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From nanis massaging their scalps with coconut oil to the marriage ritual of Haldi, where turmeric paste is rubbed on the bride to brighten her skin, South Asian beauty culture is deeply rooted in using clean beauty ingredients. Uncharacteristically, most of the clean beauty brands on the market have products with colors that refuse to show on pigmented brown skin.
Why is that?
Products were not being created with South Asian representation in mind. Mora Cosmetics founders, Bangladeshi-American Minara El-Rahman and Indian-American Jasmine Dayal, decided they wanted to be part of the conversation and reinforce that South Asian heritage has inspired clean beauty trends.
“I was so used to seeing Caucasian models in makeup ads, that I truly didn’t feel like the makeup on the market was intended for me. It wasn’t until I saw Bollywood films that I started to realize how beautiful Desi women are,” El-Rahman comments.
She grew up with her dadi (paternal grandmother), who made masks with besan flour to brighten and clear her skin, and her nani (maternal grandmother), who would use coconut oil in her long, grey hair. El-Rahman’s cultural background influenced her interest in the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger and turmeric.
Dayal grew up admiring the dramatic Kajal looks that were so prevalent in the 90s. “Growing up, I would always have either my mom or older sister helping me recreate those looks whenever there was an event. I would really only wear eyeliner and mascara since I didn’t like the way most other products looked on my skin. As an adult, I have found more shades that work for me, but the formulations have always left something to be desired.”
El-Rahman adds, “When we launched Mora Cosmetics, we knew that we had to create a product that would be pigmented enough to show up on darker skin tones. We know that darker women don’t have light lips. They have lips with darker pigment, so we needed to ensure that the amount of pigment in our products would show. With multiple swipes, a woman with any skin tone can achieve a beautiful color with the Satin Sheen Multistick,”
They wanted their products to have pigmentation that allowed for control when creating looks. The user can wear every color and make it as subtle or dramatic as they want without much effort. They have also focused on sustainability in their production line and ensure their products are clean, vegan, and nourishing for your skin.
The brand has launched one product in three shades — shades that are universally flattering on all skin types and tones. All of the colors were inspired by South Asian women in Bollywood cinema. From the neutral lip color worn by Sharmila Tagore, to the dark lips that Rekha is famous for, to the shimmery wine color adorned by Madhuri Dixit, there is a color that speaks to each woman.
Dayal mentions, “We launched with three carefully curated shades to ensure that all women feel their best no matter what the occasion or mood. If you want a soft, natural look, Minxy works wonders. If you feel like adding in some sparkle, Hyped is your shade. If you want a dramatic dark lip, Jessie’s Girl is for you.”
They formulated the Satin Sheen Multistick with the intention to be a color product with the benefits of skincare. Formulated with ingredients — candelilla wax, cocoa seed butter, and sunflower seed oil — the Satin Sheen Multistick hydrates parched skin and improves the smoothness of your skin while providing antioxidants to help fight off aging or dull skin, and dark patches.
The founders are just getting started with products though. They plan to launch more colors inspired by their backgrounds and new products that work for all beauty lovers. We can’t wait to see what they do next.
From December 9th through the 13th, get 20% off your total when you buy 2 or more products using the code ‘HOLIDAYS’!
Srishti Prabha is the Managing Editor at India Currents and has worked in low-income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.