Growing up, I never wore much makeup or used many beauty products. In my Indian household nestled in suburban Virginia, time and money spent on my appearance was time and money wasted on my education. Therefore, instead of spending money on beauty products, I was constantly encouraged to use products from my home. Natural, at-home remedies are a staple of Indian households—whether it’s for beauty, makeup, or medicine. I always wanted to buy normal makeup products like my friends, but was always reminded by my mother and grandmother that the products we had at home were just as good, if not better. While I was a little resentful of this, and wanted to buy the same products as my friends when I was a teenager, I’ve now come to embrace the Indian beauty secrets my mother espoused. Here are four Indian beauty secrets for you to try yourself at home:
1. Coconut Oil
Indian and South Asian women have been using coconut oil for years as a hair conditioner. Take a spoonful of coconut oil and massage it into your scalp—leave for at least 30 minutes in your hair (though the longer you leave it, the better), and then wash as normal with shampoo and conditioner. Coconut oil in its purest form is the best—but sometimes it’s too heavy and takes a long time to get out of your hair. Many Indian women use Parachute coconut oil, a brand that you can find at any local Indian or International grocery store. My favorite is Parachute coconut oil with jasmine oil in it, which you can also buy on Amazon—the jasmine flower hides the coconut smell, you don’t have to melt it down to a liquid, and it’s not sticky and easier to wash out than extra virgin coconut oil.
While a lot of people like getting henna tattoos on the beach or at cultural events, many Indian women use henna as a natural hair dye to give dark brown or black hair a dark red/auburn tint—or to give lighter hair a bright to dark red hue, depending on how long you leave it in your hair. You can buy “Indian” henna hair dye at any local Indian or international grocery store, but LUSH Cosmetics also sells their own henna hair dye bars.
Turmeric is a huge part of Indian cooking, but it also has a lot of beauty perks—it gives your skin a healthy glow, can be an exfoliant, and reduces the look of pores when used as a face mask. For very light-skinned women, it may leave a slight golden/yellow tint if you put too much turmeric, so a little goes a long way. A typical Indian facepack uses ½ tsp of turmeric, 2 tbsp of sandalwood powder and 2 tbsp of milk, but there are many other facepacks you can make with turmeric. If you don’t have turmeric in your kitchen, you can get it at any grocery store.
Kajal, or kohl, is an organic eyeliner that Indian women have been using for centuries—it’s often used as a black liner around the entire eye, and is smudged a little for a smoky look. Kajal pencils can be a bit messy, but many U.S. brands have “mock” kajal kohl liners that are more precise but still give the same smooth, bold texture as traditional kajal eyeliners, such as this option from Stila.