Not just another skincare brand
Left to right: Charcoal Goatmilk Soap,
Classic Goatmilk Soap, Classic Rose Goatmilk Soap
What does skincare o’clock look like for you? Is it a quick chore that’s accomplished by slathering on a bit of everything before tumbling into bed, or is it a sacred time comprising tried-and-tested favourites that are meticulously applied? Do you trust your hands to do the job, or has the jade roller/Gua sha obsession gotten to you? There’s no one size-fits-all approach in the skincare department. Whatever the answer may be, a likely common denominator for this beauty ritual would be the conscious evaluation of a beauty product’s ingredients.
Introducing Vilvah – a cruelty-free label that handcrafts natural products stripped of sulphates, artificial fragrances and other harmful chemicals. The brand makes a strong proposition to ditch elaborate beauty routines and brings to your #shelfie a repository of nature-derived ingredients that are made with “pure love” and grown in farms across the country.
We speak with Kruthika Kumaran, Managing Director, Vilvah, and the woman credited with building the beauty brand from the ground up, about how she navigates the Indian skincare market and what it’s like to produce exciting formulations in the midst of a digital era, where consumers have increased access to information and subject products to more scrutiny. She also recommends her favourites for Vilvah newbies and lets us in on a couple of skincare myths to be wary of.
Tell us a little bit about Vilvah’s relationship with its community of local farmers and the variety of fresh ingredients which are sourced from them.
Both my partner Tamil Kumaran and I hail from an agricultural background and have witnessed at first hand the plight of farmers while we were growing up in Gobichettipalayam, a small town in Tamil Nadu. Which is why, when setting up Vilvah, we wanted to do our bit in helping this community by sourcing our ingredients directly from them and offering a fair price for their impeccable produce. It’s so important to improve the livelihood of Indian farmers, particularly for the welfare of future generations, and so our mission is to incorporate and highlight as many native ingredients in our formulations as possible. Vilvah maintains relationships with farmers across the country, sourcing delicate rose petals from the districts of Uttarakhand, lemongrass from “God’s own country” aka Kerala and fragrant jasmine from Madurai.
The Goatmilk Soap collection
What were some of the major challenges you faced while establishing Vilvah and how did you overcome them?
To be frank, I can’t recollect a single challenge we faced in the initial stages of building Vilvah. This may be regarded as an unbelievable response for such a question, but I ought to tell the truth. We were so passionate and enjoyed the process without realising how big this operation would grow to be over the next few years. Ask us the same question now, and we can name quite a few roadblocks as Vilvah is rapidly expanding.
An unusual ingredient pops up in one of your products – broccoli seed oil. How did you zero in on this particular additive and what are its benefits?
Broccoli seed oil forms a core component of Vilvah’s Cream Conditioner, which is particularly designed to tame dry and frizzy tresses. This power ingredient is packed with Vitamin C and Vitamin B6, making it clinically effective in boosting hair growth and shine. Broccoli seed oil and its derivatives are proven to be successful natural replacements for silicone, imparting a similar shine and protecting against breakage (minus the negative side effects that silicone-based products are known for).
Vilvah also creates formulations that are meant especially for kids’ products, which is often considered a tricky domain. How do you ensure that it works appropriately on their sensitive skin and is safe for everyday use?
We have three to four products for kids with intense nourishing properties, like the simple Massage Oil and whipped Calendula Body Butter, all of which are recommended for babies and those with sensitive skin. Our goat milk soaps and shampoos are extremely safe and concocted with mild surfactants [or surface-active agents, which are chemicals that are compatible with both oil and water]. We consciously make it a point to avoid adding ingredients with potential allergens, especially fragrances and other strong actives.
Top to bottom: Classic Goatmilk Soap,
Classic Rose Goatmilk Soap, Charcoal Goatmilk Soap
The brand’s Charcoal Goatmilk Soap is a unique blend of two power elements. Can you break down the steps in its development and discuss what lends the product its artisanal quality?
Charcoal is a known detoxifier and goat milk is an excellent moisturising agent. Combine the two together and you have an efficient formulation that is balanced, making this product a natural exfoliator and complexion booster. In its development, the most crucial part is the addition of the milk at the right time and temperature. It is an advanced technique but definitely worth the end result.
While growing up, teenagers and young adults often have turbulent relationships with their skin owing to hormonal changes and the societal pressures of perfection. How do you practise self-love when it comes to your skin?
We often emphasise that having acne or frizzy hair doesn’t define who you are and that it is okay to embrace your skin in its natural state. According to me, self-love is not only about applying a face mask while lighting a candle or following a 10-step beauty routine. Instead, it lies in the simplest of things, like having a nice long shower, giving yourself a day off from the monotony of an everyday schedule or just taking a good old nap. And, most importantly, being kind to yourself!
With the overwhelming amount of skincare-related dos and don’ts out there, how can consumers successfully sift through the contradictory information and choose products that are right for them?
We always advise our customers to listen to their skin. Brands, influencers, skin experts and cosmetics companies will always justify their creations and favourite products in one way or another, but what’s important to remember is that there is no universal rule when it comes to skincare. It’s necessary for an individual to take time to understand their skin type, do ample research, read the ingredients carefully and choose what works best for them.
The Indian skin type is quite diverse and complex. How does Vilvah successfully target such a fragmented market that ranges over varying needs?
Although we mainly work around normal-to-dry and normal-to-oily skin types, there are still so many other dynamic factors to keep in mind, such as Indian climatic conditions, lifestyle, ingredient tolerance and pollution exposure. These vary from region to region, leading to different skin concerns at different times of the year. Thus, we always try to educate our consumers to understand their skin needs and plan a regime accordingly.
Vilvah also takes strict measures to ensure that every ingredient selected to be part of our formulation passes the toxicology and safety criteria.
Classic Rose Goatmilk Soap
For those unfamiliar with Vilvah, which product would you recommend they start off with and why?
Start off with any of our signature goat-milk products, such as the Classic Rose Goatmilk Soap or Goatmilk Shampoo that soothes the scalp. They are gentle and suitable for most skin types. Another must-try is the Anti-Frizz Hair Serum. It is silicone free, but its performance is at par with any silicone-based counterpart in the market.
Are there any skin/hair-care myths that you’d like to bust?
It’s not true that applying honey on your hair causes premature greying; in fact, it is actually a good hydrating agent. Also, rosehip seed oil does not provide sun protection as claimed, so wear some SPF instead.
What’s next for Vilvah?
2021 will undoubtedly be a milestone in Vilvah’s journey. We are planning to expand by investing on infrastructure and are in the process of launching another brand called Vilvah Agro. It will seek to celebrate a farmer and his livelihood by focusing on native, heritage and indigenous rice varieties in India.
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