Interview by Mibu Minami
My first encounter with Ruharoma was at the Earth Collective Organic and Lifestyle Market at Sunder Nursery. Displayed were a variety of beautiful soaps and skin care products with a unique combination of ingredients and aromas. All natural and earth conscious being the common thread to all the vendors at the market, I was interested to know a little more about the brand and reached out to founder Juhi via email to ask about her inspirations and philosophy behind the brand.
Mangoli Mag (MM): All of Ruharoma’s skincare products, from soaps to oils, balms and mists are 100% natural and environment friendly. Can you tell us in detail?
Juhi: My primary focus with Ruharoma is to source plant-based, natural and locally sourced ingredients which work effectively and give the best results. Ruharoma is completely free from parabens, sulfates, phthalates, synthetic additives, fragrances or micas. I source cold pressed oils, unrefined butters, earth clays, roots and botanicals which build the foundation for most of my products. I definitely believe in the traditional methods of skincare formulation which involve natural infusions, maceration, extractions, and decoction. Some of my favourite infusions include calendula, rose, hibiscus and chamomile infusion for our Calendula Chamomile Body Oil, and coffee grounds infusion for our Coffee & Shea Body Butter, lip balm and sugar scrubs. My cold processed soaps include a wide array of infusions such as Sandalwood, Coffee, Turmeric, Manjistha, and much more. For aroma or scent, I formulate and experiment with pure essential oil blends and my soaps are coloured with natural earth clays or powders. This helps bring out their healing, calming & aromatic properties. In terms of sustainability, I always package my products in reusable glass jars or bottles which is a necessary step towards reducing plastic waste. Palm oil is a strict no-no considering its devastating effects through deforestation on our environment. Ruharoma is currently a small batch, home-based business with the sole intention of providing natural and eco-friendly skincare alternatives at affordable prices.
MM: Your products are beautiful to look at too. Just looking at your soaps, the swirls of color and the aromas make it almost good enough to eat! But you do not use any synthetic fragrances or colours. How do you get such beautiful colors and aromas to come alive naturally?
Juhi: Yes, this is quite the beauty of traditional cold process soap making from scratch unlike melt and pour soaps! They are choc-full of luxurious, natural ingredients, but are crafted in small batches, using oils, butters, clays, herbs and essential oils. It gives me the freedom to combine art and science to make something so beautiful. I usually extract colours from roots, earth clays or powders. When I first began experimenting, I was truly in awe to see how bright colour combos can be attained through simple, grounded, clays from the Earth. The cleansing and exfoliating properties of these clays is an added benefit to my soaps. For instance, I reach for Rose Clay or Pink Clay to derive pink colour, bright red from Manjistha, yellow from Turmeric infusion in my oils, brown from cocoa powder, so on and so forth. Each batch of soap starts with a preparation of oils, butters, essential oil blends and clays for my colour palette. The proportion/consistency of these oils and butters is measured depending on how intricate and complicated I want the design/pattern for the soap to be. For design and texture, I prefer simple yet elegant ones. This can be broken down to a combination of hanger swirls, drop swirls, pot swirl, plain, geometric or layered. I like keeping the soap surface rough and raw, the way it is traditionally meant to be. Micas/pigments and artificial fragrances will never be a part of my soaps as they are synthetically processed with no clear indication of their ingredients and how irritating they can be to the skin. To ensure that my soaps are non-irritating and maintain their aroma-therapeutic properties, I keep my essential oil proportion to a minimum. The soaps are then hand-cut into bars and left to cure for 4-6 weeks which strengthens, solidifies and combines all the nourishing properties of oils, butters and clays to be finally enjoyed by our customers!
MM: What was the inspiration to start natural and environment friendly skincare line?
Juhi: I struggled with acne/dry skin issues my entire life and slowly came to realize that a lot of commercially available skincare products I was regularly using, contain harmful and often irritating ingredients which can lead to breakouts, rashes and irritation. Also, my daughter’s skin sensitive issues lead me to online forums and YouTube videos of other skincare formulators. Ruharoma truly came to form in 2018 after years of researching through books, Ayurvedic recipes, online forums, aromatherapy practices, YouTube videos, and much more. I taught myself how to make healing balms, salves, butters, natural deodorants and mild soaps which would suit me and my daughter’s skin. These were my first creations, which I subsequently expanded to include more variety of products. I was amazed at how effective, multi-purpose, and safe plant-based ingredients can be. This really pushed me forward to pursue this venture further and build a platform for more people to gain access to natural and eco-friendly skincare at affordable prices in India.
