Nanki’s Morning Skin And Hair Routine… Exposed!
Meet Nanki, an accidental clean girl and a pretty great writer too! This thorough routine—DIY Indian grandmother tricks included—is a real treat. Enjoy!
Hometown: Chandigarh, India (currently studying in London, UK)
Current weather: Windy, wet, cold, snowy, teeth chattering
Favourite Beauty Icon: Leela Naidu (obscure but so unbelievably gorgeous!)
Hair: Shoulder length, straight, very fine
Skin: Normal to combination during summer (summer in India, I mean) and dry during winter. I have had mostly problem free skin thanks to my mum’s good skin genes. It’s only in my 20’s that I’ve started getting the occassional zit or two every few months but nothing that a couple of nights’ Ninja skincare routine cannot defeat. Like most Indians, I also get tanned very easily, and it doesn’t look pretty on our skintone because it causes endless spots, blotches and a clownish disparity of about ten shades between the face and the rest of the body.
I went clean purely by accident. When I turned 21, I started getting a couple of zits here and there, and because my skin is sensitive and light in colour, the marks take ages to disappear. I am very stingy when it comes to spending money on what I call “useless” cosmetic products. Every time I have to shell out some exhorbitant amount for some overpriced skincare brand, I ask myself if it is clean and really worth it. If not, I save that money for splurging on books and good food, the two great loves of my life (in that order). Anyhoo, so, in order to fight my battle against the emergent acne and still save my money, I decided to turn to the home remedies that every Indian grandmother swears by. Just washing my face with homemade concoctions and using DIY natural packs for two months earned my skin more complements than it had ever received. Obviously, greedy skin wanted more, and I decided to research clean products as a kind of new lifestyle change. That is how I stumbled upon NMDL, by the way, and a few other clean blogs, and pretty much cleared my bathroom cabinet of all the commercial cosmetic product junk.
I have some fixed staples in my skincare box now and an arsenal of home remedies for every little problem that plagues my skin. I tend to gravitate towards Ayurvedic skincare products and that has led me towards a select number of pet Indian natural brands. My parents, of course, think that majoring in political science has turned me into a tree hugging, anti cosumerist, commie hippie but that is a title I am willing to embrace as long as it makes me healthy and pretty.
In the shower…
I once did an Ayurvedic dosha quiz a couple of years ago, and discovered that I am predominnatly Vata with a few traits of Pitta. That explained why I looked like a reed, fantasised about running away to tropical islands, wore twenty layers of clothing in January, and was among the handful of people on earth who actually love summer time in India. I read a couple of articles on this, and learnt that it is recommended to balance Vata with warming oils particularly in the winter season. The sceptic in me scoffed at the whole concept but if anything recommended a hot oil massage before shower in winters to me, there was no way that I was going to let that idea pass!
So, for about two winters now, I have massaged my body with warm sesame oil 15 minutes before stepping into the shower. To my nose, the oil stinks like burnt peanuts but I manage to subdue the odour by mixing rose essential oil in it. (As an aside, rose EO is also supposed to calm PMS. Total win-win.) In the shower, I use any variety of a “milk butter” soap by an Indian natural brand called Forest Essentials. Once or twice a week, I go for Buffy the Backside Slayer soap by Lush. Both these soap varities keep the skin soft, prevent flaking, and smell great. When I am in no mood to work extra to smell good, I use one of the insanely fragrant Forest Essentials body lotions in either Honey & Vanilla or Cinnamon & Orange variety.
In summer, I massage my body with olive oil once a month or so, and generally switch to light shower gels by Indian brands like Khadi and FabIndia. After showering, I use the regular Forest Essentials body lotion.
Once a week, I make a body scrub out of brown sugar from the sachets that I nick from the many coffee shops I haunt (in my defence, I drink sugarless tea and coffee, and I am entitled to use my share of sugar any way I like). I mix cinnamon, honey, almond oil, whatever suits my fancy in it, and scrub all the dead life away.
