It all began because one day I spent 43 quid on a tub of face wash.

It was some minty green product that claimed to remove, through a nifty hot-cold liquid, blackheads and all sorts of other uglies. It would cleanse, clarify, possibly even send me to the moon. Now, I understand that 43 quid isn’t a large enough amount to break the bank for most people. But I’m a writer. Most of the time, I’m broke. More alarmingly, I realized I was buying increasingly more expensive products because I found that mostly they didn’t work. They didn’t seem to help clear, brighten, soften my skin and do all the other wondrous things they promised in svelte adverts in glossy magazines and on television. Enough, I thought. I’m going back to the basics. A little googling taught me that, in fact, all the face wash I required was a pot of raw honey, known to be anti-bacterial and moisturizing. And for when I’d been out all day, or felt particularly grimy? An oil cleanse. Which involves a blend of oils (usually castor, almond, jojoba) in certain proportions, massaged into the skin, and wiped off with a hot towel. The simple idea behind this was that oil dissolves oil, or sebum, removing muck much more effectively than soap or water. For toner, I gathered it was best to stick to diluted raw, organic apple cider vinegar (which still contained the “mother”, strands of enzymes and friendly bacteria that give it a murky, cobweb-like appearance). And to moisturize my combination skin? While most creams left me with dry/greasy patches, pure, cold-pressed jojoba oil (which closely resembles sebum and is easily absorbable) did the trick. I tried all this for a few weeks, and it worked. My skin had never felt better. It was lighter; it felt like it could breathe. What if, I wondered, this could be extended? To lip balm, and body moisturizer, and soap?

I made my first batch of products at my kitchen counter. In a make-shift double burner. Marvelling at how simple it was to concoct these products. Use what’s in your kitchen, I was advised by beauty blogs Crunchy Betty and Natural Living Ideas. Things you could actually eat like oats and cinnamon. Suddenly it all made sense. Why buy a moisturizer that includes shea butter or cocoa butter when you could use these beautiful oils themselves, in their natural state? Or why settle for a soap with “honey extract” when you could bathe with one that uses real raw honey from the hills of Cherrapunji? The idea was to cut through the artificiality. To use the real thing. It was so much better, as I discovered.

In the late 1800s in England there was a strong “Aesthetic” movement, spearheaded by designer and publisher William Morris and writer Oscar Wilde. They tried to resist what they saw as the ugliness of industrialization and mass production. Morris hand-bound books, Wilde tailor-made his outfits. The idea was to place “real” beauty back at the centre of people’s lives. I feel as though making my own products is an extension of this movement. These are principles I resonate with, that handmade things involve time and care and customization, but don’t necessitate compromising on quality. It is, after all, about reclaiming something we might have lost: an artisanal relationship with things; of relying on the homemade, homegrown, and trusting ourselves rather than faceless companies who can pay for the most advertising space.

So, out with the 43-quid face wash. In with the real.

Homegrown grooming products that won’t break the bank


1. Apricot Kernel Meal Scrub

Pahadi Local Khal

Mix this fine powder with milk, honey or water for a natural face scrub and body polisher. It’ll slough off dead cells, reduce ingrowth and leave your skin feeling baby smooth. Plus, it’s a tub-full’s worth, so you won’t need to replenish stock in a hurry.

₹500 for 135g

2. Real Softness Lip Balm

Real Love

If you think using lip balm is girly, the alternative – chapped, rough lips – is worse. This mix has coconut butter with a touch of menthol to keep you feeling fresh, and ever kissable.



3.Neem Oil

Kama Ayurveda

Neem is a traditional panacea, used to cure everything from acne and breakouts to dandruff and dehydrated scalp conditions. This organic oil by Kama is cold-pressed and packed with antioxidants, as well as anti-bacterial properties. When using on sensitive skin (ie, your face and scalp), dilute equal parts neem oil with almond or sesame oil.

₹625 for 200ml

4. Damask Rosewater Face Toner

Amritam at Good Earth

Toning closes pores and minimizes that sweaty sheen. Besides the obvious benefits, this spritz is also delightfully cooling in summer – imagine strolling through a beautiful Mughal garden on a hot day as fountains sprinkle water on you.

₹550 for 120ml

5. Real Breakfast Soap

Real Love

With goat’s milk, oats, raw honey from Cherrapunji and cinnamon, this soap is good enough to eat. (Don’t.) You’ll love how well-scrubbed you’ll feel after (and how good you smell).


6. Real Bliss Lotion Bar

Real Love

Q: What is a lotion bar and how do you use it?
A: It’s exactly what it sounds like. Warm it in your hands, pat yourself down and let the shea butter, sweet orange and honey do its good work.


7. Eucalyptus Destress Balm

Granny Greggs

Aromatherapy isn’t just for your girlfriend. The next time you have a headache or your sinuses are acting up, try this eucalyptus balm instead of a disprin. It’s been formulated by Bengaluru-based geneticist Sonia Dhawan, who concocts her recipes based on those of her grandmother – Irene Gregory, the original Granny Greggs, well-known for her extensive knowledge of medicinal plants and home remedies.


8.Eucalyptus and Mint Hand and Foot Scrub

Do Bandar

Use it regularly to keep your skin soft and supple, and no one will appreciate it more than your SO. And the dude who does your monthly manicure. Just make sure your nails are short and neat for maximum effect.

₹400 for 150g


9.Vetiver and Patchouli Soap

Do Bandar

Bengaluru-based Do Bandar formulates its hand-crafted products – everything from foot scrubs to soaps for your pet – based on ancient Ayurvedic and royal Mughal recipes. We dig the hip packaging: soaps wrapped in banana fibre paper and luxuriant bath oils in recyclable glass bottles.

₹300 for 150g

10. Herbal Sleep Balm

Granny Greggs

Lavender is known to induce drowsiness, and this sleep balm is steeped in it. Apply a pea-sized amount to your temples and watch as your brain slows down… You can banish counting sheep (or clouds) forever.


11. Gutti Ka Tel

Pahadi Local

This all-natural unfiltered apricot oil from Himalayan orchards is good for your skin and bones, and even helps reduce cellulite and stretch marks. Your maalishwala will love it almost as much as you do.

₹1,100 for 200ml

12. Amritam May Chang & Bergamot Glycerin Soap

Good Earth

Glycerin soaps are full-fat versions of regular soaps – sometimes they lather less, but overall are much better for your skin. Naturally moisturizing, these soaps even skin tone and encourage proper cell maturation, helpful in soothing skin conditions such as acne.

₹750 for 120g

13. Rosemary, Mint and Lime Face Pat

The Skin Pantry

Hand-whipped to achieve a delicate mousse-y texture and using a zesty combination of rosemary, lime and mint, graphic designer Colette Austin makes these small-batch aftershave creams that will melt right into your skin – and give it a happy buzz.

₹1,100 for 50ml