After self-care, “ritual” is really the word of the moment. While many are working from home and figuring out what it means to excel at helping their children learn virtually, moments of respite to recharge and restore are more important than ever. No one knows that better than Michelle Ranavat, whose eponymous beauty brand, Ranavat Botanics, is centered around ancient Indian beauty rituals with a modern twist. “I really believe that Ayurveda is for everyone,” she affirms. “I think there’s an incredible amount of knowledge and data that comes from these rituals that include the hair oiling and the Kansa wand, and our pre-wedding rituals as well. Growing up with all of those truly inspired me because they work.” Michelle combines these traditions and rituals with her background in STEM to make high-quality products that integrate and enhance the modern lifestyle.
Meet the Expert
Michelle Ranavat is the founder of Ranavat Botanics, which she launched in 2017. Before creating the brand, she spent most of her career in engineering.
Here, we talk to the Ravanat Botanics founder about how Indian beauty and its ingredients have gone mainstream, her thoughts on the Indian Matchmaking phenomenon, memories of her own wedding, and more.
Indian Wedding Beauty Traditions + Why Michelle Started The Brand
“I’ve gone through different phases of my life and in Ranavat, we call it ‘claiming your crown’,” Michelle affirms of her brand’s ethos. “Early on, putting oil on my hair and engaging in these rituals that I thought were normal because I grew up with them, they didn’t really fit in with the world I was living in. I grew up in the suburbs of Wisconsin and people just didn’t get it.” With the advent of the internet and social media, education of these rituals is growing daily, but neither existed during Michelle’s formative years. “So, I felt I couldn’t share them with the world at that time and that I had to keep a big separation,” she laments. “As the world has made a lot of progress, my idea of having the courage to share these rituals and my culture with others was my ‘claim your crown’ moment and it’s a way I show my passion because I felt like I couldn’t show this side of myself for so long. Now, it’s manifesting itself as Ranavat which blends everything together.”
How Indian Beauty and Its Ingredients Have Gone Mainstream + Global
Seeing the globalization of Indian beauty rituals feels amazing for Michelle. “That really was the goal from the beginning when I started Ranavat two years ago,” she reveals. “You couldn’t walk into a Sephora and see ashwagandha on the shelves there. Even turmeric which is so ubiquitous these days.” The first reason Michelle believes this has happened is because of the cultural beauty movement that very much started in a mainstream way with Japanese and Korean beauty brands. “Korean beauty isn’t just for Korean people, it’s for everyone,” she emphasizes. “I just felt really excited about that because it seems cultural beauty is something that has been embraced over the last few years and that was setting the stage for Indian beauty.”
It’s not just put a cream on and everything’s going to be fine. You’ve got to take that holistic approach and there’s been an embrace around that.
The other factor in this is the reemergence of the wellness movement. “We’re in the middle of this intersection of so many things,” Michelle stresses. “You’ve got Senator Kamala Harris, Indian Matchmaking, and other pop culture factors in the news and in life that are coming into play for Indian people. People are really falling into wellness to navigate this uncertain time with yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and self-care.” While mostly at home with a focus on the fragility of health, people are gaining a deeper understanding that how we move and feel all play into how we look. “It’s not just put a cream on and everything’s going to be fine,” Michelle asserts. “You’ve got to take that holistic approach and there’s been an embrace around that. Then you tie it all into the cultural beauty wave and all signs are pointing to India, Ayurveda, and curiosity about the culture.”
Michelle's Own Wedding + Her Thoughts on the Indian Matchmaking Phenomenon
“I wanted to have more of a traditional wedding,” Michelle says of her ceremony ten years ago. “I married a South Asian guy, so it wasn’t about blending two cultures as we came from the same culture. When I saw my mom’s wedding, I realized there are a million little things, like putting a lemon in your skirt to ward off bad spirits and others.” The same way “something borrowed, something blue” exists in Western and American cultures, Indian people have their own traditions as well. “Your mother’s brother walks you down the aisle—my mom’s brother lives in India and he flew in to do that part of the ceremony which was super special,” Michelle recalls. “I wanted to keep all those things traditional because I feel like my normal day-to-day is modern. This was my moment to be that demure Indian bride and I was all about that. It was another way I could express my culture.” Michelle also wore a sari and a net red veil that was gifted to her by her mother-in-law. “I also wore traditional jewelry and it was all such a good memory,” she reminisces. “Because I thought when can I ever do this again? I just wanted to live my wildest Indian wedding dreams.”
