She comes across as a glow-getter and a determined one at that! Browse through her Instagram feed featuring her travels, beauty reviews and collaborations with leading brands. Nikita Upadhyay, author of Roots to Radiance: Wholesome Beauty Solutions for the Millennial Life is millennial and unapologetically so. This former digital head of Cosmopolitan understood the perks and perils of the ‘Insta-age’ and hence created a modern beauty handbook, a ready reference for when you want to whip up a home remedy, be it for dry skin or frizzy hair. Our beauty editor, Aparrna Gupta catches up with Upadhyay and they discuss home beauty remedies, myths, reading labels and everything in between.
1. Would you describe yourself as a journalist, a beauty blogger, an influencer or an author?
Nikita Upadhyay: All of these! The beauty of current times is that there are no labels anymore in terms of anything. What I do in terms of beauty writing is closely linked to beauty blogging and eventually, it has led to me becoming a published author.
2. What’s your idea of beauty?
Nikita Upadhyay: My idea of beauty is feeling beautiful through all phases of life. I’ve had bad skin and good skin; I’ve been overweight and underweight but the thing that’s been constant all these years is that I’ve always believed that I’m beautiful. Beauty lies in feeling beautiful while working towards what and who you want to be. More than an idea, beauty is a feeling. Love yourself today while you’re working on being what you want to be tomorrow.
3. Has your concept of beauty changed over the years, from when you were a beauty editor to now when you have authored one of the best-selling books on beauty?
Nikita Upadhyay: I’ve become more of a minimalist when it comes to make-up. These days I only like to use clean cosmetics and as my friend, Bobbi Brown (founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics) says, “skin should look like skin”. A lot of people buy brighter tone foundations because they think it’ll bring them an otherworldly glow, but it just gets them a grey undertone. So, ‘acceptance’ is perhaps the right word in this context. I think that’s what has changed for me. The more you accept how your skin is and get products in sync with that, the better your skin will behave.
4. Tell us about the journey of Roots to Radiance. In an age when all the information is available at the click of your fingers, what inspired you to pen down a book on beauty?
Nikita Upadhyay: So many online articles on beauty, that’s true. But I like to call ‘Roots to Radiance’ a reference book. It’s not a novel that one has to read cover to cover. It’s a book that’s charted out different parts of the body into simple chapters and listed remedies for all concerns. For example, the chapter about eyes will have 10 recipes each for puffiness, dark circles, wrinkles etc. I have even listed 50 things one can do under 3 minutes to improve hair and skin health. That’s something us millennials can definitely benefit from.
My mother who looks so young that is often mistaken for my sister has inspired me to write this book. I belong to a small town in Chhattisgarh where there was no online shopping while I was growing up.
I’ve only seen my mum rely on her few favourite creams and all her masks were made out of kitchen ingredients. She’s a DIY queen and my inspiration. I thought of putting all her knowledge on record.
5. During the process of writing ‘Roots to Radiance’, you have spoken to international experts, which are particular tips that stayed with you?
Nikita Upadhyay: I was super kicked when I had all the movers and shakers of the beauty industry support and endorse my book! It rarely happens for a book to have this kind of compilation. Dia Mirza, an actress who’s awarded for her great skin and contribution to the environment wrote the foreword. A beauty mogul (Bobbi Brown) who’s an inspiration to millions (on how to build a brand) has penned down an inspiring letter for stressed millennials! A Hollywood dermatologist (Dr Barbara Sturm) who treats celebs like Bella Hadid, Kate Moss, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian has done a skin Q/A for my book. The man who is known as the finest nose in the world (Roja Dove) has taught people how to pick their signature fragrance. And since beauty starts from within, Asia’s star chef (Sanjeev Kapoor) has contributed some easy to make recipes for glowing skin.
Here are the tips that stayed with me:
- Dia Mirza, Former Miss Asia Pacific, Actor, Activist, UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador wrote the foreword…and taught me an amazing morning ritual for a youthful glow which is in my book. And some other life lessons that are bigger than beauty.
- Bobbi Brown taught me that it’s okay not to have a clear idea or things figured out upfront…but one has to have an open mind. Being open is the key quality of success.
- Dr Barbara Sturm taught me not to over-cleanse my face i.e. using face wash only once in a day (at night).
- Chef Sanjeev Kapoor taught me the usage of Indian superfoods and pairings to boost their efficiency.
6. To test skincare and make-up products is a part of a beauty editor’s job. What are the questions we must ask ourselves before ordering the latest product in the glossies?
