Sustainability is the word on the lips of everyone in the beauty town. With the environment under crisis, the demand for sustainable Indian beauty brands is rising and for all the right reasons.
The Indian cosmetics industry is growing by leaps and bounds. According to industry experts, it is expected to annually grow by 25%, touching $20 billion (£15,606,900,000.00) by 2025.
Although this is good news for the economy, one cannot overlook the damage it does to mother nature throughout the cycle of beauty and cosmetic products.
India generates 9.46 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, of which 40% remains uncollected. 43% of it constitutes packaging for single-use products, including the beauty range.
From glitter to VOC’s found in makeup and fragrances along with their plastic packages choke oceans and life underneath.
The unethical sourcing and the laden chemicals further lead to deforestation, skin and health problems.
India is amongst the most polluted countries in the world. However, it is also the land that gave birth to Ayurveda or ancient medicine.
Be it digestive issues, migraines, blemishes, frizzy hair or dull skin, Indian kitchens are full of remedies. Indian grandmas relied on nature and its gifts to enhance their beauty and wellbeing.
To answer the harshness of chemicals and plastic, many have decided to bring back grandma’s beauty formulas to modern households.
These sustainable Indian beauty brands are going all out to do their part for the planet and its people.
If you have been looking to make a switch, then here are 10 eco-friendly makeup and beauty brands for you.
But, before that, don’t you want to know what exactly makes your cosmetics eco-friendly and how it can help you?
Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Beauty – What Is That?
‘Organic’, ‘natural’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘vegan.’
These words are being thrown around casually nowadays. The aunt, friend and neighbour, all claim to have switched to an eco-friendly skincare routine.
But, are they really going green?
Like everything that glitters is not gold, everything that is labelled natural is not healthy and sustainable.
As Rajni Ohri of Ohria Ayurveda says, “Just because a product is organic, natural or green, it doesn’t mean it’s non-toxic.”
Watch out for Greenwashing. Speaking to India Today, an in-house doctor at Kama Ayurveda, Dr Jyotsna Makker said:
“Greenwashing is a practice of making false or presumptuous claims about a company’s product range to make them sound more environment friendly.”
It must be noted that 60% of what we apply on our skin enters the bloodstream. On average, we use around 16 products daily.
Citing these aspects, studying the ingredients is your best bet to know what your skin consumes. Amongst the several harmful chemicals, here are some that are best avoided:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS/SLES)
- Retinyl palmitate and Retinol (Vitamin A)
Found in shampoos, lipsticks, glosses, moisturisers, serums, body washes, face washes, etc. these toxins can cause severe health issues ranging from hormonal imbalance, cancers to organ damage.
In addition to these, check for certifications like the ‘rabbit’ that signifies cruelty-free or a stamp from a renowned authority certifying it is organic.
While they are indicative of the brand’s ethics, they may still involve some percentage of chemicals. Unfortunately, Indian certification standards need a lot of work.
While manufacturers are required to list every ingredient, they may still hide the use of harmful chemicals under generic names.
Remember, sustainable beauty goes beyond the components of the product. From sourcing, processing to packaging every aspect counts. Fortunately, the country is home to some honest and sustainable Indian beauty brands.
“Value Added Skincare”
India’s first organic makeup brand, Ruby’s Organics finds its roots in the kitchen of Rubeina Karachiwalla. She worked as a full-time publicist, but she was a beauty enthusiast at heart.
Being an avid makeup user, she would experiment with a variety of products, until she realised the ill-effects it had on her skin. Her sensitive skin would react adversely to certain products.
Living with sensitive skin isn’t easy. Hardly any alternatives to commercial makeup are available in India. This prompted her to design a healthy alternative to chemically laden, unhealthy makeup. As she mentions on her website:
“Bring a huge cosmetic aficionado, I did consume every available product in a jar, bottle and palette for years until I learned first-hand how toxic most cosmetics can be.
“It urged me to want to make a difference by creating an alternative that is kind to our environment and skin.”
With a coffee grinder to her aid, she made products at home using natural ingredients. This convinced her that the idea is executable. After heavy research and some doodling, she hired an R&D company.
The result – a fully organic and vegan cosmetic range formulated using seed butter, beeswax, clays, natural oils that heal and beautify the skin from within.