My hair tends to go limp by the end of the day. So, I have to wash it every morning. Twice or thrice a week, I massage my hair with Bringandi hair oil treatment from Kama Ayurveda. I am mortally afraid of premature greying, and I could not find any clean Indian gooseberry (amla) hair oil easily until I stumbled upon this. It’s relatively expensive for an Indian brand but once I saw how shiny it made my hair, even my inner Scrooge stopped grumbling. I use the Bitter Orange & Cinnamon shampoo and conditioner by Forest Essentials which has my favourite amla, besides other things, and keeps my hair happy. Since my hair is not frizz prone, I do not use any particular serum. If I have some sweet almond or jojoba oil lying around, I use it before blow drying. Otherwise, I just let it be. As I mentioned, I fear my dark brown hair will turn grey anyday now if I don’t scare them. So, I also use a natural hair mask by a brand called Biotique which has musk root, amla, and other natural herbs in it and I mix it with egg. It gives an unbelievable shine to the hair and reduces the minor hairfall that I sometimes face.
Outside the shower…
For my face, I used to use a homemade powder concoction made of orange peel, neem leaves, rice, green lentils, turmeric and some rose petals ground together but I had no time to make some before I left for London last year, and hurriedly bought a jar of “ubtan” by Forest Essentials. It’s basically a mixture of several powdered herbs, and I mix it with plain water or milk and lightly rub my face with it for a minute. It is pretty effective as a scrubbing cleanser and keeps the skin clear and glowing. If I have absolutely no time for this “wishy-washy mix and apply stuff” (my friends call it so), I just use the soap-free, paraben-free, pretty much clean neem and tea tree face wash by Aroma Magic, an Indian aromatherapy brand which also keeps the zits at bay.
I have a mostly clear skin, and usually don’t have much to hide. So, I simply use a light day cream by Aroma Magic and slap on some Neutrogena sunscreen. I am still on the lookout for a good clean, sunblock and any suggestions are welcome. My make up consists of the Extra Virgin Minerals liquid foundation by The Body Shop, usually mixed with my moisturiser to keep it light. I’m searching for a good totally clean make up brand too. I use almond oil mixed with lavender essential oil to remove make up at night and wash it off with my Aroma Magic face wash. Every alternate night, I also use some kind of DIY mask like plain yogurt or neem powder or the regular Indian chickpea flour mask or I just mix my Forest Essentials ubtan with milk and honey and leave it on for 20 minutes.
For toning, I used to use rose water but it’s hard to find it easily outside India and I have switched to a homemade green tea toner. My tanning, light sun pigmentation and brown spots are erased only by an unbelievably foul smelling oil called Kumkumadi Tailam which is an ancient Ayurvedic concoction but a lot of skincare companies sell it these days. I use the one by Kama Ayurveda and it keeps my skin glowing and well moisturised too. (It stinks like a dying starfish though and my nose is pretty traumatised.) Sometimes I also apply fresh cucumber juice under the eyes at night to avoid dark circles thanks to my late nights.
I use a regular kohl liner for my eyes by another Indian brand called Himalaya Herbals. It comes in a lipstick style packing and is the only one which does not give me raccoon eyes by 3 pm. Other than that, I am a minimalist. I am not a fan of lipsticks and glosses so far and generally use Burt’s Bees tinted lip balms in various shades.
For perfume, I don’t use any special thing. I just apply some vanilla or rose or orange essential oil. I am also on the lookout for a clean deodorant. So far, no luck, and I am stuck with my usual drugstore roll on stick. Any suggestions will be appreciated (and pocket willing, acted upon).
I have friends who are already complaining of premature greying, uneven complexions and crow’s feet(!). I think my DIY clean lifestyle, my spinach smoothies that people wrinkle their noses at, and my habit of sticking like wart plaster to a handful of select brands has saved my skin and hair. I have also become more conscious of all that I put in and on my body. I know a lot of people think it takes way too much effort and that we lead busy lives and yada yada, but then I have found that taking a few extra minutes out of my life to inculcate cleaner habits has brought me far less stress (plus, no more potty mouth tirades every time a pimple erupts) and the kind of clear skin that I used to hanker for ever since I was a kid with a million little freckles.