When Sana Javeri Kadri founded her direct-trade spice company Diaspora Co, she was thrust into the spotlight. Taking on a public role was a big change for her, she says, adding, “I hate makeup; it just doesn’t feel good on my face.” Plus, the stress of launching a business manifested itself in breakouts. “How do I make sure my skin looks radiant even on weeks that I haven’t been able to eat the way I know my body and skin needs? Especially when I wanna sneak in some focaccia and not break out? Skin-care products.”
For help, she turned to a service called Haldi Skin. You take a survey that analyzes your environment, your lifestyle, your current routine, and your budget, and within 48 hours, a coach reaches out with recommended morning and night routines. “Buying skin care from them isn’t any more expensive than buying from Sephora, but I get to check in with a real human about my skin every few months, or as often as I’d like, and they tweak my routine and recommendations accordingly,” she says.
Javeri Kadri has learned the hard way that she needs skin-care advice from people she can trust. At one point, she was blindly following the advice of a dermatologist who had her on a “dangerously high” dosage of vitamin C along with some creams she hadn’t investigated. “The vitamin C started straining my liver so much that my doctor thought I was an alcoholic,” she remembers. “I was about to take a sabbatical from work due to sheer exhaustion when I found out that at 120 pounds, 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C was way too much for me.” Her exhaustion lifted “miraculously” when she cut the dosage, and a mysterious full-body rash disappeared once she stopped using the creams. Now, she checks every product in the CosDNA database for safety and possible irritation.
Javeri Kadri grew up across three continents, in India, Italy, and California, and she says her current skin-care routine brings together all three places. “My experience growing up in India was all about nourishing the skin with DIY kitchen ingredient remedies, whereas in Italy, seeing the craze around bronzers and sun tanning made me appreciate my glowy, naturally tan-brown skin and want to show it off. And then coming to California has been a big dive into non-toxic, natural ingredient-based products,” she explains. “Being introduced to brands like Indie Lee, Golde, and Ursa Major that can sit alongside my DIY kitchen remedies has been a wonderful coming together of philosophies.”
Below, an in-depth look at her routine, including the sunscreen she buys three at a time, the hair brush that helps prevent acne, and the exfoliant that replaced her prescription night cream.
“This was my first real big-girl cleanser, recommended, like almost all my skin care, by the folks at Haldi Skin. I was raised in a li’l hippie fam, which meant that I used raw honey as my face wash until I was 24 and suddenly wallowing in adult acne and hyperpigmentation. Now I’m obsessed with this face wash. It’s got a not-fake, very fresh strawberry scent, and I don’t think I will ever use anything else. It’s significantly brightened and evened out my complexion, and it gently cleanses without overly drying out my skin.”
“I honestly don’t really know what vitamin C serums do, but all my friends with amazing skin swear by it, and I like how it feels, so here we are. I do feel like it brightens my skin, which is what most of my skin care is targeted toward — brightening and acne control.
I’ve eaten maybe one hot dog in my life, so I’m definitely not the expert on hot-dog water smells — and whether vitamin C serums smell like hot-dog water — but I can barely smell it, to be honest. Also, I hate the feeling of having layers of skin care caked onto my face, even the lightest of moisturizing oils are too heavy for me, so I love the lightness of this serum and the slightly taught smoothness it gives my face after I put it on.”
“I didn’t grow up differentiating between Western beauty products and traditional Ayurvedic beauty treatments. I used my regular bar of Pears soap alongside my weekly chickpea flour and turmeric body scrub without realizing that they were two very different types of cleansers from two very different cultures. The older I’ve gotten, the more I realize that Ayurveda holds many of the answers for my complexion and skin in a way that Western beauty is just barely able to understand and cater to. For me, this is especially true when it comes to hair care — Indian hair is very different in terms of thickness, frizziness, sensitivity to heat. Dialing in a traditional hair-care routine that would make my nani proud is honestly what has helped me undo years of damage.
That said, I feel strongly about supporting BIPOC brands, and especially brands that are rooted in Ayurveda. This serum feels and smells good, so I alternate between this and the Ursa Major Vitamin C Serum [above] — because … fun!”
“I love the ease of Glossier makeup, but I’m not the biggest fan of their skin care. This sunscreen is the exception. Haldi Skin also tried to get me to appreciate all the other amazing sunscreens out there, but I can’t part with this one. Since Glossier often goes out of stock whilst they tweak the formula, I tend to stock up on three at a time. It makes my skin feel perfectly dewy. It smells citrusy and bright, and it feels barely there.”