Staying true to the mantra of value-added skincare, the brand eliminates water from its products as it requires more chemical preservatives and also contains lead.
The ingredients are locally sourced and manufactured; uplifting woman in rural areas by providing them with employment.
Moreover, its foundations, concealers, lipsticks, blushes, etc., are all created keeping in mind real Indian skin tones, making Ruby’s Organics truly Indian.
If you have been looking to replace your commercial makeup, then you may want to check out Ruby’s Organics. Start with their bestselling crème blushes and lipsticks.
“Find Your Disguise”
Considering the horrendous acts that animals are subjected to since ages, it wouldn’t be wrong to call the human clan barbaric. You’d be shocked to see the amount of animal-derived ingredients used in cosmetics.
Tallow obtained by boiling animal carcass, carmine from crushed beetles, gelatin from cow or pig bones, ambergris or whale vomit, etc. all go in to beautifying human faces.
With incidents of animal abuse coming to the forefront now more than ever, young Indians are becoming conscious about what they purchase.
So, when Desiree Pereira, Shivangi Shah and Lakshay Mohendroo thought of bringing Disguise Cosmetics to life, the cruelty-free aspect was an obvious choice.
A relatively new kid amongst the sustainable Indian beauty brands, Disguise claims to be 100% vegan and strives to be as conscious as they can. In an interview with The Better India, founder, Desiree explains:
“We research more and want to be better than other products in the market.”
At the same time, she refuses to compromise on brand values. Undoubtedly, their USP lies in their conscious creations, which are honest and made for real people.
The brand started in 2018 with a stall in Mumbai’s popular Lil Flea Market by introducing their signature matte lipsticks. The response was phenomenal.
They have a wide range of vegan lipsticks and matte liquid lip creams that are popular with their customers.
Disguise has also introduced kajal, glow multi-sticks and oils, all made vegan using materials sourced morally from plants.
A true indie brand, all Disguise’s products are meant to suit the country’s climate and skin tones. Pallavi, a clean beauty advocate says:
“I have fair skin but with Indian undertones. I couldn’t find a nude shade for myself. When I chanced upon Disguise, I tried them for their palette looked interesting. I found the perfect nude I was looking for.”
While they may still be picking up, Disguise aims to be the choice of anyone who wants to make an ethical beauty decision.
“Rooted in Goodness”
One of the oldest sustainable Indian beauty brands, SoulTree was born out of the need to build a fully natural and organic personal care range.
After serving in the Merchant Navy, Vishal Bhandari came across a line in a document called the Earth Charter. It said:
“We stand a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future.”
It was the 1990s when Vishal was contemplating his future that he came across these words. He decided to do something that contributes to the wellbeing of the planet and its people.
Later, on his travels to the Himalayas, he spent time with NGOs and farmers who practised organic farming.
This gave fruition to Vedicare Ayurveda Pvt. Ltd., the parent company of SoulTree, which sources herbs directly from the farmers to supply them to national and international markets.
To promote sustainable living and bring more support for the farmers, he decided to launch a personal care brand. Going deeper into research, founder and CEO Vishal discovered several loopholes in the system.
The most natural and organic brands available back then weren’t as honest as they claimed to be. They use harmful chemicals like foaming agents or fragrances. It can cause damage even if used in small quantity.
Seeing this, he wanted to introduce products full of nature’s goodness. After a few sleepless nights of working with Ayurvedic doctors and chemists, SoulTree came into existence.
“Ayurvedic herbs found in most brands are simply extracts bought from vendors, they are not processed in the Ayurvedic way.
“We wanted to stay true to the Ayurvedic tradition, so we decided to process herbs in-house” – Vishal Bhandari, Founder & CEO.
Their formulations are governed by stringent audits and processes. Only indigenous Ayurvedic recipes are used to create them. They steer away from testing on animals.
SoulTree is also the only sustainable Indian beauty brand that is annually certified by BDIH Germany.
It has a loyal base of customers who have truly benefitted from the use of their products. One of their customers, Zara narrates her story:
“I had already switched to organic skincare, but couldn’t find the right shampoo for my hair. I tried a couple of them but they never showed results.
