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!

Name: Nanki

Age: 23

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.

Finishing touches…

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.

28 Responses to “Nanki’s Morning Skin And Hair Routine… Exposed!”
  1. Totally in love with this routine! I tried amla on my hair a couple of times and I could not believe how much shine it added! Would love to try Forrest Essentials, but I am scarred of the shipment costs to Europe.. Do you know any UK based brands that use Amla in hair care by any chance? Thanks!

  2. Ny says:

    Wow, I love this routine. I’m totally into Auyrveda, I just wish my Indian great-grandmother has passed down more tips. I want to start washing my face with powders but I’m scared of breaking out, I need to exfoliate every other day. I’m excited to try your DIY mask.

  3. Meghan says:

    This routine is so fantastic! I really need to start using more DIY masks and scrubs. As far as sunscreen/deodorant suggestions, I really like BurnOut Eco Sunscreen (I mix it with a little sea buckthorn oil to give it better ‘slip’), and I swear by Rainwater Botanicals’ deodorants ( Looks like the shipping charge to India would be a bummer but the stick lasts a really long time and it WORKS! :)

  4. johanna says:

    i think the body shop’s extra virgin mineral powder is a clean alternative to the liquid. as you live in europe, i highly recommend the sun screen oil by french brand eco. should be available in GB.

  5. Annette says:

    Nanki-Great routine! You could not be more right when you say that clean skin care, eating, and reducing stress with a nourishing routine show on your face and body. I am (much) older than you are, but I do not look like my peers for all of those reasons.

  6. Stepheni says:

    Nanki- try Pratima skincare sunscreen, she is an ayurvedic skincare doctor in New York (I live in California and order it online, I am not sure if she ships to England but I assume so). Her products are amazing, I use many of them, but in particular her face and body sunscreens are super effective, and have minimal ingredients in them. They are a little bit pricey, but I have tried almost every clean sunscreen out there, and this is the one I have found that absolutely does not leave a white tint to your face (from the sunscreen minerals). I highly recommend it, I have found that the herbs she uses in her products are really effective on for sunspots and such. Also, try soapwalla deoderant, (also out of New York), it is a cream deoderant made of vegetable clays and oils and herbs, it is very very good and nice and clean. It won’t keep you from sweating, but it will keep you from smelling! cheers!

  7. Lilly says:

    I am totally in agreement with you about the importance of having a healthy lifestyle. Using clean cosmetics alone won’t do enough for our well-being and beauty. I am curious about trying the kohl you mentioned, and I just saw they sell it on amazon for less than a dollar! Also, I guess Kumkumadi Tailam must go on my wishlist right away. It can’t smell worse than Neem, can it?!! ;)

  8. Your routine is so thorough and so thoughtful! I am astonished that in all of this, it’s the deodorant you struggle with. That’s the easiest thing in the world to make yourself, and I’m happy to share Blue Bean Goose’s recipe with you here. A little lasts a long time, so this is not a weekly or even a monthly chore — maybe every two months or so. If you have access to aluminum-free baking soda, arrowroot starch, and raw coconut oil, a quarter cup of each of those will suffice. Then, add your fragrance — essential oils like vanilla or rose or whatever your preference. Tea tree oil will keep the bacteria out if you prefer that — but some people find the scent overpowering. Key lime is another good one. Officially, that’s it. If you wanted a more solid deodorant to result, do add some shea butter perhaps and let it sit overnight before using. I offer this in thanks for sharing your good ideas and your routine (:

  9. Sabah says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this, thank you. I am absolutely in love with Indian beauty rituals :)

  10. danielle says:

    I would love to try Forest Essentials; does anyone know who sells it in the US?. Great routine-love that you make alot of your own products.

  11. Melanie says:

    I love this, too! Soapwalla, if it’s in the UK, is one deoderant that gets great reviews. I got my husband to try it and he thinks it’s excellent.

    I want to know more about preventing grey hair with oils. Naki, can you tell me more?

    And turmeric for face care. Can a mask be made with it?

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  12. Silvy says:

    I’m interested in amla too! Does anyone know about good clean products available in US for hair that have amla?

    For sunscreen- Badger Face antioxidant sunscreen is the best! Not sure if available in England though. Best deodorant: Weleda Rose (and this you should be able to find easily)

  13. Sarah C. says:

    Mind sharing your Spinach smoothie receipe?

  14. Wow! This is amazing, I’m googling everything in this routine! Also, the face powder of orange peel & neem leaves mixed w/water sounds incredible, I would love to give that one a try! Thanks for sharing :)

  15. Nanki says:

    Thanks for publishing this. :-)

    And thank you all for your sunscreen, cosmetics and deodorant (especially Blue BeanGoose for the DIY recipe!) suggestions.

    Regarding Forest Essentials products, shipment costs are generally dependent on the number of products you order. A couple of months ago, a cousin ordered 3-4 products worth ₤40 (stuff like face scrubs and hair oils) from their website, and paid around ₤12 in shipping. It comes out to be relatively cheaper like this than if you buy it from some special shop in Europe or the US which retails in the brand.

    @The Happy Skin Diary and @Sily- Sorry, I don’t know of any specific UK/US-based brands selling amla products but you could go to some Indian store, and ask for Biotique’s amla range. Otherwise, they also have amla powders or dried amla (which you can grind) and you could mix it with egg/yogurt for a hair pack.
    Also, amla is great even if you take it orally. Himalaya Herbals has amla supplements at affordable prices, and plenty of websites sell them. If not those, then some Indian stores stock dried amla candy too (sweet or sour, depends on your choice), which is pretty addictive and has plenty of Vitamin C.

