Return of the Crown by Meena Khan

Desi women are renowned for their dark, lustrous locks.  Unfortunately, desi hair also falls prey to the drying effects of summer, namely, UV damage; chlorine from swimming pools; and air-conditioned places.

As summer draws to a close, hair repair is not solely the purvey of Caucasian women, desi women should also adapt a regime that revitalises to the scalp and restores integrity of the hair from root to tip.

This blog explores how products, which rely on natural and organic ingredients work with coarser hair.  I focused on these types of products because there is an overall beauty movement towards products that rely increasingly on raw, natural elements, rather than preservative-laden potions that are raising concerns about long term health impact.  I also discovered a series of products that will help aunties reclaim their mane. Unfortunately, in mass media these specialised products are not demonstrated on desi hair, and this blog aims to correct that state of affairs.


Earlier this year I had long locks which cascaded down my back.  I received many compliments but none of them allayed my scalp discomfort.  I noted that within a day and half of washing my hair, my scalp would feel itchy, and after washing my hair, the roots would feel heavy, while the rest of my hair bounced.  The effect was that of a flattened triangle.  At times, I would scratch my scalp frequently in a effort to relieve the heaviness and itchiness.  I concluded that since my hair was so long and heavy that it must be the cause of my scalp discomfort.

Once I cut my hair and donated it to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program my scalp discomfort did not subside, and I became frustrated.  I noted that when I brushed my hair, and lifted my hair from the scalp that it felt great but the feeling did not last.

One day while browsing downtown, I entered the Aveda store on McGill College and was intrigued by the pramāsana™ products whose focus is scalp care.  pramāsana™ draws on the Ayurvedic sciences to treat and balance the scalp.   The scalp is separate from the hair, and requires its own care in order to encourage healthy hair growth.

The concept made sense to me because as a yogini I get sweaty several times a week, and my scalp is often soaked.  Further, when I shampoo, condition and style my hair, some of the products are bound to stick to the scalp, no matter how thoroughly I rinse.  If the scalp environment is congested and lying under layers of dead flakes and product, how could I expect to feel comfortable?  Conceptually, it is like dry flaky legs in winter.  You scratch, and dead cells accumulate under your fingertips, and there is no relief until you exfoliate your legs, and apply cream.

Surprisingly, even though the pramāsana™ line has three products, using all three once a week, only requires four minutes and the impact lasts for seven days.  I always start with massaging my scalp with the Exfoliating Scalp Brush which is designed to knead the head and loosen the dead skin cells.



Aveda pramāsana™    Exfoliating Scalp Brush


I make sure to massage the top of my head, the sides and then I put my head down and do the underside.  I am equal parts fascinated and repulsed by the dead flakes that appear along my hairline after a minute of continuous massage.

Once the “gunk” is loose, I apply the Purifying Scalp Cleanser.  Its shape is reminiscent of  that of a Lepage glue bottle, so the nozzle is precise and nestles perfectly amongst the stands.



Aveda   pramāsana™      Purifying Scalp Cleanser


I always hold the bottle perpendicular to the scalp, start at the hairline, and drag the nozzle along from hairline to neck, never losing contact with the scalp.  I repeat this exercise at several points around the head, and then with the pads of my fingers I massage in the cleanser for two minutes.  It feels tingly, froths slightly, and imparts a soft herbal scent.  The combination of seaweed extract and salicylic acid really teach the “gunk” who is boss of the scalp!

I then shampoo and condition my hair, and am amazed at how quickly it all washes out.  There is no heaviness and the real treat is the Protective Scalp Concentrate.  It is packaged in a medicine bottle and the product, which includes ginger root extract, caffeine, rosemary, green tea leaf extract, is dispensed with a dropper.



Aveda  pramāsana™   Protective Scalp Concentrate


As with the Purifying Scalp Cleanser, I apply it at several spots on my scalp and then massage it in for a minute.  The Concentrate is absorbed rapidly, and leaves my scalp relaxed and light.  It does not interfere with my subsequent styling.

What struck me is that these three small steps leave my hair with a natural volume that lasts for two days.  Obviously, regular work outs can fell the mightiest of hairdos but these products left my hair overall lighter and my scalp comfortable for a full week.  I no longer have itchy fits and my hair is bouncier.  I am no longer a walking flattened pyramid.

Scalp care is as important as hair care because the beginning is the root which leads to the end.


Coarse hair needs hydrating care, and as with all types of hair two sets of shampoo and conditioner are needed to avoid product build up.

Kérastase is a renowned for being a brand that turns straw into silk, and its Aura Botanica line, continues the tradition albeit with a silicone-free, and  coconut-, argan oil -and-sugar infused approach, that gently cleanses the hair using natural surfectants.  The exclusion of silicone is an important development, because this ingredient ensures that products impart a smooth feel and add lustre.  On the other hand, silicone can prevent moisturising ingredients from nourishing the strands thus leaving them dry and brittle.  Aura Botanica’s use of 96-97% naturally-derived formulae is impressive, as is the fact that it is 99% biodegradable.

The scent of sweet orange essence in the Bain Micellaire is subtle and dissipates quickly, so people who are sensitive to scent should also be open to trying this product.



Kérastase Aura Botanica Bain Micellaire


The Bain’s soft lather removes the oil and dirt without stripping the hair.  My short-to medium hair length only requires a nickel’s worth of product and I liked how my strands felt free afterwards.  The extra treat came with the Soin Fondamental, its twin,  which like the Bain is infused with argan and coconut oils.  A nickel is all I needed to coat my strands from mid-shaft to tip.  I then tied my hair  up for three minutes, conducted other shower business, and then rinsed out the Soin.



Kérastase Aura Botanica Soin Fondamental


My naturally coarse hair was left feeling light and bouncy.  I let it air dry a few times and was impressed by how my hair looked smooth and glossy,  and was frizz-free.  Aura Botanica builds a wonderful case to focus on hair care products that rely on oils and sugars, rather than silicones to create a lustrous mane.

The complementary shampoo-conditioner duo, that is also silicone-free, 95% natural origin, and infused with ingredients such as quinoa husk and honey (shampoo) and coconut oil and kaolin clay (conditioner), is the R.A.W. Biolage Nourish duo.  R.A.W. stands for Real, Authentic Wholesome, and after several uses, I am sold.  Aside from the environmentally-friendly process whereby the plastic is 100% packaged, and like Aura, the products are 99% biodegradable, these products also left my hair feeling fresh and my strands were hydrated.

The shampoo looks and feels like honey, yet it is not sticky.  It lathers gently and I liked how after I rinsed out it my hair felt revived.



R.A.W. Biolage Nourish Shampoo


The Conditioner is thick, and is more of a treatment, so I left it in for five minutes.  I really appreciated how it quickly rinsed-out and when I let my hair air dry, it was soft and lush.



R.A.W. Biolage Nourish Conditioner


Both Aura Botanica and R.A.W. Biolage transformed my hair from straw to silk, and demonstrate that natural, organic ingredients suit desi hair perfectly.


I shampoo my hair thrice a week because I work out six times a week, and I sweat a lot.  After using Aura Botanica and R.A.W. Biolage, my third washing consists of applying Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse®  prior to my yoga class, and then washing with the L’Occitane Aromachologie Revitalizing Fresh Shampoo.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse® is renowned for hydrating the skin and leaving it silky.  However this multi-purpose dry oil, which is composed of Macadamia, Hazelnut, Borrage, Almond, Camellia and St. John’s Wort oils, also hydrates the hair.


Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse®  Photo Credit:

Since I practise Moksha yoga and the room temperature rises to 42 degrees, it creates the perfect sauna for a hair treatment.  I tapped several drops of the oil in the palms of my hands and then massaged them into my hair, starting a few centimetres away from the scalp.  I tied my hair in a knot and went to class.

