Revisiting Ancient Skincare and Haircare Practices for Winter in India

Revisiting Ancient Skincare and Haircare Practices for Winter in India

We all love healthy and flawless skin, don’t we? The concept of beauty is as old as mankind and civilization. Right from using sandalwood and turmeric for skin care, applying Henna for nourishing the hair and using natural oils for fragrance, the age-old skincare practices in India boasts of medicinal herbs and spices found and treasured from different regions of the country.

Going back in time, as you flip through the stories of ancient skincare customs, there are excerpts of how the Mughal empress Noorjahan, became synonymous with Rooh Gulab due to her luxurious skin-pampering regime with rose oil and how the Princess of Travancore indulged in a hair care ritual using herbal water and paste made of exotic leaf extracts.

As winter slowly takes its stride and we embrace chilled mornings and nights, our head is flooded with nostalgic memories of advertisements of Vaseline, Ponds, Vicco Turmeric and many more we came across during our childhood. Though there are plenty of options available in the market, we always go back to our grandmothers and mothers asking for remedies, don’t we? Be it the struggle with dry hair, chapped lips or cracked soles – our nanis never runs out of tried and tested nuskas!

Cracking the code of skincare and haircare regimes from the foothills of the Himalayas to the land of Ayurveda, Ciceroni spoke to women from different cultures and geographies of India to understand their age-old practices. The topography of any region determines the food, clothes, rituals and practices. While we spoke to different people, the common narrative was to go back to regional oils, masks and packs for everyone. Interestingly, Luxury Ayurveda trend is being captured and promoted by few home-grown brands to cater to this enlightened consumers who want to delve in nostalgia but with ease.


Revisiting her beauty regime, Lakshmi Gairola, a teacher and a native of Uttarakhand narrated her childhood memories saying “I remember no one used soaps back then. We used the fine sedimentary soil available on the banks of river Ganga to cleanse and scrub ourselves. As winters are usually too severe in our region, our ancestors believed in putting 2-3 drops of mustard oil to the naadi to combat winter sickness.” Addressing the most common issue of dull and dry hair during winters, she further added saying “A Himalayan herb called “Baal Jhad” is used in our region to keep the hair nourished and hydrated. They are often found in the forests in the form of roots and are immersed in a bottle filled with oil (preferably coconut oil) and is kept in the sun for at least 10-15 days. Known for its medicinal properties, the oil slowly turns red in few days and that’s when it is ready to use.”

Ciceroni Recommends: If you haven’t had the chance to indulge in this holistic experience, we recommend you to try Purearth’s Wild Rose Himalayan Mist which will be your skin’s best friend if you have a dry skin! You can use the Himalayan Salt Body Polish by Purearth to exfoliate and detox your skin.


Payal Sharma, a medical coder from Haryana, took us through the skincare and haircare rituals of her mother saying “My mother believes that our skin is what we eat. She dips a medicinal herb called ‘Chirata to water overnight and drinks that water every morning to keep the body cleansed on the inside. As the skin is prone to dryness during winters, she applies the fresh milk cream to her face and uses homemade ghee to keep the lips hydrated.” Quoting her mother’s haircare routine, she added saying “To keep the natural oils in place, she uses a powder that includes boiled Hibiscus flowers, amla, shikakai and coconut oil that can be applied on the hair as a mask twice a week.”

Ciceroni Recommends: Fused with natural ingredients and easy to make, this hair mask should be a part of your haircare ritual too! If you are too lazy, you can also opt for the Natural Hair Protein Pack by Ancient Living or the Moroccan Rhassoul Clay and Rosemary Scalp Mask by Soap Square to leave your hair nourished.


Letting us in on the beauty rituals followed by her ancestors during winter, Sarangthem Pinky Devi, a Manipuri school teacher explains “During my grandmother’s childhood days, she used to wash her hair with rice water mixed with herbs such as Amla, Goat Weed, Wood Sorrel, Dandelion, Dicotyledon, China rose leaves, Lalukok and Brahmi along with oil extracted from Perilla Seeds. Using rice water to strengthen hair isn’t new. It dates back to the ancient Heian period in Japan, when court ladies were known to have beautiful, long hair that sweeped the floor.” Speaking of skincare ingredients used at her home, she added saying “Heibi Mana, a medicinal herbal plant is applied on the face for cleansing.”

Ciceroni Recommends: Get your hair hydrated with the Hydrating Clay and Aloe Hair Polish by Earth Origin or you can go for the Turkish Rose and Mint Shampoo and Conditioner by Global Beauty Secrets to enrich your hair.


