Shahnaz Husain, one of the first proponents of the concept of herbal beauty in India, has completed her 50 glorious years in the beauty industry. Shahnaz started off her first herbal beauty clinic in 1971 after her studies in cosmetology and cosmetic therapy. 

Her goal was to equip the women with a skincare regime that are specifically focused on catering to their individual needs, this method struck the right chords in the hearts of Indian women and that is why Shahnaz Husain continues to rule the beauty industry with her products and remedies. In 2006 Shahnaz was awarded 4th highest civilian honour, the Padma Shri and this was only the start, she further bagged many records and recognitions throughout her journey of 50 years and imprinted her name with gold letters on the pages of Indian history. 

Let us take a look at her journey and how she became one of the biggest names in the industry.

1. Sum up your entire journey from scratch till now.

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My mission was to take the Ayurvedic Beauty Movement to every corner of the globe. From one small herbal salon on the verandah of my home to 375 organic formulations and an international network of franchise salons and retail outlets, it is a phenomenal journey. Much more than I ever dreamed has come true.

2. What were some of the hurdles of your career?

Having adopted a totally new concept of herbal care and cures, I had to increase awareness of the healing powers of herbs and the dangers of chemical ingredients. So I started contributing articles in leading newspapers and magazines. I also made used to reply to letters personally that asked for a solution to skin and hair troubles.

Even after so many decades, I make it a point to publish regular columns with my home remedies and solutions for beauty problems. Entering the international market was the biggest challenge. I participated in the Festival of India in London in 1980 and was given a counter in the Perfumery Section at Selfridges. It was not easy.

I stood up and sold India’s ancient civilization in a jar and to everyone’s surprise, the entire consignment sold out in 3 days, breaking the store’s existing cosmetic sales records. Since then, The Shahnaz Husain Group has experienced a surge in the demand for more Ayurvedic and organic products in the entire world.

3. What/Who was your inspiration?

I think it was my independence of spirit that inspired me. It made me determined to achieve my dreams and step into the world of entrepreneurship. Apart from that, it was mainly my father who inspired me and motivated me to make my own trails.

In later stages of life, I learnt a lot about having faith in my own self is also very important and how I can do that. My father was the one who lent me Rs.35,000 to start my first clinic and that is why I always say, it is my father’s faith in me that lies behind my success.

4. How hard was it for you to establish your name as a woman entrepreneur in the beauty industry?

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Obstacles and hurdles come up in life, but I have tried to meet them as challenges, with my will to win, my unfading determination, and sheer hard work. Very few women had stepped into the career world when I started my career. I believed that one should never stop trying. If you never stop trying, you can not fail. I also believe that nothing is impossible. I do not believe in destiny. You can be what you will yourself to be. You can make your own destiny. There were social and economic hurdles too. But, I started in a small way.

Also, my creativity and spirit of innovation helped me to introduce a totally new concept of “Herbal Care and Cure.” My knowledge in cosmetology and cosmetic therapy helped me combine Ayurvedic ingredients and the latest cosmetic techniques and thus, formulate my own products. Being a woman in the beauty business made it easier for me, but I had to put in a great deal of hard work and creativity to introduce herbal beauty care and also to put India on the world map.

5. Did your family support you to kick start your journey? And how important is family support after all?

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As already mentioned, my father was a constant source of support. Also my family’s encouragement, support, and understanding made me what I am today. I also inherited my family’s faith in herbal remedies and natural beauty care. I feel that the family occupies a very important place, not only in my life but in the life of every woman. I would never have been able to achieve what I have, without the immense support of my family. The fact that I recognize the importance of the family is evident in the way I began my career by opening my first herbal clinic in my own home, so I was always at home when my children came back from school.

6. What were the most iconic trends started by you that continue to rule the industry?

As the pioneer of herbal beauty care, I am happy to say that it is herbal beauty care that has driven the growth of the beauty industry in India. There is no doubt that beauty care throughout India has been fashioned after the concepts and treatments devised by me. Beauty care according to individual needs was also a trend started by me. Having stressed the natural ingredients in my products and on the health of the skin and hair, I contributed to making people aware of the goodness of herbs and the damage caused by chemicals. Today’s Indian consumer is aware of the quality and the ingredients in products. Which helps them judge what is right and what is wrong for them.