I am pleased to report that during class the oil did not seep from my hair into my eyes and I did not develop any pimples along the hairline.  I noted afterwards that my hair was quite soggy and I was worried that even with a  good shampooing session, it would be limp.

After a week of styling and sweating a clarifying shampoo is a must for the hair, and L’Occitane Aromachologie Revitalizing Fresh Shampoo is a wonderful option for dry-haired types, and allayed my worry.

Aromachologie Revitalizing Fresh Shampoo

L’Occitane Aromachologie Revitalizing Fresh Shampoo

I like that it thoroughly  removes the oil and sweat, using a mix of mint, thyme, grapefruit, cedar and lavender essential oils, with plant-based vinegar.  My hair smells  a touch herbal afterwards but most importantly it feels clarified, and is not squeaking for mercy.

The combination of these oil-based products delivers the effects of a masque without the heaviness.  The fact that I can combine exercise with a hair masque, and then wash without the need for conditioner is both a time-saver and a game changer.  The natural oils imbue hair care with efficiency and effectiveness.


I am lucky that I inherited my mother’s hair and she sometimes remarks that my hair actually belongs to her.  I have also heard her lament that her hair is thinning, and it is sad.  Thinning hair affects both the young and old but it is rarely discussed, especially amongst desi circles.  It is usually dismissed as a part of life, and a vanity that is unsuitable for women of certain age.  I say bollocks to this attitude because every woman, regardless of age or ethnicity, has the right to enjoy her beauty.

Thinning can be due to age, medicine or diet, and conventional products might not be effective because the basic health of the person is compromised.  Watching my mom try to build volume with loads of hairspray where she once possessed a crown inspired me to research hair care for aunties.

I was thrilled to learn about KerMax™ products which focus on hair thickening and state that they are “Drug-free, safe for all women; all ethnicities and hair types“.  The system which includes a Volumizing Shampoo and Volumizing Conditioner, mousses and serum, claim to work within seven days and contain “… peptide amino acids, fruit stem cells and botanical extracts“.

Kermax Volumizing Shampoo
Kermax Volumizing Conditioner

The drug-free and safety aspects are key for many aunties because let’s face it, our aunties are getting older and medication is a part of their lives.  At times the medications negatively impact their manes.

My mother has been using the products for three weeks, and I have watched her like a hawk.  Mom likes the shampoo and conditioner because they are soft and are not perfumed.  She easily adapted the Essential Day Foam into her hair care routine, and after two weeks I noticed more volume at the roots, as in she did not shellac her hair to the heavens and it had body.



Kermax Essential Day Foam


After the third week, I looked at her part, which had been sadly widening, and noted that it narrowed considerably.  I said nothing to my mother and she came to me and asked how her hair looked.  She was tapping her part, and it was not tap of lamentation, rather it was a tap of hope.  Mom loves that this line of products is helping her to recover some of her lost mane.

If you are looking to invest in your mane, remember to spoil the aunties  too!


Scalp care and hair care are two distinct types of treatments that complement each other to create a lustrous mane within a month and thus putting summer’s dryness safely in the past.

Scalp care should be done at least once a week, and the keys are exfoliating the scalp and cleansing it.  A cleansed scalp permits hair to have bounce and it can have an impact that lasts several days.

Hair care should involve shampooing and conditioning no more than thrice a week, and that should be subject to the level of activity and sweat.  Remember, if you are not active, then a twice a week is sufficient.  Squeaky clean hair is a sign of dryness and over care – not healthy hair.  In this step, desi women should not shy away from organic and natural products, because they possess the heft and gravitas necessary to care for coarse strands.

Finally, our moms have given us hair but it does not necessarily mean that what works for us works for them.  Thinning hair could be the result of medicine or other health issues which means that a different hair care path must be followed to restore the mane.

After all the mane is the main thing.   


Sun-Kissed Brown Babe in the City by Meena Khan

Summer is here and with it comes memories from my childhood of being admonished to stay out of the sun, lest I became too dark.

Starting in my twenties, I became tired of being caged-in by the admonishment that I should stay medium-toned, while my lighter-skinned friends could run the gamut of the colour spectrum which changed with their desire and season. I too wanted their glow and in my desire to experiment and be bold, I ended up looking like a tangerine.

Thankfully over the past twenty years bronzing technology has progressed by leaps and bounds such that brown-skinned women can tinker with their tone and look anywhere from sun-kissed to bronze hot.

I am now in my forties and I have come to realise that I do not want to look bronze hot because that does not reflect my lifestyle. I avoid the sun but I am no Caliban because I like to run and stroll outside while window shopping.  These activities mean that I emerge from summer looking sun-kissed. I love it because being sun-kissed  heightens the beauty of my brown skin with  summer energy without shouting to the world that in ten years I will look like a prune.

The sun-kissed look is not just about the skin, it is also about the shades of cosmetics and their texture. The colours veer into the peach-gold territory which flatter every desi skin tone, and because they look so natural, they work in the board room and the park.

The best sun-kissed looks always start with a light hand and end with a light hand.


As my picture demonstrates, I have discolouration on my cheeks; three zit scars between my eyebrows; and dark circles. Even though I will play with my tone, I will cover the dark spots.

Meena Discolouration

I start with a mattifying bronzer such as Givenchy Mister Mat.


Givenchy Mister Mat

This product does not hide my skin, it effectively fills in the crevices such as ancient zit scars which date to my days when I was zit-popping champion in high school.

After the base is ready, I contour my nose and spot apply foundation. Spot application means that I will dab a droplet of foundation only on the discolouration and blend it into the skin using my beloved Shiseido Foundation Brush because its bristles are precise yet gentle.


Shiseido Foundation Brush


The key is to buff in the foundation until it sinks in, because the finished canvass should look even-toned, not splotchy.

Afterwards, I use a big blush brush and tap on a powder such as Givenchy Healthy Glow Bronzer.


Givenchy Healthy Glow Bronzer

I love this product because it comes in four shades that are designed for the palest to darkest of complexions.  This deeply pigmented product requires one healthy swipe across the raised planes of the face, i.e. the forehead, chin, cheeks and bridge of nose.  The powder adds instant warmth without transforming the face into a tangerine.  Its subtlety creates a professional, graceful, sun kiss.

An alternative to the traditional glow powder is a bronzing gel, such as Givenchy Mister Radiant.


Givenchy Mister Radiant Photo Credit:

When I first laid eyes on this clear gel, filled with little pockets of bronze, I was filled with doubt.  I was convinced that I would end up with patchy-looking skin, as the bronze droplets would explode only where there they hit  my skin while the rest of my face would look pale in comparison.

Dollop of Mister Bronze

I squeezed a dime-sized dollop onto my hand and then massaged it into my face. I was pleasantly surprised by how alive my skin looked, and there were no patches of pronounced colour.  My complexion had ooumph.  Better yet, I was able to dab foundation and apply concealer on the trouble spots, and my face was transformed into a subtle glowing canvass.

I think both products are brilliant for creating the sun-kissed canvass and the one you choose depends on your skin type. I have mixed skin that veers towards oiliness in the summer which means that I prefer the Givenchy Healthy Glow Bronzer for the summer.  As of fall when my sun-kissed glow will start to fade and my face will be drier, the Givenchy Mister Bronze will work perfectly.

Meena Finioshed Look with Orgasm Lipstick

I am wearing the Healthy Glow Bronzer, Urban Decay shadow, Pump n’Volume Mascara, Orgasm Lipstick, Liquid Blush in Orgasm


Aside from grooming the brows and applying eye shadow primer, the sensuality of the sun can then be channelled with eye shadows that trapeze the thin line between neutral and a sizzling sholay.  The sun’s molten heart demands colours that just happen to bring brown skin to its full glory, namely gold, bronze, copper, cinnamon and cream.  The Urban Decay Naked Heat palette is a must-have for every desi girl because this palette has colours that reflect the sun – and fall’s upcoming seduction.  The 12 shades are rich, easy to apply and blend; and they stay on for eight hours.  Bonus: The double-ended brush included with the palette is professional-grade and is great for blending.

