Today I’m sharing two stories which are sides of the same coin – one of Abida Halstenberg from Berkeley Square, London who is the founder of Samaya which has creams, cleansers, oils and supplements for the skin and hair.
She grew up in Hyderabad, south of India, but her folks belonged to the North, in Uttar Pradesh. She remembers her maternal grandmother from Oudh only prescribing natural or Ayurvedic remedies for any ailment or beauty treatment. From the age of six or seven she found herself inclined towards mixing face packs with Ayurvedic ingredients. After moving abroad life got busier so she looked for off-the-shelf products that were not just natural or Ayurvedic but also easy and pleasant to use. Uninterested with those in the market, she began building her own line based on the knowledge imparted by her grandmother and extended family (whom she had grown up with), while studying the rest.
And the other of Shrankhla Holecek residing in Beverly Hills, California. Her skincare brand is called UMA, which is essentially about oils for the hair, body and skin along with a few masks. Originally she belongs to a family who has been farming and harvesting certain flowers and herbs for generations. Being experts helped them in the past few decades to supply concentrates to some of the world’s prestigious beauty and fragrance houses. Their farms are mostly located in Central India (Chattisgarh), with a few in the North too.
Cutting their long stories short, I’ll begin with a good news that Samaya is already available at all Good Earth stores but UMA just yet can be found on many Hollywood celebrities’ bathroom counters, so one can order online. Both being aspirational and conscious resonated with me, more so with their ‘place of origin’ being India, so talked to the ladies about it.
MD: Beginning with you Abida, most of us are skeptical about the authenticity of Ayurvedic products. How can one make them work for us?
Abida: The first step is self-awareness. If we know our basic constitution then we can balance ourselves accordingly. It is the small things that help us achieve samadosha (perfect balance) – little changes such as going to sleep an hour earlier, waking up an hour earlier, starting the day with warm honey and lemon water, stretching, using natural skincare with dosha balancing ingredients, staying active, eating according to our dosha type and so on. Using Ayurvedic products with natural fragrances for unwinding is another easy way of reducing stress and anxiety in our everyday lives.
If one is unsure about their dosha then you can try our online tool which takes less than a minute to help one discover it. It’s pretty accurate. When in doubt, I go by people’s preference of aromas as there is a strong link between scent preference and their dosha. In Ayurveda, imbalances are treated with their opposites. Dry, cold and dehydrated Vata types are naturally drawn to the warming, nourishing and healing qualities of moisturising rose. Sensitive skinned fiery Pitta types with high inflammation are attracted to cooling, calming, soothing jasmine and other anti-inflammatory ingredients such as saffron. Kapha types typically have a slower metabolism and naturally favour more stimulating and invigorating aromas like sandalwood and vetivert.
Of course, to be absolutely sure of your dosha one can visit an Ayurvedic practitioner. Once you know, try products that balance your unique constitution and eat accordingly. Many people have dual dosha and in rare cases one may even be a tridoshic.
MD: Shrankhla, how do your oils combat the real new-age issues like pollution and increase in ultra-violet rays considering they are age-old recipes?
Shrankhla: This is a great question. Oils have a natural SPF of only about 5-8 (we recommend 30 for daily use) so we suggest wearing a daily sunscreen atop the oil for better sun protection. In terms of protection against pollution and oxidants in general, UMA oils are loaded with antioxidants that form a defensive layer against environmental assault. Furthermore, they work with skin’s natural recovery processes by reversing the damage through the night.
MD: Do you have different hair and skin oils for various colours and types?
Shrankhla: UMA‘s approach to beauty and wellness is very result-specific. So our skin oils will target issues such as blemishes or congestion for which Deeply Clarifying range is apt, for hyper-pigmentation and dullness you can use our Ultimate Brightening range and for fine lines and sagging one can try the Absolute Anti Aging range. But all hair types are looked after by one Intensely Nourishing Oil that has celebrated Ayurvedic ingredients such as Bhringraj, Nagarmotha, Tulsi, Amla (and 10 more).
MD: By the way, which oils are you carrying at present in your handbag ?
Shrankhla: This tends to be little seasonal so currently it is Pure Bliss. Winter is a bit of a kapha season, so this keeps my spirits up. And our newly launched Absolute Anti Aging lip oil along with a spritzer (I make with our Rose Toner and Ultimate Brightening Face Oil) that never fails to liven up my skin after a long day; specially when I’m off to an event after a full day of back-to-back meetings!
MD: And which ones do you recommend to us in India keeping in mind our well-known Indian summer?
Shrankhla: I still spend a lot of time at home in India (come back at least 4 times in a year) so switch to Deeply Clarifying Face Oil in the summer there. It’s extremely light and the clove and tea tree oils in it very effectively keep bacterial build-up at bay. To draw out impurities I use the Ultimate Brightening mask, which is just perfect. And for fighting hair frizz I continue using Intensely Nourishing Oil though only 2-3 drops on my ends as I have very fine hair which tends to weigh down easily.
MD: Abida, coming back to you, you’ve recently launched in India. Did you tweak the products to suit our skin type, eating habits and weather?
Abida: No, I did not tweak the products. There are people with dry, sensitive and combination skin across the world. Eczema, rosacea, acne etc are universal. Most places experience seasons and eating habits vary, so I launched a very successful range of three supplements last year. These are not currently available for sale in India but can be purchased on our website.
Our range is very versatile but its usage can differ. For example, our cleanser is extremely gentle and deeply hydrating when rinsed off with warm water. This is perfect for colder climates and dry skin types. For warmer climates and combination skin the cleanser would be better removed with a ‘hot cloth’ which is basically a warm damp muslin or soft wet flannel. People in colder areas like to combine our creams and oils whereas in hotter places might prefer the oil at night and the cream during the day. It’s about understanding your skin and adjusting the product usage to suit you rather than simply following instructions given on the packaging. Infact some need cleansing only once a day, others will do so both in the morning and at night. There are preferences even between creams and oils. What works for one person in a particular climate won’t necessarily work for another in the same climate if their dosha and skin types are different. That’s what is incredible about Ayurveda – it’s ability to empower us with knowledge to personalize our choices and seek a lifestyle that balances each individual as per his/her unique dosha.
MD: Lastly, it’s interesting Shrankhla that you’ve noticed the number of your male clients increase. Tell us more about it.
Shrankhla: Yes! The appeal of our wellness range is very broad and we have found that more and more men are buying our stuff as it helps manage anxiety, or feel more energized before a workout. Women have pioneered the self-care movement, but the men are jumping onto the bandwagon for its experiential appeal. What actually speaks to them is the simplicity of our skincare which gives powerful results with just a step, rather than several instructions given by others.
This year instead of consulting the dermatologist before the change of weather I think its a great idea to get these age-old Ayurvedic concoctions in a bottle since vanity is my favourite sin!!!