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Losing a Friend to Cancer at 21, Woman Starts Natural, Vegan Skin Care Brand

Delhi-based Nandeeta Manchandaa started Enn’s Closet, a natural, vegan, and cruelty-free skin care brand that aims to promote natural and homegrown alternatives to big, chemical-based beauty brands.

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Skincare brands often know how to zero in on your deepest insecurities to convince you that something or the other about your body can be fixed, changed, modified or removed altogether. Moreover, big beauty brands can be misleading — something that you think is natural and healthy could potentially increase the risk of skin cancer.

Delhi-based Nandeeta Manchandaa was a first-hand witness to this while completing her undergraduate degree in the US. “One of my friends was diagnosed with skin cancer at a very early age — she was just 21. I used to accompany her for her therapies and treatments, and the dermatologist told us that the products that she had been using were a contributing factor,” Nandeeta recalls in conversation with The Better India. “Any sort of chemical that builds up in your body can trigger cancer. He advised us to start carefully reading the labels of whatever products we were using and look out for anything that could ‘stay’ on the skin.”

In 2010, Nandeeta returned to India with this thought in mind. She got married shortly after and opened her salon. Here, after noticing the chemical bleaches and hair products that she was using on her customers, she decided to launch a few natural products of her own. This step sowed the seed of starting a full-fledged natural beauty business in her mind.

“It wasn’t as though the idea came about overnight. It involved a lot of personal evolution as a consumer,” she notes.

Years of interacting with and understanding her customers in the salon, her own experiences, and research formed the basis of what today is Enn’s Closet — a range of vegan, natural and hand-made skin and hair care products launched in 2018. These products are SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and paraben-free, cruelty-free, and aim to “put your health first”.

organic skincare
Enn’s Closet’s products are hand-made, natural, and cruelty-free (Source: Nandeeta Manchandaa)

‘Be mindful of what you put on your skin’

“I’ve been a beauty aficionado for as long as I can remember, and I’d like to give my grandmother credit for this. At home, we’d pick up whatever was left on the breakfast table to apply on our hair or face — be it curd, banana, coffee, lemon, or wheat flour. We’ve been following these home remedies for years now, which is what I wanted to incorporate in my brand,” Nandeeta says.

Speaking about how exactly she does this, and providing more insight into Enn’s product range, Nandeeta says, “We started with a range of natural lipsticks. A lot of the lipstick you wear is ingested in small amounts, so our idea was to offer a safe alternative to chemical-based products. We eventually diversified to clay masks.”

Today, Enn’s has a range of over 60 products for the skin, hair, lips and eyes.

“One of our products is our About to Glow 100 Times Washed Ghee, which is infused with saffron. It’s a moisturiser that has the consistency of whipped butter, created with a traditional Indian method by placing ghee (clarified butter) in a copper vessel and mixing it with purified saffron-infused water and washing it a 100 times,” she explains. “We have tried to include most well-known ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, keratin and silk protein, coconut milk, flax seeds, amla (Indian Gooseberry) and reetha (Indian Soapberry) to name a few. A majority of our ingredients come from sellers who are specially certified to sell natural ingredients. Fruits, butter, vegetables, flowers that are used in the product are sourced directly from the farmers these sellers have a tie-up with.”

organic skincare
Enn’s Closet has over 60 products for the skin, lips, hair and eyes. (Source: Nandeeta Manchandaa)

“We recently launched a sleeping mask with blue tansy oil, which helps with inflammation and irritated skin. Of course, we also add Vitamin C and A to our products. Bhimraj oil has also proven to be effective for the hair,” she adds.

These days, hyaluronic acid is a growing fad, but consumers must understand that it needs to be paired with a good moisturiser, Nandeeta notes. She says they’re currently researching copper peptide, which is good for under the eye. Other ingredients include potato starch and banana peels.

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“When you keep using chemically-derived products, you’ll notice that over the years, your skin will thin out. It’s important to use them mindfully. So Enn’s Closet tries to offer natural alternatives to these. Chemical products can give you fast results, but the long-term effects are severe. In the case of natural products, you may see the results slowly, but it won’t be harmful,” she explains. “These are some things we want our customers to know.”

To keep in line with their idea of sustainability, Enn’s Closet packs most of its products in glass jars, and the packaging is done with paper and biodegradable bags. Around 70 per cent of their work is done manually, which saves electricity and increases employment opportunities.

Enn’s Closet has a website and tie-ups with Nykaa and Amazon. They receive around 2,000 orders a month. Before COVID-19, the company used to do pop-ups, which have since been put on hold. Hers is a completely bootstrapped venture.

organic skincare
Nandeeta was only 27 when she started Enn’s Closet (Source: Nandeeta Manchandaa)

‘How you feel within matters most’

Coming to her journey as a young woman who started a business of her own, Nandeeta says, “When I returned from the US to India, e-commerce was not the thriving industry it is today. Back then, there was just Snapdeal. When I started, I was only 27 years old and was perceived as this young, naive girl. Vendors would try to take advantage of that and quote higher prices. Sometimes the sample I’d receive from a vendor would be good at first but then the quality would deteriorate after I made the payment. But being a woman worked in my favour many times — I could connect with my audience and understand them better. Now I’m taken a lot more seriously while negotiating and discussing,” she says.

“At the onset of the pandemic, things became very tough for us. All the launches were put on hold, our manufacturers couldn’t continue working, we weren’t able to experiment or source packaging, and travel restrictions made things harder for us to procure our ingredients. Things stabilised a bit later, but amid the second wave, these issues have returned,” she notes.

On what advice she would give to those looking to make a shift to natural products, Nandeeta says, “Give natural products time to show their results. The long-term benefits are worth the wait. I’d also say — start believing in Indian brands. There’s a misconception and lack of trust when it comes to our homegrown products as compared to foreign ones.”

organic skincare
“Give natural products time to show their results. The long-term benefits are worth the wait,” says Nandeeta. (Source: Nandeeta Manchandaa)

She adds, “The perspective of beauty varies, and you just need to be the best version of yourself. The colour of your skin, whether you have pigmentation or other factors, don’t define you. I have so much pigmentation which I know is never going away but I’m comfortable in my skin, which I think is what matters most. Everyone has something that nobody else does, and in a world full of judgmental eyes, this idea is lost. Your inner strength, mental well-being, and how you feel within matter just as much.”

To women looking to start their own businesses, she says, “Go with your gut. Follow it blindly. Hundreds of people will try to put you down, but if you don’t walk the journey on your own, you’ll never know. Before I started Enn’s, I’d got a job in New York, which offered to pay me well. But I knew in my heart that I wanted to be back home and start something of my own. I think I’ve done okay. So as long as you’re following your gut or passion, you will be too.”

Edited by Yoshita Rao

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