Urban Decay Heat

Urban Decay Naked Heat palette

On a daily basis, I like to use four shadows to create a work look. For example, the matte shades Ounce (soft cream – good base for light-to-medium skin tones) and Chaser (cappuccino – good base for darker skin tones) make a fantastic base for the mobile, lower lid.  These soft shades open the eye area with a few gentle taps using a flat, duckbill shadow brush.  In the crease, I like to use soft metallics such as Lumbre (copper) from the inner-corner to the mid-lid and then blend in a deeper metallic such as Scorched (chocolate) from the mid-to-outer-edge of the eyelid.   The brush that comes with the palette does an amazing job of depositing these metallic shadows and then blending them in seamlessly.   I then use a pointed liner brush and define the eyes with Ashes (dark chocolate).  For each brush I follow one mantra, “Apply softly. carry a great brush.”  Remember it is easy to layer on colour than to gloop it on and then restart the process when you realise that you have veered into clown territory.

Meena in Urban Decay Eye Shadow and Mascara

I am wearing Mister Radiant, Torrid Liquid Blush, Urban Decay palette, Pump n’Volume Mascara

I am excited to try the matte shades when fall will arrive! The colours make you realise that brown is not black’s poor little cousin.  It is its own rainbow which merits its day in the sun.

The finishing touches are applying a thin black line on the upper lash line and then apply a volumising mascara such as Dior Pump n’ Volume.

pUMP N' vOLUME.jpg

Dior Pump n’Volume Mascara

This majestic eyelash enhancer is practical because the tube has a rubberised indent which when squeezed deposits the perfect amount of product on the brush.  The bristle-dense brush head ensures that each lash is lifted and thickened.  The end effect veers towards Brigitte Bardot-St-Tropez-60’s look without the excess clumpiness of that look.  It is unabashedly sexy, and impactful that you may want to skip the liner step completely.


With so much brown on the face, the cheeks and lips are where I rely on pink (brown’s faithful contrast) and orange (brown’s sweet sibling) to create a soft, lush look. Given that the canvass has been perfected with a mix of bronzing products and cover-up, all the cheeks really need to do is look lit from within.

Nars Liquid Blushes are another must-have for desi women, namely the Orgasm and Torrid shades.  Orgasm is of course legendary in its powder form. This shade which is a perfect mix of peach, gold and pink, really makes all skin tones look fresh and sexy.  Torrid is a sizzling, alluring coral which is particularly flattering for darker skin tones.

Oragasm Blush sephora credit

Nars Liquid Blush in Orgasm Photo credit:

The square bottle is incredibly sophisticated but most importantly the pump dispenser expels enough product for both cheeks. I like to squirt the blush on the back of my hand, and then apply two dabs on each cheek.

Applying Liquid Blush

I blend the product on both cheeks simultaneously because this products sets fast, and remains in place six hours later.  I use my pointer and middle fingers to blend the product from the tops of my cheeks to my temples.  I then use longer strokes until the blush looks like it was born there.  The sun is about an easy look, and the cheeks do not need to be sculpted…. just sun-kissed.


The lips, like the cheeks, are about a sensual, sexy enhancement, rather than being overdrawn and dramatic.

I almost fainted when I heard that Nars launched the Orgasm lipstick as I had dreamed that there would be a lipstick that would match my beloved blush.  I was a tad nervous that the shade would be absorbed by my naturally-pigmented lips.  I tried the lipstick and am thrilled to report that the golden peachiness that makes my cheeks glow translated to my lips.  This is one universally-perfect shade (as declared by mainstream publications) that actually includes brown skin tones in its universe.  Orgasm lipstick is a fantastic summer shade that stays on for four hours before a touch-up is needed.

Orgasm Lipstick Sephora

Nars Orgasm Lipstick Photo Credit:

If your speed is more neutral, and monochromatic, Dior delivers sexy lips for this look with the universally-flattering Dior Addict Lacquer Stick in Poisonous.  It looks like chocolate milk without the sugar and with all of the sophisticated cocoa.


Dior Addict Lacquer Stick in Poisonous

It glides on like butter and stays on for four hours before a touch-up is required.  I love this  shade because it contrasts with my skin tone without screaming “CONTRAST!”  I must admit when I first saw it I recalled for one moment what I felt like as a 19-year old McGill student who was discovering high-end make-up for the first time at Holt Renfrew during the grunge-era when everything was brown.  How I wish Poisonous existed when I was saving money from my salesgirl job to buy make-up… it would have been my signature shade during undergrad.  I am pleased to say that this is lipstick has a special spot on my vanity for summer, fall, and winter.


One of my greatest fears when I started to embrace the sun-kissed look was what would I do with my considerably paler arms and legs? The mamacita appeal needs to extend from head to toe and I must say that St. Tropez One Night Only is a godsend.

Picture 2173

St. Tropez One Night Only

I like to shave my legs right before I apply this all day self-tanner to ensure a smooth surface without blotchiness. The brown gel is easily massaged into the arms and legs, and does not rub off on the clothes.  My limbs look sexy all day and the gel washes off with soap and water.  It literally takes up the shade of my arms and legs up by one which relieves them from their pasty pallor but adds just enough toastiness that it looks like I went for a walk.  This hint of colour ties-in with my desire to look sun-kissed which fits in with my lifestyle, and looks believable and polished.


The sun-kissed look is incredibly easy to achieve and for some people who want to be a bronze babe but are afraid to jump into the deep end, the sun-kissed look is a great halfway house between the untanned olive skin and the coveted look.

Each step of the look requires a light hand, because the look, like summer’s vibe is about being easy and breezy:

  1. apply a primer because excess sebum is never hot even if it is hot;
  2. changing the tone of your skin does not mean that you should forgo covering up circles and discolouration. Depending on whether you choose powder or liquid bronzer, tailor your complexion routine accordingly;
  3. the colour palette of the eyes should mimic that of the sun, i.e. warm golds and browns which are blended into the eyelid, and it is essential to add a hint of definition with a black, volumising mascara;
  4. the cheeks are easy which means just add a hint of definition, and this is easily-achieved with a liquid blush;
  5. keep the lips liquid and soft by using satin and glossy lipsticks in soft shades that mimic the warmth of the skin; and
  6. add a self-tanner to the arms and legs to ensure that the sun-kissed look maintains an air of reality, i.e. it is an overall glow like you walked in the sun.

The Older Shaadi Guest by Meena Khan

Wedding season is upon us and along with the festivities and glamourous outfits, for many, the season brings the anxiety of being judged for being an older Canadesi woman who has earned several  university degrees yet remains unmarried.  Personally, I have no problem with being single because I like making decisions that revolve around me.  However for qualified, kind women who yearn for companionship, these events can be nightmares, in large part because there are some aunties who walk around with a smug sense of self-righteousness and make obnoxious comments that cut the heart.

These obnoxious aunties raise my ire and trust me, I have slayed a few in my day.

I encountered such a creature at a wedding when I was 19 and in front of everyone she said, “Soon it will be your turn… are you looking?”  I was aghast at her sheer nerve, mentally noting that her son was short and erred on the side of not so hot, and I looked at her dead in the eye and answered, “Don’t worry about me aunty.  I had my palms read in India and the reader said that I am supposed to have three marriages.  So please don’t worry about me, I will have plenty of husbands.”

The aunty’s eyes widened and she quickly changed the subject.  I cannot help but observe at how the fates turned on her, as all of her children married, moved away and now she is alone taking care of the whole house and her ill spouse.  I take no joy in her hardship but I am happy to be at home (except when my mom is crabby) because whenever either of my parents has been ill, I have been by their side in a heartbeat – and I live for myself!

