"The actual definition of ritual is 'a simple act of devotion,' which is cool way to think about prioritizing yourself and how skincare falls into that."
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BEAUTY BOSS: Ranavat/Michelle Ranavat
Credit: Courtesy of Ranavat/ InStyle

It's a common scenario: after a long day, you begrudgingly, haphazardly wash your face because you know not to go to bed with makeup on. You go through the motions of your routine — but you don't enjoy it — you're just thinking about your warm and cozy bed.

Michelle Ranavat wants to change how you approach skincare. Instead of it being a chore, she wants you to think about your routine as a ritual; a moment of indulgence for your skin and caring your overall mental state. That's the MO of her brand Ranavat, the first Ayurvedic skincare brand to launch at Sephora.

The formulas are inspired by the rituals of ancient Indian royalty, and hone the power of scientifically-proven Ayurvedic ingredients such as saffron, turmeric, and ashwagandha. And the gold lid jars and jewel-toned bottle packaging are just as luxe and regal.

Ahead, Ranavat shares the importance of having a skincare ritual, what makes Ayurvedic ingredients like saffron so special, and more.

What inspired you to start Ranavat?

Many of my life experiences have culminated in the starting of the brand, which frankly don't really have too much to do with beauty or skincare, but so much to do with the nuts and bolts of creating a beauty brand. My parents immigrated from India in the '70s and come from a long line of chemists. After being laid off, my dad started his own business, which is ingredient sourcing. He sources raw materials, peptides, amino acids, all of these building blocks of life and compounds that go into different research and development for drug manufacturing. I have two different engineering degrees, one in undergrad in industrial engineering and a master's in engineering science. After graduation, I ended up working at Lehman Brothers, which ultimately went bankrupt. When that happened, I decided to join my dad's entrepreneurial journey and worked with him for six years. 

When I had two kids, I started to do a lot of the incredible postpartum rituals and leaned into a lot of the Ayurvedic, whether it be modalities or ingredients. And just those traditions kind of came alive for me. I was also entering my mid-thirties and was really thinking about my skin. I realized no one was authentically unitizing the Ayurvedic ingredients. At that time, you could find a turmeric mask on the shelf, but you didn't really know why the ingredient was being used and its cultural significance. I starting thinking about how to elevate this experience of what we've seen for thousands of years. And my answer was quality ingredient sourcing and really thinking about the manufacturing and development of the product. And so, I wanted to kind of create my own spin on that and bring it to life.

What is the Indian approach to skincare and how do you infuse it into your products?

All of it is based on the science of Ayurveda, which literally means the science of life — it is the entire basis for modern medicine as we know it. Ayurveda is actually quite medicinal and scientific in terms of the studies that are conducted and the ingredients used. There are actual Ayurvedic doctors and tons of literature. So there's this entire science that I think in India or South Asia in general, there's a holistic approach to treatments. For example, if someone has acne, it's not just about minimizing the acne, but thinking about where might it be coming from. From an ingredient perspective, it's thinking about what ingredients were available at the time and how they could be used. That's how the whole concept of adaptogens was born, and the idea of ingredients that help our body cope and reduce stress.

There are a lot of major concepts that have come out of Ayurveda that are relevant today. Some have been used a lot, but now the idea is to connect the dots for people so they understand that so many things that work for them have been born out of Ayurveda — we've only just scratched the surface on what we can do for the skin with this discipline. 

Saffron is a hero ingredient in many of Ranavat's products. Why did you want to use it across the line?

We invested in saffron because it's such an incredible ingredient for the skin. However, it's super expensive. In order for someone to really be able to heroize that ingredient, they have to use a pretty significant amount, which is challenging given the price of saffron. However, I really believe in its properties for brightening the skin and calming inflammation. Outside of that, the significance is pretty huge when it comes to calming the mind and reducing stress.

There's also a lot of cultural significance that goes along with it. Saffron is a symbol of purity, so that's why monks wear saffron-colored robes in India. When you go to a temple, oftentimes, you mix a paste of saffron and put it on your forehead to symbolize that. It's about letting go of all the worries you have in the regular world and putting your mental space into the temple for the time that you're there. As a skincare line, I was drawn to the results, but the cultural benefits and history are also really rich.

Why do you think skincare should be approached as ritual rather than a routine?

You want the skincare benefits to be there, but creating a connection, whether it's the scent or the history that's really bringing you back every time you use the products, is when you see the true results. It's also about having a consistent ritual you enjoy doing. The actual definition of ritual is "a simple act of devotion," which is a cool way to think about prioritizing yourself and how skincare falls into that. But it's also about overall mental health and investing in yourself. 

Every has difference skincare needs, but what is one product from the line that should be in everyone's ritual?

It has to be the Brightening Saffron Serum. It's my everyday, two-times-a-day product, but I think everyone can benefit from it because it makes such a big difference in terms of overall evening the complexion. I think we do it better because saffron and turmeric not only have natural vitamin C, but they have something called the keratinoid, which is much more stable and can fight hyperpigmentation.

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This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

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