The Double Cleanse
“I didn’t use an oil-based cleanser, nor have the urge to venture into double-cleansing territory, before the fires hit California this year. The smoke, ash, and grime in the air was making my skin break out more than ever, and adding in this super gentle oil-based cleanser to my nighttime routine has been a game changer. I love how squeaky-clean double cleansing with this makes me feel every night!”
“At first I had no idea how to use this, but once I figured out how these trendy new scrubs work, I love this one. I use it at night and go to bed feeling so very soft and silky. I typically use it only once a week. The other days, I use my Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser [above]. ”
“I’ve used Pixi Glow for the past two years, and adding a chemical exfoliant to my skin regimen has made a huge difference — I used a custom-made, mild Curology night-cream prescription (8 percent azelaic acid and 0.25 percent zinc pyrithione) to target my acne in the past, but since moving to chemical exfoliants, I don’t need it anymore. I cannot do without this when I’m traveling, which in non-pandemic times is more than half the year. The best thing about this is honestly how incredibly affordable it is. Now that I have a slightly bigger skin-care budget, I’m transitioning over to the pricier and stronger Herbivore Prism 12% [below]. But this will always be my first chemical exfoliant love.”
“I recently started using this, and I love it. Especially at night after double cleansing, it makes my skin feel smooth, plump, and happy. Also, they donate one dollar from every sale to The Trevor Project. A QUEER EXFOLIANT? I mean, swoon!!!”
The Eye Cream
“When I use this regularly, it really helps with my genetic blessing of eye puffiness, dark circles, and saggy li’l under-eye bags.”
The Spot Treatment
“If I’m really breaking out, which during the pandemic has been a lot — mostly because I’m stressed and sneaking in gluten despite being allergic and trying to live in hazardous air quality — this is a very strong spot treatment that works. The key has been catching pimples when they’re still in their baby stages rather than once they’ve become full-blown suckers.”
The Face Masks
“Honestly, I don’t approach masks with a lot of specific requirements. I treat them more as a relaxing self-care process that allows me to massage my face and to ‘treat’ myself to my skin feeling extra smooth and soft after. A lot of it is just the placebo of knowing that I took time to connect with my face. That said, I only use masks made with kitchen and edible ingredients because it was how we did things growing up. So I love that there’s these amazing young skin-care and beauty companies that totally get that. I always mix my masks with a local raw honey, whatever I buy from the farmer’s market. Whatever is going in my partner’s oatmeal is usually also what’s going on my face!
I’m good friends with the founders of Golde, and when they added these masks, I was so intrigued. Mango powder for … my skin? But wow, yes, whoa. I love! It has become my post-flight ritual followed by my vitamin C serum, which combined leaves my skin feeling gorgeously soft.”
“Chickpea flour and turmeric is a very traditional Indian mask that I grew up using, and then the added moringa (equitably sourced! direct trade!) really takes it to another level. I love this mask.”
The Hair Products
“One hundred strokes of hair brushing before bed and then tying my frizzy mop into a loose braid has (a) helped with hair fall, (b) helped prevent my flaky-ass scalp from giving me more acne, and (c) given me less tangly mess vibes in the morning to deal with.”
“The night before wash day, I spend about fifteen minutes really getting this stuff into my scalp. Twenty-five nutrient-dense Indian herbs, oils, and flowers go into this formulation, and I love how it smells like home to me. I usually leave it in overnight with my hair in a loose braid. My hair fall and split ends have vastly improved since I started using this.
A prewash or ‘champi’ — a weekly scalp massage — is a regular part of Ayurvedic hair care. You leave the prewash in overnight, and it’s a pretty common sight to run into friends and family with their hair oiled and braided at least one night per week. My dadi told me that a weekly champi gives you thicker, stronger hair that grows back faster, and I have followed my dadi’s instructions ever since. I used to use coconut oil for my Sunday champi but have since found that sleeping overnight with pure coconut oil in my hair exacerbated my acne. So finding this product, which has a small amount of coconut oil but several other herbal, soothing ingredients, has been wonderful.
I do make sure to double cleanse my face after applying the prewash and before I go to bed, and to wrap my hair in a T-shirt and line my pillow with a towel to make sure I’m minimizing the oil getting onto my face at night. For me, as someone prone to a flaky, itchy scalp, dialing in my hair-care regimen has greatly improved my forehead acne. It sounds so gross, but dandruff bits were making me breakout, which was all the more reason to make sure my hair was under control and my scalp was nicely clarified.”
“As an Indian, massaging oil into your scalp and hair is a weekly ritual that’s been passed down for generations. Though I no longer have my parents to give me my Sunday champi, I’m still very strict about my weekly oil massage. I usually leave this in before I go swimming to protect my hair from the nasty chlorine.”