Unfortunately, too many Canadesi women have been trained since childhood to blunt their rapier wit and melt their iron tongues in favour of being deferential to obnoxious aunties.  I am certain that as I type these words, that there is a Canadesi woman somewhere in the Great White North being dismissed for being strong, independent and educated because she is not married.  As if  a signed marriage contract has any bearing on the wonderful person you already are inside!

This blog is about how to create a positive mindset and a fresh look that enhances the soul  so that when you attend a desi wedding, you will not dread obnoxious aunties because you will have too much fun being your best self and looking fresh!

Starting Point – One Month before W-Day

The other day I learned the expression, “Asian don’t raisin,” and I agree, extra melanin staves off the wrinkles.  Regardless, as the skin gets older, it needs a bit of nudging to glow and look taut, as skin cells turn over slower creating  an ashen look.

I had heard of chemical exfoliators which use fruit acids to dissolve dead skin cells.  As someone whose skin looks for an excuse to become discoloured I was distinctly uninterested  by this category of beauty product.

However when Fresh introduced Vitamin Nectar Vibrancy-Boosting Face Mask which is composed of clementines, oranges and lemons, I was intrigued.

Fresh Masque

It smells like my mom’s fruit chaat which is a gorgeous mix of summer’s bounty with a dash of kala namak.  The masque claims to “gently refine the appearance of the skin to soften, smooth and improve clarity.”  Having enjoyed great success with other Fresh products, which are always gentle, I decided to give this masque a chance.

The moment you open it, you will dream of the orange groves of Valencía; the texture is like a freshly-made jam that you find in the English countryside; and it spreads smoothly like cream cheese on a warm Montreal bagel.  The sensorial experience was captivating and I decided that my neck also needed treatment as this is where the skin starts to sag.  Initially, it felt a bit a cold, and then after 15 minutes it dried to a sheer layer of yellow cellophane.  I washed it off with warm water and was impressed by how soft my skin felt.  I opted to apply this masque thrice a week for four weeks and I am thrilled to report that my dark zit scars and  the discolouration around my mouth have faded; and my face and neck are taut.

The lips are incredibly sensual, unless they are caked in dead flakes.  I have tried granular exfoliators and if I happen to rub too hard my lips turn red.  I was interested in the Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment Wand.

Fresh Wand.jpg

It comes with a  built-in wand with a  nubby end that you massage into the lips.  The nubs gently remove dead skin while massaging-in mango butter and sugar.  My lips look plump after each morning application and for women with emerging lines around the lips, this product reinforces the natural lip line.

Hydration is essential, and I am impressed with the L’Occitane Divine Youth Oil.


It is designed to fight the visible signs of aging and is based on the Immortelle flower of Corsica that is renowned for its longevity.  Each night, I squeezed three droplets on the palms of my hands and then massaged it into my face and neck using upward strokes.  The massage relaxes the face, ensures that the product is absorbed rapidly, and leaves the face and neck rejuvenated.

Meena Bare Face

My face is not perfect but it is a pretty decent canvass thanks to the great products!

The body possesses the largest expanse of skin and it should never be neglected.  In summer months, in particular when its humid and stuffy, even a lightweight milk is hard to bear on the skin.  On the other hand air conditioning sucks the moisture out of the skin.  The halfway house between lightweight milk and dry skin is the dry body oil.  I am enamoured with Guerlain Huile Sous le Vent Nourishing Dry Oil, because it smells vaguely of jasmine and this almond oil  wonder absorbs rapidly and leaves my skin soft and sensual all day long.


I love that I can massage it in with a  few long strokes, which exercises the skin and leaves me relaxed on a daily basis.

With the face and neck smooth, the lips full  and the body taut, I felt confident.  Each day I spent 3-5 minutes focused on myself, and I really appreciated how my body has held up over the years.  At the age of 40 I only need mere creams and lotions to raise the youthful spirit of my mid-twenties.  Great products like the ones listed herein above are never a waste of time or money.

W-Day – The Day Before – Do the Nails

Confidence comes with addressing the details and then letting the chips fall where they may.  The chips do not include your nails!

The day of the wedding is always rushed so relax the night before by giving yourself a nude manicure.  I specify nude because desi outfits err on the side of bright, and the jewellery tends to be dramatic.  To avoid looking like an obnoxious  aunty, practise balance and keep the make-up on the lighter side.  Further, a nude nail makes hands look younger as more dramatic shades contrast hyperpigmentation and highlight sagginess.

I find that mainstream magazines tout nude polishes that rarely suit desi skin tones.  The mainstream nudes are too pink in the bottle and look gray on the nails.  It clashes horribly with the dark cuticles.

A great nude for a desi skin tone, much like a great concealer, has hints of peach.  I am thrilled with Butter London Tea with the Queen.

Butter Tea with the Queen

There is no hint of gray, and it makes my fingers look longer.

Manicure Pic

It is a Patent Shine 10X polish which means that I had glossy nails for five whole days!  I am equally impressed with the Butter London Nail Foundation™ Priming Basecoat because its off-white tint neutralised the yellow in my nails; and the Hardwear- Shine UV Topcoat did an amazing job of protecting my manicure.

I wore all types of bracelets and rings while I wore this polish and everything worked with my nails – no clashes, just confidence!

W-Day – Part One, Preparation

Have you ever entered an examination without having studied?  I swear that for all of my law school exams, I started to draft my course summaries from the first week of the semester and then launched into formal studying three weeks before the exam date.

The point is that when you are entering into an arena, be it the Coliseum or a wedding hall, half begun is only half done.  The previous month established the infrastructure for you to wear beauty products that highlight and enhance your individual beauty.  Remember that your DNA combination is unique and no matter what, you are genetically predisposed to be an original.

Consequently, never slap on make-up and then charge into battle.  Instead follow the preparatory steps listed herein below, after you have completed your skin care routine.  Just bear in mind that the make-up trends touted on Instagram which may include applying three types of highlighter to create angles sharper than English cheddar have no place in a fresh look.  Freshness is about you looking revived after a vacation and involves a minimum amount of contouring and pan stick.

1. Great selfies are not made by a chance meeting between your face and light… primer is essential to keep the skin looking flawless. Paul & Joe Perfect Makeup Primer is aptly-named and depending on the state of your skin you can either apply all over your face or spot apply (like I do) using clean, bare fingers. The extremely lightweight liquid goes on easily, creates a smooth canvass and its hint of colour adds a subtle glow to the skin which is an essential element of looking fresh.

Paul & Joe_Perfect Makeup Primer_BottleMeena With primer

2. The older we get, the more vigilant we need to be about the eyebrows because they are nature’s frame for our face. Aside from keeping them trimmed and tamed, fill them in with a dark brown waxy pencil such as Benefit Goof Proof Brow Pencil.


Photo credit:

I love how the angle tips fits easily into my sparseness.  I only apply a few strokes and then use the built-in spoolie brush to mix the pigment with my hairs.  I then apply Givenchy Mister Brow Groom in Transparent to keep the hairs in place.

3. I have been contouring my nose since before it came to be spelled with a “k”. I am uncomfortable with my nose and simply adore how the Diorlight Blush & Contour thins my nose in three easy swipes.

Meena with Eye base and Contoured nose

I apply the darker shades down the sides of my nose and on the tip and then in the middle, I tap on the pearl shade.  Done.  The best contouring does not look you placed a samurai’s sword next to your cheeks and then slapped on dark contour make-up.  Great contouring adds a hint of definition, so that you look real but just a tad more sculpted.

4. I have trouble spots on the right side of my face, dark bags and some light scarring on my cheeks while the rest of my skin is decent. I want people to see my skin because it is my biggest organ and I am proud of it (abs are a different matter!). I love spot applying Shiseido Synchro Skin Glow Luminizing Fluid Foundation because it is lightweight and makes me look like a natural lightbulb which distracts from uneven skin tone and looks great in selfies.

Shiseido Foundation

5. My skin tends to be a bit oily and I like to set my make-up with lightweight powder. Givenchy Prisme Visage Perfecting Face Powder is a clever compact as it has four shades of brown and beige which are all found on my face.


For example, my forehead which  endures more sun exposure needs a slightly darker shade than the hollows of my cheeks.  When I swirl my big woolly brush over the four shades, I create the perfect one for my skin.  I apply the powder only where I applied foundation.  I cannot emphasise enough how bare skin looks sophisticated and confident.

            W-Day – Part Two, Colour

Desi outfits and jewellery can be quite colourful, heavy, intricate and Byzantine which means the make-up should be fresh and light.  The contrast allows the eye to appreciate the beauty of the outfit and your face, instead of everything melding into a mass of sparkle and glitz.

Aside from looking fresh, the make-up needs to withstand sweat and greasy food because desi weddings are not lightweight affairs. They are quite energetic and the last thing you want to do is to spend time in a bathroom retouching make-up.  You want to  dance the night away and confirm to yourself that you belong in the spotlight – even if it is the bride’s day.

1.The eyes have it because out of all of the make-up this one will be the least likely to be assaulted by pakoras and biryani, or slip off while dancing. A touch of colour which matches the overall scheme of your outfit is all that is required to liven-up coffee-coloured peepers.

Prior to applying make-up, neutralise the darkness on the eyelids with Dior Fix It 2-in-1 Prime & Color Correct in blue.


I swipe once across each eyelid and then tap it over lid using my ring finger, because it has the least pressure.  The skin is delicate so minimising tugging is imperative.

I then curl my eyelashes because I find the curler interferes with my eyeliner when I squeeze it at the base.

If you possess an artistic hand, then invest in Givenchy Prisme Quatuor in Inattendue.


 This quartet of shadows is infused with shimmer and comes in chocolate, deep pink, slate gray and deep mauve – classic glamourous, desi colours.   Four hours later the eye shadow remained in place and did not migrate into the sockets.  Further, the shimmer is refined and subtle such that it adds twinkles around the eyes without highlighting fine lines.

If your make-up look veers towards simplicity then Make Up For Ever Aqua Matic Waterproof Glide-on Eye Shadow is the perfect product.


Photo credit:

This creamy shadow stick glides on like butter, stays on like a stain and does not interfere with concealer.  I rimmed my upper and lower lash lines with these sticks and was always amazed by how I only needed a minimal touch-up after five hours of activity.  I am particularly enamoured with ME-32, a soft khaki that veers toward gold and D-21, an unapologetic peacock turquoise that evokes the peacock, the national bird of India.

Meena Green Eye shadow Look

The D-21 adds luminosity to the eyes.

After applying a dark liner to emphasise the eyelashes I tested the Shiseido  Full Lash Multi-Dimension Mascara (Waterproof) and its bendable brush is a game changer.

Shiseido Mascara

First the formula is strong in that it delivers on definition and volume but what is outstanding is that the brush head can bend at 90°, 70°… etc., which means that I can coat the tiny lashes in the corners without fear of poking my eye.


The waterproof formula does not crumble or flake in the corners, which is a drawback of many formulae, and my lashes stay glamourous the whole day.

2.I then apply the queen of all concealer kits, Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage.

Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage

I chuckle at how I struggled to use this product in the nineties because 1. the texture was dry and I did not understand that you had to warm it up; and 2. I was uncomfortable using two shades of concealer, as I believed that you needed only one. Twenty years later, I am enamoured with this product!.  I twirl a foundation brush over the peach colour and then tap it on my circles and scars.


I then blend it with my fingers and am impressed by how the product just  melds into the skin.  I then tap the lighter shade on the outer contour to add brightness.  I look like I slept for eight hours which is an integral part of the fresh look.


3. The cheeks are important because they can make or break a selfie. If they look hyper-contoured though, you will look great in a selfie and weird in real-life. The halfway house between blah and overdone is strobing, a technique where you deposit light to bring forward a feature.  I love these Nars the Multiple shades to strobe on the cheekbones: Copacabana (light skin), Hot Sand (medium skin – my obsession!) and South Beach (dark skin).  The glowing base permits your skin to take on any blush shade.

NARS Hot Sand Illuminating Multiple - jpegNARS-Copacabana-Multiple NARS Hot Sand Illuminating Multiple - jpeg

The two outstanding shades that complement desi complexions and outfits are Nars Bumpy Ride, if the outfit veers towards  the coral-orange family, and Mata Hari if the outfit veers towards  the pink-red family.

BUmpy RideMata Hari

Nars Mata Hari and Bumpy Ride

Both shades also work beautifully with neutral outfits that are green, black or blue.  I take a blush brush and just apply one layer of the blush.  The advantage to strobing is the powder locks with the creaminess of the Multiple to stay in place.

Meena strobing

4.The lips are the sexiest part of the face and the first to fall prey to the beauty dangers encountered a desi wedding. The key is to add lasting colour to the lips without making them shrivel under a matte or stain formula. Many Candesi women, myself included, are cautious about selecting the colour because natural pigment in the lips alters the impact of a lipstick.

I recommend hydrating the lips with a Dior Lip Glow balms, which hydrate and add a hint of colour to the lips.  My experience is that when I apply a coral or orange lipstick, the Coral shade really enlivens these shades on my lips.

Dior LIp Colour Reviver

Now for the colour products: I applied the Dior Lip Tattoo in 451 (natural coral), and I was amazed by how this product stayed on for hours and did not dry out my lips.  It withstands naan and aloo attacks and simply refuses to transfer.  I enjoyed similar success when I applied Dior Lip Glow in Pink and then after a few minutes I layered Lip Tattoo in 761 (natural cherry).  I looked like I ate a sophisticated popsicle handmade in Italy.   

M655 ADDICT LIP TATTOO 17 M02L Gamme_Tag30_L4_F39

If you prefer the matte mouth but detest how lipsticks become mushy in the heat, then Nars Velvet Matte Pencils are the answer.  I appreciate how quickly I can apply them, how slow they are to fade and they plump the mouth.  I think a beautiful neutral for light-to-medium skinned Canadesi women is Intriguing and for darker-skinned Canadesi women Pussy Control is a great option.

Nars Intriguing

Nars Intriguing Photo Credit:

Scroll up to see Intriguing paired with the Make Up For Ever khaki shadow.  It is very sexy and fresh!

5.A final touch is to apply a pearlescent powder on the raised parts of the face. When I first saw the Guerlain Météorites Illuminating Powder in Birthday Candles I was afraid that it would clash with my olive skin.

Guerlain Bday

I also believed that if my skin looked great what would illumination do?  Then I asked myself what is the difference between seeing art in the office by a window on a sunny day and or seeing it outside in the sunshine?  The subtle enhancement of light adds a freshness that cannot even be found with nine hours of sleep!

I traced my big woolly brush over the pearls, then applied it, and was left with a  subtle glow that locked in my make-up all day.

Meena fully made up wo bday pearlsmeena-with-bday-pearls.jpg

On the left I have no Birthday Pearls and on the right I do.

            W-Day The Invisible Accessory

After a month of preparation and a fresh make-up routine, please do not forget fragrance (unless you have allergies of course).

Prior to spraying yourself, imagine Aunt Hetty declaring to Rachel Lynde, while walking through the streets of Avonlea, “She was drrrrenched, simply drenched.”  Remember that your personal space will mingle with those of others and that a few well-placed spritzes is all you need to make the perfect statement.  Perfection is not defined by loudness.

I love to spritz on my cleavage, under my ears, in the crooks of my elbows and the wrists, and then I let the molecules absorb.  If you rub your wrists you impede the proper development of fragrance on your body.

For summer 2017, I found three fragrances that speak to the different aspects of a complex woman (I mean you!), and they are all unforgettable:

1.If you are a romantic who loves florals, then Shiseido Ever Bloom is ideal. This mixture of clycamen, lotus and rose, starts sweetly sharp and then settles into a powdery seduction. I find that at night the fragrance becomes more intense, as if the molecules interact with the night time flowers.  This fragrance will embolden you  to embrace your inner-siren.  I know that when I spritz it on I walk in a more sinewy manner and yearn for the evening to come.

Ever Bloom

2.If you possess an effervescent personality who loves the freshness of the morning dew, then L’Eau Kenzo Aquadisiac (limited edition, launch date July 12, 2017) is ideal. It is a marine-like mixture of pear, lotus and white musk that makes you wonder if siren calls were accompanied by this dreamlike scent. It is energetic, like the waves of the sea, yet incredibly feminine, like the froth upon it.  I was never one for oceanic fragrances until I tried this one and I believe I adore this fragrance because I am transported to my dream beach when I spritz it on.


3. If you love sweets and are deeply sensual, then Aerin Tangier Vanille D’Or is ideal. The first time I smelled this fragrance I imagined that I was walking in a souk eating ice-cream.

AERIN Beauty_Product on White_Tangier Vanille d'Or_Global

This fragrance is a tribute to Marco Polo’s travels because its international pedigree of Madagascar Vanilla, Italian Bergamot, and rich Bulgarian Rose, with notes of Saffron and Myrrh, arrests the mind and body.  I almost wept from joy when I caught my first whiff, as I am a dedicated gourmande and the tango between the vanilla and saffron made my heart soar.

            W-Day The Wedding

As you enter the Coliseum  wedding hall and you feel the gaze of the obnoxious aunties alight upon your person remember that there is no such thing as the perfect life path.  Just  because you avoided a starter marriage at the age of 21 when everyone claimed to have found a suitable boy for you or you had the courage to get out of a marriage that did not fulfill your needs  you are not married and refuse to settle for less than your immeasurable high worth  does not mean that an obnoxious aunty has the right to make veiled-barbs.  Do not be afraid to respond politely to their butameezi because age should never serve as a shield to protect these obnoxious aunties from an overdue, gentle-yet-firm training in the basics of politeness.  Never let anyone diminish your self-worth, and remember no one can stand up for yourself like you can.

Never forget that your body is glowing, your skin looks great, and you smell wonderful.  You also know that in fifteen years when you look at the wedding pictures, you will be unable to identify when it was taken because fresh make-up wears well, is timeless and lets the genetic wonder that is you shine through.

Pink is the Navy Blue of India by Meena Khan

Legendary Vogue editor Ms. Diana Vreeland once observed that “Pink is the navy blue of India.”  For anyone who has visited a South Asian country or just had tea at their parents’ place, it is easy to appreciate how in South Asian culture the brights are the primary focus and the neutrals… well are sometimes completely cast aside.  After all who needs beige when you can wear marigold or turquoise?

It is likely that when Ms. Vreeland referred to the colour pink she was not referring to baby pastel.  I suspect she had in mind what is known as gulaab.  You know the bright, mind-blowing shade of pink that announces joy and glamour even in the middle of a power outage in the dead of midnight in mid-January in the middle of the Canadian tundra.

Gulaab is a pretty shade of pink but it is but one of the plethora that stakes a legitimate  claim to the term pink.  Understandably, the brighter shades are a classic choice for many South Asians because of 1) cultural imagery; and 2) it shows up on darker skin tones.

As someone who enjoys colour and sees terms like red, blue and pink as categories that organise a rainbow of shades such as marsala, Klein blue and camelia, respectively, I believe that South Asian skin tones can look great in a variety of shades such that pink can become a neutral staple, just like navy blue.

To successfully add pink to one’s vanity, the following tips should be followed:

  1. create glowing skin;
  2. mute discolouration or darker areas which can “swallow-up” softer shades of pink;
  3. avoid using black liner, as pink, regardless of shade, is a soft colour, but keep the black mascara;
  4. rosy pink cheeks is within everyone’s grasp, it just takes a trick or two; and
  5. work with the tones of your skin to select the correct shade of lipstick.


The expression “the pink of health” is not reserved for the palest skin tones and cute babies.  I am medium olive complected, middle-aged woman and after a great run, my cheeks are flushed pink.  The key to a beautiful shade of pink for any skin tone has to do with a hint of glow and suggests inner-radiance.

Consequently, a glowing foundation should be used to highlight pink make-up.  Personally, I spot apply the Stellar Limitless Foundation, which was designed by Canadian TV personality Monika Deol, to meet the foundation needs of medium-toned women (i.e. this line is a great one for South Asian women).  This foundation adds a beautiful, natural glow to the skin and blends seamlessly.  There is absolutely no struggle to get it blend, it just melds into the skin with no risk of attah syndrome whatsoever.

Stellar Foundation

The key is to spot apply because I do not want my face to look like a mask.  Regardless of the occasion I want my real skin to be evident, not enveloped in make-up.  It makes for a healthier look and reminds me that I have come a long way from my acne-ridden teen years of yore.


I have written it before, and I will write it again, one of the banes of being a South Asian woman is the darkness around the eyes!  I have searched high and low for an eye shadow primer that would hide my darkness and permit me to wear softer shades of pink.  For years I relied on cream-shaded primers to “cover-up” the darkness.  The primers worked for the few hours and by lunch, the underlying darkness seeped through and literally swallowed-up my delicate pink shadow.  It was cakey mess and I became disenchanted with cream-shaded primers. I also set aside the soft, illuminating shades of eye shadow because it looked like a mess by noon.

As an alternative I investigated the colour-theory approach to complexion-correction and I did so with great trepidation.  I remember that when I was teenager, I was desperate to get rid of the redness which my acne left in its cruel wake.  I purchased a green-based corrector and applied it on my skin.  I appreciated how the green cancelled the red and but the green remained apparent on top of my medium olive skin.  It was like I traded half a dozen of one for six of another.

I was intrigued by Dior Fix It Colour 2-in-1 Prime & Colour Correct in 100 because this light blue stick is supposed to brighten the eyes and its centre is filled with a  soft focus powder that evens the surface.


The idea of using blue intrigued me and I was rather desperate to wear some fabulous shades of pink, so I tried it.  I am so happy that I gave this product a chance!

The blue literally neutralised my dark eye lids and created a beautiful canvass for me to try all sorts of pink shadows without risk of my underlying darkness seeping through and swallowing up the colour.  Why?  The darkness was neutralised and the soft powder centre prevented caking!

Meena Naked Eyes

My eyes without make-up

Meena Naked Eyes and Primer

My eyes with the one lid covered in primer.

Meena Naked Eyes Blended Primer

The lid with the primer is much brighter

I knew the product was a success when I experimented with the Dior 5 Couleurs Designer 508 Nude Pink Design.


This quintet of eye colour hovers in the nether region between soft pink and baby beige.  For many South Asian women such shades would look dead or ashen because the softness of the colours would not compliment the natural darkness around the eyes.  The primer permitted me to mix and match the four eye shadows and define with the chocolate brown liner on top and Burberry Chestnut Brown liner (see below) on the lower lashline:

Meena in Pink Nude Design and Chestnut

My eyes with Fix-it, Pink Nude Design, Chestnut liner and Nars mascara

A fantastic “nudey pink” equivalent for darker skin tones is Burberry Eye Colour in Rose Pink No. 201.

Burberry Shadow

This unabashed rose pink has a hint of coolness which permits darker skin tones to play with pinks without veering into a full-on berry shade.  I love that this powder is silky which permits you to layer it without risk of caking  The product is a wet/dry one which means that it can be applied wet which heightens the intensity of the pigment, taking it from a classic rose nude to a full-on colourful shadow.

Stila’s Matte’N Metal Eye Shadow Palette has something for all South Asian skin tones.  This palette contains twelve eye shadows which range from soft gold to sweet heather pink, of which six are metallic and six are matte.

