We see it everywhere now, cleansing / exfoliating powders. An ancient concept and like many other Asian girls something we took for granted as a part of our childhood. I distinctly remember when I was little, my Mum made a paste and gave me a bath with that paste. Yes all over the body. Many of you will instantly think of garbanzo bean powder, or powdered green mung beans, turmeric and milk or yogurt….yes that’s exactly the ubtan I’m referring to. That exact concoction is also applied to a Indian brides before the wedding. It’s said the ubtan aids exfoliation and imparts glowing flawless skin.
So you ask, well explain what is an Ubtan? As per ancient Ayurvedic principles and texts, it is roots, flowers, mud, clays grounded and mixed in a powder form. The benefits are endless – Natural ground powders of clay, mud, roots, flowers, spices, salts, lentils, dried fruit skin’s which can be mixed with rose water, milk, honey, yogurt whatever your skin and heart desires. Aids exfoliation, helps with glow, wonderful cleanser, incredibly cost effective however there are plenty of options to splurge on. Multi purpose as it can be cleanser or mask or an exfoliator.
Finally, the western world of skincare has caught on, well more specifically ‘western natural skincare world or green beauty world’, call it what you may! I’ve noticed three distinct categories of this, western skincare entirely, western brands inspired by Ayurvedic principles and then of course eastern brands that are entirely based on Ayurvedic principles and elaborate methods of preparation.
From May Lindstrom to Leah Lani, they’ve all formulated a version of their very own and sold as cleansing powder or exfoliating powder. The ingredients are varied between brands but after a while you tend to see a consistent trend (albeit with slightly different proportion and formulation).
Westernized Versions (bold ingredients are common)
May Lindstrom – The Clean Dirt ($60 for 200ml)
white halloysite clay, red morrocan rhassoul clay, sea salt, vitamin c, sodium bicarb, marshmallow root, spices like cinnamon, clove, turmeric, ginger, vanilla and cacao
Leah Lani – Kalima Cleansing powder ($46 for 100ml)
coconut milk, brown rice, clay powders, guava fruit, banana, camu camu, rosehip, honeysuckle, sea salt, hibiscus, vanilla, rose, vitamin c
de Mamiel Brightening Cleanse & Exfoliate ($60 for 70g)
rhassoul clay, rose clay, sodium bicarbonate, white clay, oat flour, vitamin c, cocoa, rose, himalayan cedar wood, sandalwood, frankincense, vanilla, elderflower, marshmallow, grape, cucumber, calendula, german chamomile, gotu kola, ginseng, chrysanthemum and horsetail
Farmacy New Day Exfoliating Grains ($30 for 100g)
sodium cocoyl isethionate, corn starch, sodium bicarbonate, cranberry, water, adzuki seed, vitamin c, camellia, carrot, echinacea, glycerin, lemon willow bark, spiraling powder
One Love Brand New Day ($39 for 48g)
zea mays (corn) starch, pisum sativum (pea) flour, sodium cocoyl glutamate, kaolin, ananas comosus (pineapple) fruit extract, fragrance/parfum
The common ingredients that overlap between some of these products are Sodium Bicarbonate (resulting in fizzy emulsion making it more appealing & fun), Sea Salt, Vitamin C, Marshmallow Root, and Clay Powders. The first three ingredients mentioned is what clearly sets the Western Cleansing Powders apart from traditional Ayurvedic ubtans which are far more gentler on skin and dare I say far more “green” for skin! In my experience and opinion, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sea Salt and Vitamin C (assuming its pure Ascorbic Acid powder) can be very harsh on sensitive and sensitized skins.
Coming to my second category, which is western skincare brand based on Ayurvedic principles and ingredients. This brings me to Mauli Rituals Radiance Exfoliant and Mask (£36.00 for 30gms or 1oz).
The inch list truly excites me, with inclusion of Fullers Earth Clay (that unmissable sweet scent), Rose petal powder, Sandalwood powder, Turmeric powder, Vetiver powder, Kashmiri Saffron, Asparagus, Sandalwood Oil, Rosehip, Rose Absolute, Kashmiri Saffron Extract.
Works wonderfully as cleanser, exfoliant or mask. Versatile in use and mixing base. The luxurious ingredient listing is much closer to authentic Ayurvedic ingredients with a clear exclusion of Sodium Bicarb, Sea Salt or any other skin stripping harsher elements.
Closer to Ayurvedic Texts, Principles, and Ingredients
Forest Essentials ($18-$20 for 60g)
Tejasvi Milk – neem, cinnamon, fennel powder, sweet almond meal, sandalwood oil, fenugreek powder, peepal extract, anantmool powder, apricot kernel, saffron, durva extract and milk
Soundarya – orange peel, rose, jasmine, neem, oatmeal, sandalwood, turmeric, fennel, anantmool, saffron flower, lemon peel and star anise.
Multani Mitti (my personal FAVE) – fullers clay, neem, turmeric, fenugreek seed powder, lodhra bark, woodfordia powder and banyan bark powder
Narangi (Orange) & Nagkesar (Messua ferrea) – orange peel, marigold flower, licorice root, messua ferrea, bala root, vetiver, ashwagandha, durva, neem, brahmi leaf, anantmool and cinnnamon
Roop Nikhar & Gulab (Rose) – lentil seed, rose, ornage peel, oatmeal, anantmool root, neem, katsuya powder,turmeric, saffron, cinnamon
Kama Ayurveda ($22 for 40g)
Mridul (face & body) – oatmeal, green gram, almond, neem, sandalwood, turmeric, rose and fennel.
PurEarth ($60 for 100g)
Turmeric Exfoliating Face Sand – Bitter apricot kernels, fullers earth clay, persian walnut, neem, turmeric, pomegranate, lavender, rose, seabuckthorn berry, and saffron
The web is also inundated with several DIY recipes, of which garbanzo bean powder, mung bean powder, turmeric and milk or ghee is by far the most popular. However based on your skin’s needs, concerns and what’s available in your kitchen, these ingredients can also be used: Oatmeal, almond meal, rice flour, sandalwood powder, fenugreek powder, turmeric, grounded spices (cinnamon, clove, star anise, though not recommended to sensitive or reactive skins). Mixing bases may include purified water, steam distilled rose or any other flower water, full cream milk, cream, yogurt, honey, lemon juice, aloe vera juice, witch hazel, vinegar.
Ultimately it filters down to what your skin needs, how much are you willing to spend, where your brand loyalties lie, your preferences with traditional ubtan or westernized version or a happy medium between western and eastern etc. Personally I’ve tried homemade Grandma’s ubtan recipes to modern Ayurvedic shops like Forest Essentials and Kama Ayurveda. My personal preference lies with more traditional format minus Vitamin C, Sodium Bicarb, Sea Salt.