7. Considering the rising levels of pollution and unhealthy lifestyles of people these days, what are your 5 go-to skin and hair remedies that you use.

Cleaning the skin thoroughly is the first and most important step as it helps to get rid of the impurities and pollutants that are deposited on the skin during the day. Use cleansers containing neem, tulsi, aloe vera. For dry skin, use half a cup of cold milk and mix it with five drops of any vegetable oil, like olive, sesame seed or sunflower oils. Put in a bottle and shake well. Clean you skin nicely with it, using a cotton pad. And store the rest of the mixture in the fridge.

Use a scrub once or twice a week for deep pore cleansing. Mix ground almonds with curd and a pinch of turmeric (Haldi). Use circular movements for better results. Wash off with plenty of plain water. For oily skin, take 100 ml rose water and mix one teaspoon pure glycerine. Keep a bottle in the fridge and use a little of this lotion to relieve dryness, without making the skin oily.

For dandruff, heat olive oil and apply on the scalp with cotton wool. Rub gently to dislodge the flakes. Soak the towel in hot water, wring the towel and wrap It around the head, like a turban. Keep it on for 5 minutes. Repeat the hot towel wrap 3 or 4 times. Leave the oil on overnight. If the hair is oily, use a hair rinse with Marigold (“Gainda” flowers). Add a handful of fresh or dried marigold flowers to four cups of hot water. Allow it to stand for 1 hour. Then strain the water to make your final rinse.

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8. How has the beauty industry evolved over the last 5 decades?

When I started my career five decades ago, no attention was paid to the health of the skin and hair and the potential dangers of chemical treatments. In fact, there was hardly any awareness of harmful effects, like sun-exposure, environmental pollutants, artificial heating and cooling, etc. The “back to nature” trend had not yet begun. Earlier the beauty industry in India, including the beauty services industry, was largely unorganized and fragmented. Only some basic beauty care products like cold cream and shampoo, as well as make-up products, were available.

When I pioneered the herbal / Ayurvedic beauty movement, I offered a totally new concept of customized beauty care, based on individual needs and problems. I used the powerful healing properties of plant ingredients and natural substances and adopted the principle of “Care & Cure.” Apart from general beauty care, I also introduced clinical treatments and therapeutic products for the treatment of specific skin and hair problems. Today, people are highly aware of beauty products and treatment. This has perhaps been the point of motivation for the youth to understand and follow fitness and beauty regimens.

Today’s Indian consumer is aware of the quality and the ingredients in products and wants to exercise this awareness by opting for high quality and safe herbal products. Many kinds of beauty products for every need are available. Personal care products for men, anti-ageing treatments and spa treatments have become part of the Beauty and Wellness business. Today, online sales of beauty products are important and Artificial Intelligence is guiding the choice of customized products online.

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9. Recall the best moment of your life and give us a message that working women should swear by?

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One of the best moments was when I spoke at Harvard Business School on how I established an international brand without commercial advertising. I became a Harvard Case Study for Brand Creation and now I am a Subject at Harvard and part of the curriculum for Business History and “Emerging Markets,” in recognition of the international market for Ayurvedic beauty care created by me.

A working woman is already an empowered woman because she is financially independent. So, she should have equal decision making power in the family. She is self-reliant and should be able to make her own choices and take her own decisions about her own life. Do not be afraid and have the confidence to fight against injustices. Do not endure and suffer in silence.

10. What are some pros and cons of modernisation of the beauty industry?

Today, there is a trend toward natural and organic beauty care. There is much more information available about cosmetic products and harmful ingredients. This has led to the increasing of awareness regarding certain ingredients in beauty products. For instance, today we are formulating products that are free from Parabens, Sulfates, Mineral Oil, and Synthetic Colours. We are combining traditional treatments with modern techniques to formulate more sophisticated and safer products.

Beauty care is offering a new level of botanical energy, with formulations that contain delicate blends of herbal and floral extracts and their essential oils. One of the cons of modernization is that some treatments have become popular due to fashion trends, like dyeing and colouring of the hair with chemical lotions. People also follow trends like straightening or curling the hair with heat applications or chemical lotions. Many go in for invasive anti-ageing treatments like Botox or cosmetic surgery, which can go wrong sometimes. Also, such treatments may have temporary effects. This means that one has to have it done repeatedly.

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