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    Oil Change
    A new hair-care brand is bringing a traditional Indian beauty ritual to the mainstream.

    SMOOTH MOVE

    INDIAN-BORN MODEL POOJA MOR’S ENVIABLE STRANDS.

    A SLEEK BRAID, DOTTED WITH MARIGOLDS.

    There is an Indian Panchatantra—an ancient fable—that tells the story of the tigers and the trees, who must learn to help one another in order to thrive in nature. When Nikita Mehta and her brother Akash were growing up in London, their grandmother would pay frequent visits from India, regaling them with these folktales while she massaged their scalps with oils. “She told us her own versions,” says Nikita, 28—and she came up with her own formulas as well, combining ingredients such as circulation-boosting castor oil, anti-inflammatory ashwagandha, and antiseptic turmeric into a coconut-oil base that lent their hair a healthy luster.

    “It was a moment of peace,” recalls Nikita, who was in need of similar respite a few years ago when her hair started falling out from stress. “I went back to the kitchen, mixing the oils that my grandmother used.” After a month, her hair was thicker, smoother.

    “For Indians, hair oiling is just part of life,” explains Akash, 26, who left his role in influencer marketing at Parfums Christian Dior to team up with Nikita on Fable & Mane, a hair-care line based around this traditional approach to maintenance that launches this spring at Sephora. Its debut collection, select proceeds from which will go toward tiger conservation in India, includes a coconut-and-ashwagandha shampoo, a turmeric-based conditioner, and a whipped–coconut cream mask: All of the products are vegan, silicone- and cruelty-free, and come in refillable packaging printed with lyrical stories—a tribute to their grandmother. But the lightweight oil—a prewash treatment with a complex of Ayurvedic plants—has the most potential to become a cross-cultural hit as Ayurvedic healing gains traction in the modern wellness movement. “It’s roots for roots,” says Nikita with a flip of her thick, glossy strands.

    “Torched to death” is a better description of my own hair, so I have high hopes for the ritual—or any ritual that will make my utilitarian beauty routine more meaningful. Warming the oil between my hands, I rub it into my crown (the chakra that stimulates higher consciousness in yogic teachings), moving in small circles toward my temples and the nape of my neck until my hair is coated. In India, women go out with slick heads to let the treatment penetrate for as long as possible, Nikita explains. But in Los Angeles, I stay inside and watch half an episode of The Crown instead. After I shower, my hair is noticeably shinier—and I made a dent in my Netflix queue. Self-care, simplified.

    AS A PREWASH RITUAL, THE OIL PROMOTES GROWTH, SHINE—AND TAKING A FEW MINUTES FOR YOURSELF. (COURTESY OF FABLE & MANE.)

    AMY TROOST/TRUNK ARCHIVE. POOJA MOR AT ELITE NEW YORK; MARIGOLDS: SHALINI SARAN/INDIAPICTURES/UNIVERSAL IMAGES GROUP/GETTY IMAGES., PHOTOGRAPHED BY SOHRAB HURA OF MAGNUM PHOTOS.