Nikita Upadhyay: I think it’s a must to check the formulation and ingredients list. But it requires some study and research to know how genuine a product is. For a beginner, I would recommend: If there’s a lot of ingredients ending with ‘cone’ and ‘lone’ in the formula of a product…stay away from it…it’s all trashy microplastic. They’re the recurring ingredients in formulas of *MOST* KBeauty brands. Rule #1 is to stay away from those products. I also would like to encourage people to follow the right pages on Instagram for info on clean beauty products and befriend the right influencers who’ll save you from all the wrong products out there!
7. What are your tips and tricks to build an effective skincare closet?
- I recommend people to have a separate AM/PM regimen.
- Have multivitamins.
- Exfoliate twice a week.
- Also, DO NOT skip sunscreen.
If you can just manage these few things, you’ve got yourself an effective enough skincare closet
8. What do you suggest a customer should check out while reading the labels, especially when she doesn’t have a science background, and all chemicals sound threatening?
Nikita Upadhyay: Apart from the ‘cones’ and ‘lones’ of the ingredients, please check if the first 3-4 ingredients of the formula don’t contain alcohol. Even if brands want to justify it by saying it’s there to ‘stabilize’ the product–nope, do not buy it. There are steadier, lesser threatening ingredients that can stabilize the formula better.
9. What is the biggest myth in skincare which you would like to bust?
Nikita Upadhyay: There are a few actually:
- “Expensive products are the best products”–Nope, not necessarily!
- “Facial oils are not suitable for oily skin”–You’re just not using the right one.
- “You need to drain all the natural oils from your skin to prevent pimples“––what you need to do is balance your skin, not over-cleanse!
10. You have a deep understanding of Ayurveda and Indian herbs. Which are your favourite beauty herbs and why?
Nikita Upadhyay:Basil (Skin): Basil has anti-inflammatory properties that calms your skin and fights pigmentation. Pairing it with Multani mitti makes for a great DIY face mask.
Indian jujube leaves (Hair): These leaves are great for treating irritated and flaky skin/scalp. Blend them with aloe vera and glycerin to nourish your skin or scalp.
Ashwagandha/Indian Ginseng (Body): This herb cancels fatigue. One must add this to their routine in form of capsules or churans to energise their senses.
11. You have written a book on best recipes for glowing skin. Which is your personal favourite?
Nikita Upadhyay: Honestly, for time-pressed millennials, honey + banana is the ultimate lazy person’s DIY mask. Quick, easy and effective!
Another elaborate mask I love is below:
1⁄2 cup strained chironji (Buchanania lanzan) 3⁄4 cup full cream milk (raw)
2 teaspoons honey
1⁄4 teaspoon saffron
The trick is to make the texture of chironji act as a scrub for your face, so make sure you don’t crush and strain it too finely. Saffron and nutmeg help fade acne scars and dark spots. Nutmeg powder is also available in the market but I suggest you grind it on your own as it is much more effective. Soak saffron in raw milk overnight. Grind nutmeg on a coarse platform and keep adding few drops of water while you are blending it. Mix strained chironji, ground nutmeg and honey with raw, full cream milk (that you soaked saffron in) to create a paste. Apply to face and leave on for 30 minutes. Doing so twice a week will help reduce pigmentation.
Note: If you have super dry skin, replace chironji with walnut, use full cream milk and follow the same procedure.
12. What is the biggest beauty myth which you feel even the beauty enthusiasts are sometimes unaware of?
Nikita Upadhyay: They think KBeauty = goodness! Just because their market is thriving doesn’t mean all of it is good. Most of them just want to feed your skin more plastic and nasties. But there are some good KBeauty brands too. Follow the right people (aka me) and you’ll know, haha!
13. What do you think of Just Herbs, the brand and the products?
Nikita Upadhyay: I love the philosophy of this brand and have been using their products for many years now. The way they crowdsource from people before coming up with a product is very impressive. A lot of brands come up with products you don’t need (the gimmicky kinds) but I’m so happy that brands like Just Herbs are doing the exact opposite by making products as per their customers’ requirement!
Nikita Upadhyay: Beauty Bytes
The first beauty/skincare product you use in the morning…
After splashing just water on my face, I use toner.
The product with which you pack up your day…
Beauty must-haves (fragrances, colour cosmetics, hair care) on your vanity dresser now…
- Fragrance – Chanel Mademoiselle, Narciso Rodriguez ‘Her’
- Lipstick: Bobbi Brown Luxe Lip Colour in Retro Coral,
- Foundation: Kosas Tinted Facial Oil
- Mascara: Benefit BadGal Bang
- Brow Pencil: MAC Eye Brows Styler
The beauty ritual gives you an instant high…
DIY facials and massages… A full body scrub.
Beauty essentials you never leave home without…
Hand cream! Hands show signs of ageing before any other part of our body. And maybe a face compact and lipstick.
Mostly aqua, floral, classic but definitely NOT fruity!
Beauty products you never fly without...
Oh, the list isn’t small especially, for international flights.
Here it goes: