Text by Avani Thakkar. Photography and Styling by Mallika Chandra
The beauty industry, much like fashion, is awash with trends that end up as nothing more than marketing buzzwords for many brands: “clean”, “organic”, “natural”, “sustainable”, and the list goes on. Certain active ingredients, especially in recent times, risk a similar fate since they are constantly hailed as miracle workers by influencers, skincare enthusiasts and beauty brands across the board. If hyaluronic acid, niacinamide or retinol appear in a product’s ingredient profile, chances are that consumers will be inclined to try it on account of the hype factor as opposed to evaluating its efficacy or the specific skin concern that it is meant to address.
However, long before the conversation around beauty products was inundated with complicated yet popular terminology (making mini-chemistry lessons the need of the hour), there existed a “science” as old as time – Ayurveda. For those unsure of what exactly this all-encompassing practice entails, you’re not alone. In an era where consumers are always on the lookout for the next “big thing” or a quick fix in skincare, it’s no wonder that Ayurveda’s alternative approach to healing appears as somewhat of a mystery to most. Shankara is the beauty label seeking to resolve this obscurity since 2001, by modernising Ayurvedic skincare wisdom. Born out of Texas, USA, Shankara gradually found its footing in multiple global markets, including Canada, Europe, Singapore and Australia, owing to its holistic range of skincare products that are formulated keeping in mind the varying dynamics of individual skin types.
When asked about the gap in the beauty market that the brand was trying to fill when it first launched, Astha Katpitia, Head – Shankara India, says, “We had noticed that skincare brands were using either Ayurvedic herbs or Western actives in their formulations. While herbs are safe and work well for the skin, it may take significantly longer to show results. In the case of Western actives, they show results sooner but may not address the concern from the root. Shankara was launched to offer the best of both worlds.”
Established prior to #AuNaturale becoming a trendy hashtag on the Internet, Shankara’s overarching philosophy strongly emphasises nurturing inner beauty and health because a happy mind-body system is by far the most underrated “food for the skin”. It probably sounds easier said than done: how does one go about balancing both inner and outer well-being when handling even one seems like a mammoth task? That’s where Ayurveda steps in with a scientific approach on assessing our particular “dosha” or energy that is a unique culmination of five elements – earth, water, fire, ether and air. Vata, Pitta and Kapha are regarded as the three main doshas that correspond to the state of one’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. If, like me, you are unsure of your dosha constitution, discover it on Shankara’s website by taking a short quiz that leaves you with rounded personalised recommendations, including dietary and lifestyle-enhancing advice and soothing ingredients to include in your skincare routine, that will help inculcate a sense of harmony within.
Crafted carefully in state-of-the-art labs, Shankara’s pH-balanced products are cold-processed in a bid to preserve the freshness and potency of its responsibly-sourced ingredients – neem, yucca root, white clay, chamomile, geranium and jojoba oil to name a few. Its assortment of offerings ranges from lavender deodorants formulated minus the aluminum, silicone-free specialty serums to control blemishes and plenty of hydrating cleansers that help remove make-up gently for those with sensitive skin.
One of Shankara’s most advanced solutions, the herb-infused Muscle Release Oil is meant for alleviating stress along with joint and muscle soreness (thanks to WFH, back pain due to questionable postures is on the rise). Concocted with a powerful blend of frankincense, arnica extract, plai, devil’s claw and helichrysum, among 17 other anti-inflammatory ingredients, this sans-chemical body oil makes for an ideal replacement for pre-pandemic massage sessions at the salon. Along with healing deep-tissue pain and relieving muscle tension, this tri-dosha (i.e. for all skin types) product also professes to improve sleep and enable scar minimisation and detoxification.
If you’re sceptical about dabbing additional oil on your already oily and acne-prone skin, Katpitia has a convincing counter-argument: “There is no issue with using oil in hot climates or applying oil on oily skin, as long as it is the right oil formulated for your skin type. Shankara’s oils are non-comedogenic, designed for quick and deep absorption without clogging pores. We also use olive-derived squalane, which resembles the chemical composition of human sebum. It is a very beneficial and hydrating substance that contributes to moisturising the skin.”
The Ayurvedic beauty brand is not averse to collecting its growing customer base’s valuable feedback and reviewing products through regular internal tests, as part of an integral development protocol. Along with practising responsible manufacturing, Shankara is also invested in weaving sustainability into as many factions of the business as possible; having done away with outer packaging, the brand uses recycling-friendly materials such as glass to hold its formulations. “We encourage our customers to return empties so that we can recycle them. More recently, Shankara launched an #exchangeforchange initiative where one can receive free products on sending us any three empty bottles,” reveals Katpitia. Earlier this year, they set the Shankara Beauty Consult in motion – a one-stop destination to decode skin concerns and encourage therapeutic healing with the guidance of Ayurveda specialists and cosmetologists, giving way to wholesome beauty inside and out.
So perhaps give K-beauty a break and take your pick from Shankara’s expansive range that includes exfoliators, body washes, facial masks and more – incorporating Ayurveda in your skincare routine doesn’t get easier than this!