    @ Melanie – Yes, turmeric is wonderful in facial masks because it’s anti bacterial and also decreases facial hair growth with time. I suggest you look for “Kasturi Manjal” (also called Ambi Haldi or wild turmeric) online or in any Ayurvedic/Indian store. This kind of turmeric doesn’t stain the skin, unlike the regular turmeric which can do so if used in excess.
    Here is a DIY turmeric mask: 1 tbsp rice powder (grind your own or get it from an Asian shop) + 1/2 tbsp turmeric + 1 tsp honey + 1 tsp green tea + yogurt for consistency. It leaves the skin smooth and helps in case of sun damage. You could add milk or lemon too, if your skin is dry or oily respectively.

    Regarding oils, we generally believe in India that dry hair (caused due to no oiling) is more prone to being light in colour and hence premature greying. So, any kind of oil (mostly coconut or amla though) is used for at least weekly head massage. Herbs like bhringraj (also called False Daisy/Eclipta Alba) and amla are specially said to prevent greying. If you have the time and inclination, you could look for amla and bhringraj powders in some herbal store and heat them along with fenugreek seeds in coconut/mustard oil (the latter stinks a lot) for about 10-15 minutes, and store after it cools. Ratio of powders and oil should be 2 tbsp to a cup of oil. If this is too much, try looking for the nearest retail store of Kama Ayurveda at :-)

    @Sarah C – Here is the recipe:
    2 cups of water + 1/2 head organic spinach + some mint leaves + de-stoned plums + 1 peeled orange/pomegranate/apple/any fruit you like. Blend spinach, mint and plums with the water first. Then, add the fruit. One more go, and finally, squeeze some lime into it. Enjoy. You could also add some black pepper or cilantro or kale into it, if available.

  16. Nanki says:

    @Lilly – Himalaya Herbals kohl is quite good, and yes, it is indeed very inexpensive. :-D If you want, you could try the Shahnaz Hussain kohl too. It’s herbal as well. Both the brands give a great look, but being herbal, their staying power is not more than 4 hours. So, you would just have to carry the stick along in your bag.
    If you live in an area where there is an Ayurvedic shop nearby, look for Kumkumadi Tailam there instead of ordering the Kama Ayurveda one online or something. You’ll get it much cheaper. Look for a brands like Kottakal Ayurveda. They are the best deal when it comes to Kumkumadi.

  17. Courtney says:

    Love this routine! I hugely agree with Stepheni’s Pratima Skincare sunscreen recommendation. I use the Vetiver body one on my face & it is just perfection. Pratima has thus far been my only step into the Ayurvedic skincare world, but it is so fascinating. I really need to read more about it, & in the meantime am off to google the brands you mentioned… : )

  18. Lolly says:

    Aw, what a lovely routine! Thanks for sharing, Nanki! By the way, for all of the Americans wanting to try the Biotique products (I’m definitely intrigued), I just checked and they are available on Amazon. Man, if Ayuverdic products will help thicken my wimptastic hair, I will be STOKED!

  19. Sarah M. says:

    @Johanna- can you tell me a little bit about the sunscreen oil by eco you mentioned in your comment, I’m really interested in it but can’t find any mention of it on the interwebs. Thanks!

  20. Beth says:

    This routine is great and so timely. I have been googling Ayurvedic beauty all week and then voila… this post.

  21. Anna says:

    What a lovely, intriguing routine! I enjoyed reading it.

    @Melanie- I was checking out the website for Pratima Skincare and they have a Revitalizing Turmeric Cream that can be used as a moisturizer or mask. Looks interesting!

  22. Carla says:

    I want to try Kumkumadi Tailam and have found the brand you use but can you recommend any that are more affordable and available? I found one of Is there a difference between brands? Thanks.

  23. johanna says:

    @sarah m: you find an english description of the sun gel here:

    i love that it is transparent and free of comodogenic ingredients

  24. Tammy says:

    Hi I love your routine! I also live in London so here are few suggestions. For sunscreen check out Green People, they are a natural British brand they are really nice smelling and not too thick (you can get it from there website or a lot of natural health food stores) As to rose water I use pukka (Ayurvedic brand) they also now have a skin care range and sell a lot of dosha specific oils. You can get them from their own website or Victoria health website, and in most independent natural health food stores.

    Make-up check out UNE they are Eco cert certified and are available in larger superdrug stores as well as various places on line so really easy to find and are reasonably priced. More expensive clean make-up which I love is w3ll people (but it does last for ages) you can get it from being content (website or you can go to their small boutique in central London).

    And finally if your go to high street Kensington (in central London the tube station is also called high street Kensington ) there is a large Wholefoods store and on the lower ground floor they have all natural hair care, skin care, make up and they also sell Pukka products.

    Hope this helps

  25. Tammy says:

    @Sarah M. They sell the Eco cosmetics oil at if you want info on it. It does look interesting.

  26. Nanki says:

    @Carla – I checked the Kumkumadi Tailam on the site that you mentioned and it has pretty much the same ingredients that the Kama Ayurveda one has. So, I believe that this should be good. Some brands are just generally expensive (like Kama) but I don’t think it means their products are vastly better than the good cheaper versions.

  27. Priva says:

    hi nanki.. ur routine is ssly amazng.. m surely dtchng all the cosmetics n jumping to your solutions. can u suggest something for under eye dark circles though? i m struggling with it from quite a long time now. :(

  28. Tamanna says:

    Love your no nonsense routine. Wish I had turned natural and ayurvedic in my 20s as well..anyways, never too late though I have lot of skin issues to tackle…acne marks,dark spots..phew! I bought Kama’s Kumkumadi but am wondering if it will be ok for my oily, acne prone skin. Perhaps in winters it will be..any suggestions?

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