“Boroline Aspoline Erili.. Mukhot kiba kibi ghohili…O..Boroline Aspoline Erili..”, the popular Bihu song “Boroline Aspoline” sung by Zubeen Garg narrates how girls have moved beyond skincare brands like Boroline and Aspoline with changing time. Kabyashree Borgohain, a native of Assam and Co-Founder Project Otenga Ahmedabad taking us through her skincare journey said “Boroline and Aspoline were quite famous during those times. Be it for cuts and wounds or to heal chapped lips and cracked soles. I also remember using a lot of mustard oil with Assam’s local aromatic herbs like chives, neem, turmeric, cloves, garlic pods for both skin and hair.” Elaborating further on home made face masks, she said “Assamese women also use paste of red lentils (masoor dal) with a little honey, curd or tomato paste to keep the skin glowing and blemish free.”

Ciceroni Recommends: Do try this homemade made face mask at home! Also, you can shop the Facial Ubtan Soundarya by Forest Essentials or Dr. Sheth’s Rosehip & Retinoid Power Emulsion to brighten and depigment your skin.


Gujarat’s battle with humidity and dry air has been a very long one. Reminiscing her skincare memories from her childhood days, Falguni Patel, Head – Strategy and Operations at Ciceroni, who has her roots in Gujarat narrated “To begin with, I remember ghee was the only legit source of moisturising back when I was a child – be it for chapped lips, cracked heels or scratchy elbows. Alternatives were to apply besan pack ( yes, we love besan in all forms ) with turmeric and fresh malai for face and get sesame oil massage done for body. Then came in packaged cold creams like Nivea, ponds and Charmis that filled the dresser of every household. The influx of Body Shop, Victoria Secrets, Bath and Body Works, Cetaphil was at a much later stage when economy boomed in India and its availability became easier.”

Ciceroni Recommends: Choose the Turmeric and Saffron Cream by Ohria or use the Rose Coconut Scrub by Olixir to provide extraordinary smoothness, suppleness and radiance to the skin.

Andhra Pradesh

Treasuring and cherishing the skincare secrets passed on to her from her grandmother and mother, Bathena Taraja Reddy, a native of Andhra Pradesh, elaborating the ancient skincare practices said “My grandmother is very beautiful. During her childhood, she had cows in her backyard and they churned out fresh milk every day to make ghee which was used to keep the skin supple and nourished. I remember her telling me that it is important to drink warm water with lemon and honey every morning to keep the skin clear. Highlighting the winter skincare routine, she shared, “During winters, she always looked up to Afghan Snow, arguably India’s first cold cream. She says that applying a mixture of coarse besan along with homegrown turmeric weekly twice can help one get rid of excess dead skin. She washed her face with neem water due to its antibacterial properties and applied turmeric and honey to the face to keep it hydrated.”

Ciceroni Recommends: Jwalini Retexturising Skin Treatment Oil by Kama Ayurveda is formulated from natural herbs that are processed in pure Coconut milk and Sesame oil to keep the skin smooth and soft. Keep your skin hydrated throughout the winter with Pahadi Local’s Gutti Ka Tel.


Hailing from India’s Ayurvedic capital, Narayani Menon, a Retired Medical Administrator- Central Railway, took us down the memory lane narrating instances from her childhood. Elaborating on one of them she said “My mother used to ensure we took bath in the kollam as according to Ayurveda; it is believed taking bath in a flowing river increases the blood flow and keeps the body healthy. We were to wake at 5 am every morning, apply coconut oil and then go to the kollam.” She further explained that “As coconut is part of every Keralian’s staple diet, we used to mash the coconut pulp with our hands and use it instead of soap. A special scrub preparation was also made at home that included the coir (coconut peel) Inja (herbal tree skin used to adorn the idol at Sabarimala Temple), Turmeric, Rakta Chandanam (Red Sandalwood) and Vaga (herbal tree skin is adorned on Krishna at Guruvayur Temple).” Adding on to the haircare ritual, she elucidated “We even today apply taali every week which is a paste of Hibiscus leaves and water to ensure the hair retains its natural oils and shine.”

Ciceroni Recommends: Pure Jamaican Black Castor Oil by Anveya encapsulates the Jamaican black castor seed oil which is known to be an age-old secret for hair growth or you could go for the Bringaraj Deep Hair Treatment Oil by Deyga for a hot oil champi!

Ancient skin and hair care practices may have been outdated for long, but there’s no better time to go back to your roots. The next time you feel the need to shop your heart out for Winter, be sure to keep this list handy as it holds a roadmap to healthy hair and skin that can be passed to generations.

Aishwarya Menon

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