Nina Davuluri, the first Indian American woman to become Miss America, recalled how the Transportation Security Administration was constantly pulling her out of check-in lines for the turmeric she carried with her.
The ingredient was key in the DIY facial masks she made while traveling the globe. “I was sitting in my hotel room one night making my mask and I got thinking it was ridiculous that there didn’t exist pre-made and luxurious products with the core and clean ingredients I wanted,” she said referring to popular elements used in Indian beauty formulas.
Simultaneously, Wharton Business School student Rooshy Roy was on the hunt for an idea to harness her entrepreneurial skills. “I had worked in finance for six years before going to business school and I didn’t find that fulfilling. I wanted something that has a part of ‘me’ in it,” she said.
Like Davuluri, Roy treated her sensitive skin with homemade concoctions she learned from her family’s recipes. “I was inspired to create a brand that embodies my culture and upbringing. When I thought of my pain points, I longed for treatments I couldn’t find and didn’t have time to make to help with stress-related breakouts.”
The two met in 2017, and after discovering their shared quest for clean ingredients from their heritage, they launched Aavrani this past summer. The four-step, direct-to-consumer line includes turmeric, neem and almond oil.
“We took four very simple steps that luxury skin-care users are used to in the U.S. and integrated ingredients we know to be highly efficacious but safe for sensitive skin,” Roy said. Simplicity was key because Roy said in talking to women they heard that too many steps were “intimidating” to women.
The lineup includes a Glow-Activator Exfoliator, a Balance Restoring Serum, A Softening Hydra-Whip and an Eye Rejuvenating Elixir. Prices range from $55 to $75 and the four are sold together in a set called The Aavrani Ritual for $200. “We based the formulas on the ingredients we grew up with and worked with chemists to have a shelf life,” Roy said.
Interestingly, one of the ingredients, turmeric is “having a moment” in skin care. “It is an anti-inflammatory, it combats hyperpigmentation and it is super safe for sensitive skin,” Roy said. Care has been taken to ensure the turmeric formulas don’t stain — a common issue with DIY creations.
To date, the founders have relied on word of mouth to build awareness. “We can’t afford to pay influencers,” Roy said. But, Davuluri’s visibility as Miss America was a huge boost and mailings to social tastemakers have been well-received. “About 80 percent have posted they liked the products.” Direct to consumer allows the women to tell their story, but they hope to eventually add physical stores to their distribution, so consumers can actually experience the formulas. What’s been a pleasant surprise is the line receives interest not only from South Asian women, but women of all skin tones who are attracted to the formulas. More products are also in the pipeline for 2019 that could include expansion into other categories.