“After reading reviews, I tried SoulTree’s anti-dandruff shampoo. Trust me it worked wonders!”
Another loyal customer, Swati shares:
“Two of the organic lip balms I tried failed to repair my dry lips. I even tried home ingredients, which helped to some extent.
“But since you’re working you want something handy and permanent. SoulTree was my last try before giving up. I am quite pleased with the result!”
“Pure & Fine Ayurveda”
With Ayurveda at the heart of everything, co-founder and CEO, Vivek Sahni launched Kama Ayurveda with three partners in 2002.
He worked closely with Indian farmers and artisans for over two years on a Khadi project that his graphic design firm had bagged in 1998.
It was then that the idea to launch an Ayurveda beauty brand struck him. Being an avid practitioner of Yoga and Ayurveda, Vivek was inspired to launch a brand that’s Ayurvedic in its true sense.
Its is a brand that many reckon with started with nine products consisting of Ayurvedic oils and powders. In 2005, five-star hotels approached Kama Ayurveda to source toiletries.
This and their own contacts; family, friends, relatives, helped them extend their reach to potential customers both in India and abroad.
While they inaugurated their first store in Delhi almost after a decade, they have a global presence. Authenticity is what the brand stands for.
All their products; skin, hair, bath and body, mother and child care and men’s care, all are purely Ayurvedic. They are free of a list of toxic materials, about which the brand is quite transparent.
In partnership with a 100-year-old Arya Vaidya Pharmacy, Kama continues to bring certified organic, vegan and cruelty-free products to people.
Tania is in love with their face cleanser. She says:
“Although I have tried other popular organic brands and was happy with them, I always wanted to give Kama Ayurveda a try.
“Once I used their bath and body products, there was no looking back.”
She adds: “Their Rose Jasmine facial cleanser is my favourite as it leaves my skin feeling fresh for hours and hours.”
Another loyal user, Rohan says:
“Their products are fabulous. I have sensitive skin and shaving creams caused irritation. But their shaving foam is a product I swear by. It leaves my skin cool and soft.”
“Make Zero Waste a Norm, Not an Exception”
Bare Necessities is the result of ‘accidental entrepreneurship’ to make zero waste living easily accessible to those who seek it.
The litter filled streets and the waste pickers sorting it with bare hands disturbed Sahar Mansoor. The environmental, health and social concerns resulting from the litter issues bothered her every minute.
An environment policy student with work history at WHO, she decided to switch to a lifestyle that’s in sync with her values.
While on her journey she realised that finding sustainable personal and home care products are difficult.
Most daily use items like toothbrush, toothpaste, soaps, detergents, bottles, etc. contain harmful chemicals and are packed in plastic; the main culprit for deteriorating our planet’s health.
That’s when she decided to build a company driven by values of mindful consumption and sustainability. Bare Necessities is a one-stop-shop for all your zero-waste products and services.
It is not limited to beauty essentials but extends its offerings to areas of home, kitchen and lifestyle, including menstrual cups and phone cases.
Not only are they made of indigenous natural ingredients sourced ethically, but also packed in zero waste packages. All of which is reusable, compostable or recyclable.
They’ve taken this initiative further by being an educative platform for all things zero waste.
Bare Necessities conducts events, workshops, courses, provides resources and also consultation to promote the importance of the initiative.
A B2B and a B2C zero-waste enterprise, Bare Necessities urges everyone to rethink their consumption patterns while also addressing flaws in the manufacturing and distribution processes with sustainable solutions.
“Pure, Luxury Ayurveda”
Imagine sitting in a pool of milk and water, mixed with fresh rose petals in a spacious, luxurious bath. Sounds exhilarating, doesn’t it?
The fascination for luxurious baths that smells of herbs, flowers and incense, where the princesses and princes indulged in a therapeutic beauty regimen is never-ending.
Depicted in historic texts and period films, one can see the princely folks use milk, rose petals, turmeric to bring a glow to their skin and incense to dry and strengthen hair.
What if we tell you that you still have access to these rich elements in its purest form?
Forest Essentials blends the ancient science of Ayurveda in its classical form with luxury to create one of a kind sustainable Indian beauty brand.
