The inspiring story behind a skincare brand that borrows from Indian beauty rituals

As a first-generation Indian-American raised in Wisconsin, Michelle Ranavat is distinguished by following Indian self-care rituals, such as hair oiling. She hoped that when she founded RANAVAT in 2017, her products would educate others about Indian culture and inspire them to embrace the ancient philosophy.

Fast-forward to last year, when RANAVAT became the first South Asian-founded Ayurvedic skincare brand to launch at Sephora – a milestone that Ranavat hopes “will pave the way for more diversity and cultural inclusion in the beauty industry.” The brand is also available at retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Bluemercury and Amazon.

“In the beginning, it was hard not to understand the Ayurvedic philosophy” – the belief that health is based on a balance between our mind, body and spirit. Rather than treating a single symptom or indicator of disease, this philosophy (developed in India more than 3,000 years ago) seeks to understand the root cause of problems.

“As Ayurvedic philosophy grew, I realized that holistic self-care was critical, and RANAVAT aligns with the philosophy of making sure we stay in balance as a whole,” she says. “You can use the most amazing serums in the world, but if you’re stressed out, you’re still going to have stress breakouts.”

The beauty of RANAVAT products

The skin care line is defined by premium ingredients from India – such as turmeric, papain, sesame seeds, poppy seeds and saffron, which also happens to be the world’s most expensive spice. Replicating an ancient technique, Ayurvedic oils are infused with herbs in large copper containers and stirred by hand. Meanwhile, the intact poppy seeds undergo a decoction process that takes about 10 days “to make the product as potent and as close to the authentic formula as possible.”

“We are here for customers who are really interested in buying and want to invest in the ingredients,” Ranavat says. “We intentionally don’t have a lot of overlap in our products because I believe one well-made serum can replace 10.”

Ranavat wanted to prove that science is rooted in Indian rituals. “A lot of people think that if you’re talking about ancient science, we may not have clinicals – but we do.” One example: In an independent clinical study, 100 percent of 32 subjects showed a significant reduction in fine lines and wrinkles after four weeks of using Brightening Saffron Essence.

How it started

Growing up, Ranavat spent summers in her father’s drug warehouse, which fostered her love of science and entrepreneurial drive. “The journey started very literally for me,” she says. “A lot of the entrepreneurial spirit came from watching my father start his company. I saw him being super combative and doing business in the basement of our house, and that always made a very strong impression on me.”

In later years, Ranavat was re-introduced to Ayurvedic supplements, recipes and strategies because of the profound impact they had on her during childbirth and postpartum recovery. “That’s really when I started digging in,” she says. “When I had kids, I started noticing all these changes, like postpartum hair loss – and in my 30s, I did notice changes in my skin. That’s when I started asking questions like, ‘What did the person before me do?'”

As an entrepreneur, she has learned.

“Keep going and keep focusing on your ‘why. “I don’t set time limits for my goals. If my goal was ‘I have to get into Sephora,’ I probably would have given up a long time ago, because that hasn’t happened in five years.”
Mentoring is very important, especially when someone is breaking into a new industry. I’m looking for them – not that people are knocking on my door in any way.”
Invest in the team you build. Just like our product, we don’t add any ingredients to our team – we have to make sure it’s the right people and the right people.”

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