MM: You focus on low waste packaging, tell us more about it.
Juhi: Going low waste is a crucial responsibility for any brand considering the vast and devastating impact of plastic packaging on our environment. I think a major part of it comes from the age-old tradition of saving, re-using and recycling which has been an inherent routine in Indian households. I began Ruharoma with the aim to ditch plastic bottles/jars and replace them with glass containers, which can be easily sanitized and re-used by customers to store spices, skincare, jewellery or anything they’d like. Our soaps are packaged in re-usable cloth bags, and only corrugated sheets are used to wrap our glass containers. No bubble wraps or foams, whatsoever.
MM: What are your inspirations to create new formulas for your products? What are your favorite Ruharoma products and how do you like to use them?
Juhi: Most of my inspiration comes from traditional methods of skincare that I have grown up with. I fondly remember my mother applying coconut oil twice a week to my hair. Multani mitti (Fuller’s Earth) and turmeric with curd would be my go-to face mask as a teenager. This now forms the base for my Fuller’s Earth & Turmeric cleansing grains. More importantly, my aim is to bring focus to natural ingredients that suit all skin types. Another important resource for inspiration is online forums which I have found to be a necessary tool to understand people’s experiences with skincare, their demands and breakthroughs. I am grateful to be part of several close-knitted natural skincare, soap-making communities and small business owners around the world, wherein we collectively share new ideas and experiment with formulas. Lastly, my customers are the best resource for inspiration. Their requests, concerns, and suggestions help me create new formulas and subsequently improve on them regularly.
I love using the Moringa + Green Tea Cleansing Grains twice a week by mixing it in curd or rose water as a face mask for deep cleansing and exfoliating results. It is mild, doesn’t over-dry the skin at all, and leaves a natural glow on my face! For the face, I reach out to my Hibiscus & Pomegranate Face Oil. I wanted a quick fix to my dry skin issues which is immediately taken care of by this non-greasy, non-comedogenic, and fast absorbing face oil. I can’t forget the soaps. For those who don’t know, most soap-makers usually grab leftovers or odds from their soap batches for personal use! This is a convenient zero-waste solution which I have followed for years. No soap is left to go to waste, and my entire family gets a chance to test out new soap scents/variants too!
MM: It is so nice to see markets like the Earth Collective Organic & Natural Lifestyle Market getting noticed in Delhi. Do you feel there’s a growing awareness to more natural and environment friendly foods and products?
Juhi: Yes, it is amazing to see The Earth Collective grow so much over the years. The market has become a staple in Delhi to procure the best of natural, organic and eco-friendly products. I am grateful to be attached to the collective and be a part of their motto with several other local and small businesses who are genuine and consistent in their efforts!
I have personally met with many informed and concerned individuals at the market who understand the importance of using natural alternatives. Many of my customers are making efforts to switch and this is where platforms like The Earth Collective help them by bringing together businesses catering to their needs. I constantly see enquiries regarding plastic-free packaging, and sulfate/paraben/phthalate free skincare from customers. I believe this is an ever-evolving process which will eventually positively transition into wider audiences’ incorporating natural and eco-friendly alternatives into their daily routines.
MM: Do you have any favorite natural or organic based shops or eateries in Delhi?
‘I Say Organic’ and ‘Organic India’ for regular organic food requirements. Navdanya Organic Restaurant nestled inside Dilli Haat; INA has been my go-to eatery for the past 10 years! Another favourite of mine is ‘Krishi Cress’ for fresh farm produce, Kombuchas, breads, jams and much more.
MM: Any news for the coming year? New formulas, fragrances?
Juhi: 2021 will definitely be an exciting year for Ruharoma! I am planning on expanding my product range to herbal hair serums, body lotions/face moisturizer, and sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner bars. Additionally, I have been working on new essential oil blends for my body butters and soaps, particularly floral, sweet and oriental ones.