Picking of herbs at a certain time of day to chanting mantras while preparing a concoction, Ayurveda is wisdom that goes beyond the simple use of plant-based ingredients.
As Mira Kulkarni, founder, Forest Essentials, says, “I have been asked over the years, ‘Do they really do this chant?’ They really do.”
Seeing a gap in the market for user-friendly, pure Ayurvedic products and disheartened by the substandard quality of cheap, natural products, Mira started making handmade soaps and scented candles.
What started as a small, personally funded venture with a few products in 2000, is now a brand synonymous with luxury in the eyes of the consumer.
The market at the beginning of the millennium was booming with demand for quality Indian skincare and Mira wanted to introduce authentic Ayurvedic cosmetics with a modern twist at the time.
She says, “It was just the right idea at the right time.”
Over the years, Forest Essentials has grown by leaps and bounds, including a range of skin, bath and body, mother and child and men’s care products to name a few.
Apart from common people, their clientele includes luxury hotel chains for whom they customise products using specific ingredients.
Not only do they follow ancient Ayurvedic practices to create formulations and stay away from toxins, but also practices sustainability in various ways.
From raw materials sourced ethically and recyclable PET, glass packaging and canvas cloth bags to empowering women and providing clean drinking water to nearby villages, they’re doing their bit for the planet.
In fact, their manufacturing facility is also designed to ensure ‘Zero Carbon Footprint’.
With a strong foothold in the industry, Mira continues to strive for excellence by paying attention to the minutest details and adding more purity to their collection.
“Beauty Essentials Made For You, With You”
The one size fits all approach does not appeal to millennial customers. They seek unique solutions to their individual issues. Satisfying these discerning customers is no cakewalk.
But Just Herbs continues to garner a loyal fan base. With a mission to transform beauty with people at its centre, the homegrown Ayurvedic brand is surely winning the hearts of many.
Safe, honest and effective is what the brand promises. The inspiration to deliver bespoke Ayurveda comes from none other than a super mum.
CEO and co-founder, Arush Chopra would watch his mother mix plants and herbs to formulate healthy personal care solutions in their garden lab.
His mother, Dr Neena Chopra is an award-winning biochemist who left her bank job to pursue her calling for Ayurveda. She founded APCOS Naturals, the parent company of Just Herbs to fulfil her dream.
However, the natural beauty movement wasn’t as popular back then. People who wanted to switch to healthy skincare had to choose between safety and effectiveness.
Realising this, Arush and his wife Megha left their cushy corporate jobs in 2013 to join their mother in Chandigarh.
With Just Herbs, they gave birth to their dream of creating a skincare range that delivers what it promises. Their website states:
“The most active ingredient in our products is YOU.”
Staying true their mantra of crafting an array of products for real people, with real people, they take inputs now and again from their followers.
Says Arush Chopra in an interview reveals, “The super effective and magical Skin Tint has been created from scratch through feedback from our customer base that is made up of ‘real women’.”
Not only did they launch shades of the same product, but also went on to introduce Ayurvedic lipsticks using the approach.
In fact, every lip colour is named after a woman who was amongst the thousands invited to try them.
Not only this, but the label is also the first beauty brand to crowdsource product development, which deepens their connection with people.
One of their customers, tells us, “I was in search of truly organic products and I came across them. I have tried everything from their lip balms, hair oils to face wash. They’re gentle and quite effective.”
She swears by their honey-based exfoliating face cleansing gel and adds, “It leaves my skin fresh, supple and glowing for hours together.”
Undoubtedly, here’s one of the sustainable Indian beauty brands leaving a mark on millions.
“Luxury in Simplicity”
The Himalayas are home to miracles. Be it the enlightened sages in the hidden caves or the magical ingredients in the form of flowers and teas, several secrets lie in the lap of the Himalayas.
When Jessica Jayne experienced one of them first hand, she felt the need to share it with the world.
Launched in 2015, Pahadi Local aims to redefine luxury.
Luxury equals simplicity and authenticity for the brand. Easy access to local secrets and ideas in their raw form, it is not less than a luxurious encounter.
Jessica is an Economics Graduate and founder of one of India’s leading merchandising companies; Sharkfin Merchandising. Over the past few years, she had the opportunity to spend time in the mountains.
