoo. Women in India make regular "multani mitti" packs, combining the clay with different oils to create a variety of facial treatments.

Starwest Botanicals Fullers Earth Powder, $10.42, available at Starwest Botanicals.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
A popular Indian face mask for oily complexions mixes Fuller’s earth with sandalwood and rosewater for an oil-absorbing, yet soothing treatment. For other skin types, try adding yogurt, honey, and almond oil to Fuller’s earth for a calming treatment that also cleanses the pores.

Now Solutions Sandalwood Essential Oil, $16.82, available at iHerb; Heritage Store Rose Petals Rosewater, $9.09, available at Heritage Store.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Shikakai Powder
Shikakai, also commonly known as acacia concinna, is a shrub-like tree native to India. Literally translated as "fruit for hair," dried and powdered shikakai has been used for years as a shampoo in the country. Valued for its gentleness as a cleanser, the astringent property of the plant allows it to soak up oil and dirt from the scalp without damaging the ends. Many women also claim the herb revives their hair and makes it grow faster. The powder itself can be complicated and messy to use at home, but many Indian shampoos and conditioners incorporate shikakai into their formulas.

Hesh Shikakai Powder, $4.99, available at Amazon.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
For a natural shampoo alternative, try powdered shikakai mixed with powdered fenugreek and hibiscus, which are said to add luster and shine to the hair. Add one to two tablespoons of this blend to some water, and mix into a paste an hour before you wash your hair. Work the paste through the hair and rinse.

Gourmet Store Hibiscus Powder, $22 for 8 oz., available at Gourmet Store; Eden Foods Organic Fenugreek Powder, $5.99, available at Eden Foods.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Powdered Henna
The first time I tried henna on my hair, I kind of hated it. Having a heavy head full of what felt like thick mud for hours was by no means a pleasant experience, and the rich red color can end up staining a lot of things. But, the powdered natural dye has evolved over the years, and now you can even receive the benefits of the herb without the notorious crimson shade.

The hue-free packs allow you to achieve the conditioning treatment of henna, along with a boost in shine and body, while maintaining your natural color. And, if you do want to amp up your shade, there are now tons of different formulations offering tints that range from blonde to black. This also is a nice alternative for expecting mothers who want a chemical-free upgrade to their 'do.

If you’ve never done a henna pack at home before, you’ll want to be prepared for the mess it can make. While not permanent, the bright dye can have a lasting effect if splashed around the bathroom. Treat it like an at-home dye job times 10. Have gloves, towels, and a shower cap on standby.

Of course, this is just a small sampling of some of the wonderful and affordable beauty treatments available from India. No, you won't see us giving up our BB creams and snail-slime masks any time soon, but we're definitely going to be adding some (okay, all) of these ancient rituals to our routine right alongside our latest high-tech buys.

Colora Henna Creme, $11.99, available at Folica.
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