Aavrani Was Created to Celebrate the Duality of Indian and American Beauty Cultures

The brand was a catalyst for founder Rooshy Roy to reconnect with her roots.

BEAUTY BOSS: Aavrani Beauty
Photo: Courtesy of Aavrani Beauty

For many entrepreneurs, starting a business is a deeply personal journey — this rings especially true if the business is rooted in the culture with which you are trying to reconnect.

Roughly 40 million first-generation Americans live in the United States, including Rooshy Roy. Her parents immigrated from Kolkata to Detroit in 1986, then had and raised Rooshy in Michigan. Over a Zoom call with InStyle, she shares how that duality of being Indian and American, with one foot in each culture, is what inspired her to create her skincare brand Aavrani.

"The strongest contrast in that lifestyle was the approach to beauty," she tells us. "In the US, we're inundated with false promises and claims around miracles in a jar and overnight transformations — all these kinds of quick fixes and senses of instant gratification. Whereas in India, we created our own beauty treatments at home using ingredients from our kitchens like turmeric, rosewater, and neem. It's very much the pursuit of skin health and what's actually good for you."

Despite having her extended family in India and visiting every year, while Roy was growing up in the US, all she wanted was to fit in with her peers. As is the case with many first-generation and foreign children growing up in the States, Roy started shedding bits of her Indian identity to assimilate with the crowd. One example is that in 4th grade, she stopped eating with her fingers as soon as my turmeric-stained fingernails were deemed 'disgusting' by others. "Everyone at school was wearing glitter and getting highlights — my parent didn't let me do that," she tells InStyle.

By the time Roy graduated from college, she felt proud of how much she'd disassociated from her roots. She started a career in finance and said there wasn't room for culture — only occasionally would she feel a hint of longing for it and guilt for leaving it behind.

However, that began to pivot in 2017 when she started business school. As fate would have it, she met her co-founder, Justin Silver, on the second day of school. They got to talking and he shared his experience in investing in Tatcha and how its founder, Vicky Tsai, brought Japanese rituals to the US skincare market in a luxury format.

"That's when my mind just exploded, like, 'this is it,'" she tells us. "I started telling him all about the ingredients and rituals I grew up with — they're so sacred to our culture that hadn't yet been popularized in the US either."

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So, she and Silver launched Aavrani. Everything about the brand is very intentional, from the bold bright blue packaging and the user-friendly website to the ingredients and formulations. Of course, it started with the name.

"I started with the word Rani because that means queen in Hindi, Bangla, and a lot of Indian languages. And then, Justin's one piece of feedback for me was that in his investing experience, companies that get more time and attention are on the top half of the alphabet as lists are listed in alpha order by default — even the NASDAQ ticker symbols." So, they went with a double "A" at the beginning, which fit in culturally as that combo is common in India, and then they went down the alphabet to find a letter to connect it to "Rani."

As with the name, Roy says that the whole brand is a balance of culture and smart business thinking. As a former investment banker, the latter comes naturally to her. Connecting to her culture and creating an authentic Indian American brand has been more challenging, and she's learned a lot about herself and her heritage.

"Aavrani has almost served as the catalyst for that journey," she admits. "[At first] it was all based on what I thought other people loved about the culture or what other people would expect to see out of an Indian beauty brand because I didn't have that connection to draw inspiration from."

In 2019, after completing her MBA, she moved to New York and spent a year to really think about her interpretation of her culture. She shares that doing so made her question how it made her feel, what parts of it made her the proudest, and what parts of it made her feel ashamed — and why.

"I realized that my experience with India was so singular and specific to my grandparents in India —It was always in the context of my family," Roy says. "And so to create even my own interpretation, it was very challenging, but also freeing. I realized I had so many blockers of pain or shame, as it relates to wanting to fit in and kind of disassociating from the culture my whole life. I had to re-explore that and visit it in a way that I never would've unless this company and this endeavor forced me to do it."

Toward the end of the interview, we began to talk about how immigrant parents in the US may feel while watching their children disassociate from their culture, and then, reconnect with it. It's an emotional subject, and tears start pouring down cheeks on both sides of the Zoom screen. Roy shares how when formulating the brand's turmeric mask, she went through 16 iterations of the formula, which was based on her grandmother's recipe. "When I finally had the guts to show my mom the final version, she opened it, smelled it, and her eyes started watering up and she was like, 'This smells like home.'"

Every Aavrani product is just as intentional and equally as meaningful. Yes, it's a skincare brand, but it's so much more. It's about reconnecting with a culture that felt lost to you for a while, it's about living between what runs through your blood and the future you build for yourself, it's about ritual, it's about intention, it's about home — however you define that. And while that may sound loaded for those who haven't experienced a cultural identity journey, know that Aavrani will also clear your skin, make it brighter, and in the long run, it'll be healthier, too.

Shop Aavrani Skincare Products

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Glow Activating Exfoliator

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Both Roy and her mother love this mask and consider it one of their favorite products from the line. It can act as an exfoliating cleanser, but if you leave it on the skin for a few minutes, it acts as a radiance-boosting mask. Infused with turmeric, neem oil, and raw honey, it brightens dull skin, balances uneven skin tones, and gently exfoliates the top layer of skin.

02 of 05

Balance Restoring Serum

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Roy calls this serum "a real game-changer" in her skincare routine as it helps the skin retain moisture and, therefore, strengthens the skin barrier. It's a gentle, alcohol-free formula that uses clarifying ingredients such as tea tree oil, witch hazel, and chamomile flowers.

03 of 05

Healing Rose Clay Mask

aavrani founder interview

Unlike other clay masks that can make your face feel tight and itchy, this one dries softly and soothes the skin. Each jar has 6,000 distilled Bulgarian rose petals that are mixed with saffron, pomegranate, and rose clay. Together, they help draw out impurities, replenish damaged skin, and make it feel soft, too.

04 of 05

Purifying Oil Cleanser

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Formulated with ingredients such as sandalwood, camellia flowers, and aloe extract, this cleansing oil is soothing and effective at removing all traces of makeup and debris.

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Eye Rejuvenating Elixir

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Minimize the appearance of dark circles and tired-looking eyes with this restorative eye serum. It stimulates collagen production thanks to ingredients such as vitamin E, rose water, and avocado oil.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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