It was then that she encountered ‘Gutti Ka Tel’ (Apricot Kernel Oil), one of their bestselling products today. The pure oil that healed her tearing skin made a home in her heart.
When she shared this unfiltered beauty secret with her family and friends, they fell in love with it too. It is then that she decided to make these local miracles accessible to people across the country.
Pahadi Local brings to you a variety of products that are capable of beautifying you from the inside out. From a range of oils, clays, salts and scrubs to a variety of honey and teas, it brings the goodness of the mountains to your doorstep.
Not only are the raw materials fetched ethically, but the solutions are made using age-old methods, doing no harm to the environment.
Apart from this, they also take the business of giving back to the community very seriously. They create employment opportunities and encourage training through initiatives like Pahadi Preserve and Pahadi Empower.
A conscious supply chain, recyclable packaging and care toward animals add to the sustainability factor. Jessica herself tries new inventions on her skin before they get listed on the portfolio.
If you love mountains and everything about it, then here’s an indigenous brand that you may want to try.
Burst of Happyness
“Natural in the True Sense of the Word”
When Shreya Sharan’s skin issues worsened every single time she applied products laden with synthetic and chemical ingredients, she decided to turn to healthy beauty and lifestyle.
She searched the market but couldn’t find anything that was truly natural. That’s when she took matters in her own hands and made a bar of soap for her sensitive skin.
A soap crafted out of nature’s offerings, it was mild and a perfect match for her use.
With this newfound love for natural skincare, she dived deep into the process, researched, spoke to experts and made more soaps. Initially, only friends and family had access to them.
But, thanks to social media, she started getting a lot of enquiries from people, who shared the same struggles as her.
A lot of learning, trials and errors followed, she finally launched Burst of Happyness in 2012.
BoH started with a limited range of soaps, but now have expanded their portfolio to include several nature-filled goodies.
Deodorant creams, scrubs, lip balms, facial serums, facial cleansers are some other offerings. Each product is handcrafted out of natural, vegan ingredients in small batches to maintain quality.
Yes, neither do they use milk, honey, silk or any material derived from animals nor do they test on them or procure raw materials tested on animals.
Each formulation is self-tested before it gets added to the range of offerings.
Not to mention, their soaps are packed in fabric pouches, while other products come in glass containers. Reduce, reuse and recycle are values the brand lives by.
Well, here’s a brand that’s ethical, truly good to you and the planet.
Ras Luxury Oils
“Ras of Nature”
There lies some truth in the famous saying ‘my inspiration, my mother’. When Shubhika Jain failed to find natural, vegan skincare products that actually perform for her mum, she thought to herself:
“There’s no brand in India that focuses on organic, luxury oil-based skincare and wellness products, manufactured from farm to bottle.”
Out of passion for gardening and plants, her mother Sangeeta Jain had already set up her own nursery. Using the herbs and plants grown there, the duo concocted a few potions for personal use.
The realisation of the lack of non-toxic personal care solutions in India made them seriously contemplate the idea of developing a brand.
Both women took to heavy research. They also utilised their presence in the industry. They were supplying raw materials to many in the wellness space. Along with a team of scientists, they took the plunge.
Ras Luxury Oils, the brainchild of Shubhika and Sangeeta Jain represents a skincare range of handcrafted natural and organic oils.
What’s unique about this brand is that all their products are manufactured in-house.
The ingredients are sourced from their own farm and the formulations developed in their own DSIR approved lab. This gives them complete control over quality.
Ras takes sustainability seriously. Every product comes with eco-friendly packaging. Some part of their profit goes into empowering girls and the welfare of animals.
Ras Luxury Oils enjoys a niche clientele in luxury five-star chains and spas. Their products can be bought through their website or e-commerce portals.
The beauty industry is undergoing a revolution. These sustainable Indian beauty brands and the conscious consumer are redefining the concept of beauty.
Unlike the past where people turned to the west, they are going back to their roots to discover the unique beauty and well solutions that are gentle to them as well as mother nature.
With every aspect of nature, including humans, being attacked by chemicals and synthetic ingredients, there’s no better time than now to switch to a healthier, sustainable lifestyle.
After all, there’s no planet B and everlasting beauty comes from within.