Stila Matte 'N Metal Eye Shadow Palette - Open HI

The shades can be layered to create many alluring combinations.  I love mixing metallics to create a sultry warm weather look.  Sequin and Retro are two shades that gave me a glamourous look, and paired perfectly with Burberry Chestnut Brown liner (see below):

Meena in Stila and Chestnut

My eyes in Sequin and Retro with Chestnut Liner and  Nars mascara

Meena Close up Stila, Chestnut and Nars

Close-up of my eyes

Which brings me to my next point….


Black liner is an essential part of every South Asian woman’s vanity.  It looks great but black can also look harsh in summer months and there are viable, equally attractive liners that define without the harshness.

Nars Velvet Liner in Darklight is a deep navy blue which defines the eyes without looking witch-like.

Nars Liner

The formula’s creaminess permits you to cheat with the smoky eye, as you can apply an extra thick line, and then smudge it with a cotton bud to smoke up the eyes.  Darklight’s impact is a great match for brighter, blue-based pink shades, such as Estée Lauder Pure Colour Envy in Neon Azalea.  The blue adds a freshness to the eyes and at the end of the day the colour does not exacerbate any tiredness that may further pronounced with  a smudged black liner.

Burberry Effortless Kohl Eyeliner in Chestnut Brown No. 02 is the ideal brown for warm summer months because it is dark without being stark.  The warmth of this shade plays off perfectly against the softness of sweeter shades of pink and its staying power is impressive.  It is a wonderful complement to softer pink shades of eye shadow as demonstrated in the pictures in the previous section.

Burberry Liner

Switching up black liner for navy blue of chestnut brown does not mean that you should necessarily abandon black mascara.  A black mascara matches many South Asian manes perfectly and it adds a scintilla of gravitas against the softness and flirtiness of pink.  In warmer months, a great mascara creates a fresh, wide-eyed look where the lashes are defined and separated.  I thoroughly enjoy Nars Audacious Mascara in Black Moon because its huge brush with separated bristles always coats each of my lashes and separates them perfectly.  I like that after two coats my eyes looks wide awake (after a late night) and that bristles are so defined that I never lose time separating clumps.

NARS Audacious Mascara - full size - closed

                ROSY PINK CHEEKS

The image of rosy pink cheeks has typically been relegated to that of children running through a field and then sucking on popsicles on a front porch.  The image is fresh and truly the ideal to strive for when applying pink blush.

The key is to strobe the cheeks and then apply a powder lush.  The advantage is twofold, as the cream base and powder cosmetic textures lock to stay in place.  Further, the strobing product addresses the issue of how to make the skin glow, and allows pink pigment to do its work on the colour front.

I prefer to strobe my cheeks because adding light to cheekbones, rather than re-sculpting with multiple powders, is efficient and effective.  Besides, in warm weather who wants to spend time defining their cheekbones with multiple steps?

Nars the Multiple is legendary because each swipe delivers glow, no questions asked.  I love that these sticks do not clog my skin; are long lasting and; work with blushes, instead of competing with them for “cheek dominance”.  Copacabana‘s silver iciness flatters cooler, lighter skin tones.


My personal obsession is Hot Sand as this soft champagne, makes my medium-tone skin look alive.

NARS Hot Sand Illuminating Multiple - jpeg

South Beach is a soft, coral gold that flatters darker skin tones.


The key is to swipe the Multiple where your cheeks flush after a good work out  You only need one swipe because the Multiple is pigmented and the glow starts the moment it touches the skin.  Afterwards, blend it into the skin.  and then apply a pink powder blush.

I am still enamoured with Givenchy Prisme Blush Duo in No. 04.  This duo of peach and soft baby pink, swirl together beautifully to create a natural look that enhances light and medium skin tones.


For medium and darker skin tones, Nars blush in Angelika is a mauvey pink with a hint of sparkle.


In the compact it looks like a tough application but one swipe atop a Multiple and Angelika makes the cheeks look cherubic sweet:

Meena Strobed in Hot SandMeena Strobed in Hot Sand and Angelika

Picture on the left is how Hot Sand looks on my cheeks and the one the right shows Hot Sand and Angelika


The one place on the face where one is expected to have some pink is on the lips.  This point was driven home to me when I was a little girl in Brownies and Kim, a fellow Brownie, asked in a sharp manner why my lips were purple.  I felt like asking her if she would like me to ask why her face would be black and blue face in a few minutes but I digress…

In fact, my lips were not purple but multi-coloured, as is the case with many South Asian women.  The outline is a tad darker than the centre of the lips, which makes selecting a pink lipstick a two step process.  First, you need to settle on the finish: matte, satin or gloss?  The more translucent the texture the more likely you lips’ natural colouring will “poke through” which impacts question two, which shade you should select.

Since pink is cited as a great nude, I found three shades that work on South Asian lips.  For light-to-medium lips, I discovered and fell in love with  Estée Lauder Pure Color Envy Shine in Mischievous Rose, a soft pink shade that creates a sweet look.  The shade has been discontinued but below is a picture of similar shade called Rebellious Rose:

PC envy sculpting lipstick - Rebellious Rose


For darker lips, Stila Lip Glaze in Berry ,despite its name, is a beautiful pink-mauvey stain which celebrates the natural hue of darker lips.

Stila Berry

Like Rose Pink and Angelika discussed hereinabove, this product uses a hint of mauvey coolness to keep the colour in the pink family without sliding into the berries.

No blog  on pink for South Asians is complete without looking at vibrant shades that suit all shades of lips.  Neon Azalea is a great example of what I like to call a classic “shaadi ki bharat pink“.  Unabashedly electric and statement-making, it is a matte shade that envelops the lips in a blaze of femininity and fits in perfectly in the middle of a South Asian wedding.  The matte finish ensures that after you have polished off a basket of pakoras, that a healthy dose of colour remains fixed on the lips.

Neon Azalea

If you prefer to take the electricity down a notch, Givenchy Rouge Interdit Lipstick in Infrarose with the matching Lip Liner in Fuchsia is an unbeatable combination.


The blue-based deep rose shade is a tad glossy and is incredibly sophisticated.  The Fuchsia lip liner enhances the shade and does an excellent job of keeping the lips pink.

Meena in Darklight and Infrarose

This is me in Darklight, Infrarose and Fuchsia.


The plethora of products on the market demonstrate that pink is a great category of colour for South Asians.

Looking great in pink means achieving glowing skin and hiding discolouration so that the true beauty of the shade shines through.  Thereafter, the focus should be on colours and textures that flatter your particular skin tone.  The shades and textures which are now available permit every South Asian woman to look gorgeous and sweetly confirms that pink is indeed the navy blue of India – but so what?  Think pink!

Swiss Chocolate – Neutral Make-up Tips for Desi Divas by Meena Khan

In the 90’s, the neutral look was the dominant make-up trend which served to separate the decade from the excessive, exceptionally colourful eighties.

The late, great Kevyn Aucoin explained in his masterpiece Making Faces (Little, Brown and Company, Boston, New York, Toronto, London: 1997), “Neutral tones are typically light beige to dark brown-based colours and, therefore, are found naturally in the skin.  These shades enhance the features when lightly applied, because they tend to resemble your own natural shading and contours.  When used with more intensity, neutrals can add drama without adding too much colour (if that is your goal).” (page 51)

Mr. Aucoin succinctly explained the point of neutral make-up and colour but unfortunately his wisdom did not trickle down to the masses or enhance technology to the necessary refinement to carry off the look.  Specifically, neutrals were paired with matte finishes which were chalky and somewhat heavy.  Funnily, at the time, mattes were hailed as sophisticated and a welcome departure from the garish eighties with its buckets sparkle and reams of shine.   However my pictures from my McGill days reveal that this departure was fraught with its own challenges which resulted in this brown girl looking flat, cakey and boring.

Thankfully, time and technology, have brought the nineties back and this time, there are a plethora of nude shades in different textures which truly enhance desi beauty.


