Mira Kulkarni, founder of Forest Essentials, discusses the significance of Ayurveda in beauty with Emirates Woman and why Middle East is the next hot spot for the brand.

What do the first 30 minutes of your day look like, your morning routine?

I start with a cup of lemon and honey tea. I make notes the previous night on whatever is on my mind and go through those including anything that requires action while having my morning tea. Then I wash my face first with warm water and an Ubtan (powdered scrubs that are regarded as one of the most efficacious Ayurvedic recipes) or cleanser and splash ice cold water. Then it’s yoga for 20 minutes.

What is the heart of Forest Essentials, the DNA?

What is wonderful about Ayurveda is that it is a lifestyle – to help consumers not only look beautiful but feel beautiful. Authentic Ayurvedic products offer a complete holistic experience, which harmonises the mind, body and soul. While the packaging and bottling processes are modern, the actual making and formulations of all our products still follow age-old and labour-intensive techniques. We continue to combine the knowledge of Vaids (Ayurvedic practitioners) and modern biochemists, which while keeping the inherent properties of Ayurveda intact, are wonderfully scented and pleasurable to use.


Forest Essentials brings the ancient formulas of Ayurveda in a contemporary way to the modern consumer; how do you strike that balance?

Forest Essentials started as a vision to bring Ayurveda to those who wanted pure, effective products that work for their skin. We believe that every product must be as enjoyable to use as it is effective, so texture, smell and formulation are all important. Our emphasis is on efficacy, sensorial experience and pleasure of usage — the touch, feel, sight, sound and taste of our textures, their ingredients and formulas. Adopting traditional formulations and methods of manufacturing, we use only the purest, fresh, seasonal and natural ingredients. Over the last 20 years in India, the brand has been revolutionary in creating a luxury Ayurveda segment by combining the ancient beauty rituals of
Ayurveda with a simplistic and modern aesthetic, which did not exist earlier.

What first ignited your interest in the science of Ayurveda?

In 2000, there was no market for freshly prepared products that used pure ingredients. We realised that substandard ingredients and adulterated oils were used to keep the prices low, and we wanted to change that. I had been involved in a co-operative movement in Rishikesh (Uttarakhand) that focused on procuring and marketing handmade products. I was trying to understand how Ayurvedic soaps could be made and realised that Rishikesh could be an ideal location to get started. It is an Ayurvedic and wellness hub, home to hundreds of Ayurvedic doctors and dotted with tiny pharmacies selling homemade soaps, oils, lotions, creams, and much more. What intrigued me the most was the fact that these local products were all natural and free from any chemicals or preservatives. I soon realised the downside as local people could only sell their produce to low and middle-income consumers. The local vendors told me they could make purer products, but buyers wouldn’t be willing to pay more. I thought otherwise. I believed that people would invest in the purest ingredients and highest quality products if they were available, which was the basis of Ayurveda. The products sold and became best-sellers, contrary to popular perception. This was a revolutionary time for the Indian Beauty Industry as it created a new segment known as Luxury Ayurveda.


“If you cannot eat it, do not put it on your skin.” Can you elaborate on this theory?

Ayurveda sets much higher standards than “acceptable” levels of government regulations because its basic view on health and its concept of “natural” is at once more encompassing and refined. Having ‘tested’ its theories for 6000 years, directly on human subjects, Ayurveda may justifiably claim to know the long-term effects of its treatments and products. Although we get most of our nutrition orally, the skin ingests nutrients as well. In fact, unlike the food we chew and swallow before it is absorbed, creams, lotions, and oils bypass the digestive process and go full strength into the blood stream. Like all ingested substances they either can become raw material for building new body cells and tissues — or potent toxic material unbelievably harmful for your body. Think of your beauty products, not as cosmetics, but as food. If you cannot eat it, do not use it on your skin — is the Ayurvedic standard for pure and natural. It is important to read the labels of your beauty products. It is important to know that organically grown unprocessed cold pressed oils have the highest levels of nutrients for your skin. Skin is alive and chemicals cannot give back life into the skin. Beauty products made of living substances such as plants or their extracts are balanced by nature and contain the vibratory energy that constitutes life. By plants, we mean all forms of vegetation, including trees, flowers, fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices. These living substances contain all the purifying, nutritive and balancing properties necessary to nurture the skin and slow down the ageing process. They are the perfect food for the skin.

Having worked with modern biochemists on Ayurveda-led products for years, can you take us through the ideation process?

I handle R&D (research and development) myself and we don’t go down the route of what most brands do which is to do consumer surveys or identify the gap in the market. We work in a different way as the ideation begins with finding a traditional recipe that has something special and something that is not available. The focus has always been toward going back in time; looking at old manuscripts, ancient recipes and finally finding Vaids (Ayurvedic practitioners) who are able to translate those recipes into a more modern-day adaptation, while always keeping the inherent properties of Ayurveda intact.

What led to scaling the brand and the launch of Forest Essentials in the UAE?

The beauty industry is extremely competitive, comprising a diverse range of everyday essentials, luxury goods and personal services. Consumers rely on the beauty industry for a multitude of needs every day. Such demand and innovation have put the beauty sector at the centre of UAE’s economy, while also establishing a cultural footprint. Additionally, the raised awareness around human rights and climate change has led consumers to be more selective and demanding of business practices, by prioritising brands that value transparency and are purpose-led in their messaging and practices. Through insights on purchase behaviour of our global customers via our international website, we have built equity and a strong preference for the brand and its vast repertoire and fresh seasonal formulations, and thus the decision to foray into UAE, works well with what our brand stands for. Today, we are market leaders and wellpositioned to build upon our success in India and expand internationally, with the opening of our first flagship store in Dubai in May 2023.


Which Forest Essentials products would you recommend for the Middle Eastern consumers?

Advanced Soundarya Age Defying Facial Serum With 24K Gold: The first product from our iconic Soundarya collection, this Age Defying Serum is formulated according to ancient Ayurvedic recipes, using pure, 24 Karat Gold Bhasma (a powerful age-defying agent) that is infused in a mix of pure Desi Ghee, fresh Cow’s Milk, efficacious herbs and roots. It is then simmered over a slow fire and left to cure in copper vessels which impart their own therapeutic properties to the Serum to make it more effective for the skin. Advanced Eternal Youth Formula Date & Litchi: This night cream is prepared during ‘Brahmamuhutra’ – the hours before dawn that are considered to be the most auspicious time of the day. Succulent Date and Litchi fruits are hand-plucked and soaked in fresh, steam-distilled Rosewater, and left buried underground in clay pots, to ferment for 30-40 days. This high-performing night cream also contains Hydrolyzed Manihot Esculenta Tuberextract, Polyglutamic Acid (Fermented Soybean) and Bakuchiol. In its final stage, the cream is hand-blended while priests chant special mantras to imbibe positive vibrations and energy into the cream – further elevating its potency. The skin is left feeling firmed and replenished, with a satin sheen. Advanced Sanjeevani Beauty Elixir: This silken elixir contains the legendary Sanjeevani herb which drenches the skin in a surge of moisture with restorative and anti-ageing properties and is infused with high-performing actives including Folic Acid Ferment Filtrate Extract and Hyaluronic Acid. The emollient pre-moisturiser is meticulously crafted using an ancient process, known as Hima Kashaya Kalpana or ‘cold-water infusion’.

This is The Skin Issue – what does it mean to be comfortable in your own skin?

This means being comfortable with the way you look and feel. We all have something special – it could be clear skin, or lustrous hair or a beautiful smile. We need to know that and enjoy our individuality.

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