And speaking of weddings, we had to bring up the hottest show on the Internet right now that is all about them: Indian Matchmaking. “Here the thing: I think a lot of Indian people think there’s a mockery being made of what arranged marriage is,” Michelle emphasizes. “But my view is that it’s accurate and sometimes it’s hard to see your culture push for things you don’t stand for. The fairness mentions and the superficiality of it all are disheartening, but that’s the truth. Sometimes you’ve got to see your culture on Netflix in an entertaining format to realize some of the deep-set emotional and physical prejudices that exist.” On the other hand, it enforces a lot of things Michelle says she learned about matchmaking growing up. “Online dating wasn’t so prevalent before and now, even when you think about Western culture here, one would say that the dating apps are superficial. And when you look at it, it’s almost a similar filtering and vetting process to what is done in matchmaking.” Michelle always thought of matchmaking as the final effort after all other resources had been exhausted. “And now seeing it, I thought if I was single right now, I would be open to this concept,” she admits. “I think the problems people are seeing in it should be talked about and exposed, even if they’re things we’re not proud of. I think it’s a necessary conversation and it brings India and the history of who we are to the forefront which I think is important. If you’re going to get who I am—even if the series doesn’t define me—I am so all for it because it brings us all closer together.”
Indian Weddings Today + How Traditions Are Changing During the Public Health Crisis
“In Indian culture—and South Asian culture in general—more is more,” Michelle confesses. “If you’re going to do a wedding, people want the five days because without the people, what do you have? Indian weddings are some of the largest.” Michelle had 350 people and that was a small wedding—she had to do significant work on cutting the guest list down. “Indian weddings are so focused on opulence and the guest list that includes inviting every single person or you can never face them again,” Michelle only slightly jokes. “A cousin of mine just got married and people are not doing it for the opulence now, but for the love. Now we’re being forced to think of the two things that matter most of all which are the two people making that commitment. It’s not really a trim down in that Indian people are ok with having five people in the park.” Michelle’s cousin didn’t wear an Indian outfit, but instead a beautiful white dress. “It was really lowkey and not very traditional, but I think they will go back and have the traditional ceremony,” she guesses. “Within the Indian community with all the things you’d have to do, it’s kind of hard to do a trimmed down version.”
What's Next For Ranavat?
After all that has happened in 2020 and what is still yet to come for the year’s remainder, Ranavat is digging deeper into ritual. “Personally, I’ve seen so many people connect with Ranavat,” Michelle exclaims. “You can’t travel to India right now, but here’s a way to enjoy some of those traditions at home and feel really nourished in the process. One thing we’re releasing quite soon is a facial polish, hopefully in mid-September. It's not overwhelming in terms of scent profile, but it’s the right goldilocks sensation and it digs deep into Ayurvedic traditions.” It’s brimming with traditional, skin-boosting ingredients like ashwagandha, chlorophyll, lotus seed, and so many other amazing ingredients. “They all tie into the importance of exfoliation and it’s a beautiful addition to your cleansing ritual.”
Ranavat Is All About Self-Care: Here's How Michelle Does It At Home
“The kansa wand has been this dynamite, interesting experience because we launched it almost a year and half ago when I was in India,” Melissa explains of her iteration on the ancient Indian beauty tool. “I was roaming this bazaar and I found this thing that I realized came out even before the jade roller. It’s a facial massage tool and it has copper on the tip.
It’s made to be used with our Radiant Rani Serum, which is made with saffron, turmeric, and all these brightening botanical ingredients.” So, you massage the serum into your skin with the Kansa wand, and the copper balances it out. “It’s so relaxing, super unique, and intuitive to use,” Michelle confirms. “People have really been turning to it, including myself. It’s allowing us to take care of ourselves and get the skin benefits in a super relaxing way. That ritual has been doing well and I think it really encapsulates what Ranavat’s all about.” It’s preserving a facial massage tradition that has been around for thousands of years.
Hair oiling is another “claim your crown” moment for Ranavat. “I’ve seen so many people connect with this because we’re working from home and you can throw on a hair mask without worrying if you have oil on your hair for a few hours,” Michelle states. “It also allows you to extend time in between haircuts, as going to the salon may not be an option for everyone. It’s a great way to maintain your hair and I’ve been so much better about doing it consistently. I’ve been seeing amazing results.” Hair oiling is Ayurvedic and backed by science, but also culturally driven. “It’s a time when grandmothers connect with their granddaughters, as they’re the ones massaging the oil in."