The cornerstone of the nineties neutral look was the matte complexion.  Powdered and flat, the skin mimicked the definition of neutrality which resulted in pictures in which the neck s looked alive and the faces looked like they were dipped in attah (flour).

My experiences with layering copious amounts of Studio Fix on my skin resulted in my avoiding matte finishes as I entered my late twenties because I did not aspire to look like a kabuki artist.  I did not want to look flat, I wanted to have dimension.

Then along came Diorskin Forever Perfect Makeup Foundation and I am back to matte.  This SPF 35-infused foundation easily blends into the skin, and has no shine but imparts a lively effect.  My skin looks like it has dimension, and it is matte, not flat.


Photo Credit: Christian Dior, Canada

The foundation marks a quantum leap in terms of matte foundations because its lightness makes you feel like you are applying a glow foundation but when the foundation sets after a minute, there lies a sophisticated, professional  finish that lasts all day.  I love that this line of foundation comes in 26 shades which means that no desi woman is left out of this marvellous matte technology.

Interestingly, this collection also addresses the issue of the undertone of the skin.  By undertone, I mean the tint that your skin takes on when there is no sunshine.  For example, there are two brown-skinned women, one looks like an olive in the middle of winter (that is me) while the other turns into a peach.

The best way to confirm your undertone is to look at the inside of your wrist against a white sheet of paper.  The colour that shows up is your undertone and explains why desi women should never fall into the trap that if the foundation is darker it must work for their skin tone and they can share it with their sisters and friends.  Desi women of all shades should analyse their undertone before purchasing a foundation because one desi‘s match is another person’s ashen masque.

The shade could be correct, e.g. a medium brown but the perfect match takes the undertone into account.  In the Diorskin Forever Perfect Makeup collection the foundation number indicates the tone:

0, 4 and 5=neutral
1 = golden
2 = pink or rose
3 = apricot or peach

On the weekends, in the nineties, I still caked on the matte foundation, believing that my skin always had the have same matte look regardless of the occasion.  I never entertained the notion, that skin, like the eyes or lips, can have different looks for different occasions.   With time and technology, came the BB Creams, which were all the rage several years ago  and are a wonderful alternative for foundations on relaxed occasions such as the weekend.

I became intrigued by Burt’s Bees BB Cream, which contains SPF 15 and is made with Noni Extract  “a nourishing relative of the invigorating coffee bean.


This lightweight liquid brightens the complexion so that it looks fresh but without the greasiness of a glow-type foundation.  It is almost matte but not quite.  Unfortunately, the shade range is from light to medium, which means that darker-skinned desis miss out on this formula.  I hope this will change and that more shades will be launched.  This “weekend matte look” should be available to women of all skin tones.


As a woman with brown eyes and brown skin with dark circles, taupes and browns are tricky to pull off  because they tend to look washed out on my skin and do not bring the eyes to life.

The way to make the neutral work on the brown skin – brown eyes combination is to work with either a contrast colour or contrasting textures.


In a sea of brown, i.e. eyes and skin, an exciting swipe of blue, green, pink or turquoise attracts light to the eye and creates a wide-awake look.  Nars limited edition spring duo Chiang Mai, is a vivid combination of sea blue and copper.


The sea blue flatters all desi skin tones, as this shade is vivid and looks beautiful against a dark background.  Copper falls into the brown family but the red lifts it a step above basic chocolate, and its metallic finish attracts light.  I love swiping the sea blue on my lower lid and then working the copper into the crease, and the lining the eyes with a dark brown liner such as Nars Last FrontierVelvet Liner, a deep coffee brown.



My eyes in Chiang Mai, lined with Last Frontier.

Another colour option is Beauty Counter’s Desert Sunrise palette.  As the name suggests, this  earth tone heavy palette comes with calm, soft colours.


What makes it interesting is that the colours range from Pearl, Champagne, Khaki to Pinot.  The finish is incredibly soft so you can actually create a neutral eye by lightly layering the non-brown shades.  For example, I apply Pearl on the inner corners and blend it with the Champagne, and line with the Khaki.

What I appreciate about this palette is that it works on all desi skin tones.  The powders are so soft that you can layer to achieve the intensity you want.


 When the nineties were over, I literally cast out my brown eye shadows because I hated how they deadened my eyes.  Then I encountered Dior Eye Shadow Palette in Cuir Cannage, and it was light bulb moment.  Each shade in this quintet of neutral shadows celebrated brown in a different way.  The centre is a matte caramel, north east is a shimmery off-white, south east is a dark chocolate, north west is a shimmery metallic coffee and south west is a shimmery soft mocha.  Depending on the shade of your eyelid, you can mix the shades and create a neutral look that uses contrasting matte and shimmer to add light to the eyes.


Photo Credit: Christian Dior, Canada

I love to apply the off-white on the inner corners, and then populate the lower lid with the soft mocha, apply the coffee in the crease and then line with the dark chocolate.  The look respects the neutral colour spectrum and makes an unforgettable statement.


My eyes in Cuir Cannage.


In the nineties  I used taupe blush and when I got my pictures back I always wondered why I looked so dead…  Undoubtedly, blush is the trickiest part of neutral make-up.  On brown skin, the neutral tones are absorbed and do not highlight bone structure or add life to the face.

Bronzer alone, with its brown base, is not the ideal answer as it is just an extension of the eyes.  No matter how you slice it, a touch of pink or peach is a must for the neutral look.  Nars Orgasm is the king of blushes.  It adds warmth and sexiness to all skin tones with a hint of shimmer.  This shade is a failsafe and looks good for any occasion.

NARS double eye shadow box summer 2004

For cheeks with a cooler, flushed look, I strongly recommend Prisme Blush No 4 (on counters in April 2017).  I am amazed by how one twirl of the shade combination of peach and pink creates a full-bodied, vibrant look, that enhances the dimensions of the cheekbones.


Photo Credit:  LVMH Fragrance Brands Canada Ltd

For darker skin tones dabbing Beauty Counter’s Flamingo (part of the Desert Sunrise palette) blush on the apples of the cheeks provides a subtle contrast to the browns and taupes on the eyes.  It is the third blush square in the palette, on the right side (see above).


My lips were flat brown in the nineties, and with the rise of Jennifer Lopez, I looked high and j-low for a nude lipstick that did not resemble concealer.  Neutral lips are tricky but the key is to understand that neutral does not always mean a nude lip and you can venture into the pinks and still pull off a neutral look.

Nude lips are a classic neutral lip look, and the key is to work with the natural colouring of the lips.  Desi women come in many shades and this means that lips can be soft pink to deep mauve.  Therefore nude for one desi woman is chalky for another.  While searching for nude, do not focus on the word nude, focus on what shade mimics your lips.  For example, Givenchy Rouge Interdit has five shades of nude, Secret Nude, Serial Nude, Urban Nude, Street Nude and Nude in the Dark.  My lip shade means that I achieve a nude, neutral look with Urban Nude.


Photo Credit:  LVMH Fragrance Brands Canada Ltd

Since the nude lip is soft, line the lips with a matching liner  to ensure that the lips do not disappear.  Givenchy’s Lip Liners collection comes in 11 shades, and they are designed to match perfectly with the Rouge Interdit collection.  For my lipstick, I use No 2 Brun Createur.


Photo Credit:  LVMH Fragrance Brands Canada Ltd

Sometimes you need to turn up the neutrality and venturing into the pinks and mauves is an excellent option.  Pinks which range from baby to camelia are exceptionally pretty when you are sporting a neutral eye.  Burt’s Bees Lipsticks are 100% natural, and the range of neutral shades is impressive.  I have received many compliments when I wear Blush Basin which is soft, pretty rose that defines my lips without screaming.


On days when I want to a more brown shade, but want to avoid my errors of the nineties, I rely on Suede Splash.  It is brown-based with enough mauve to prevent it from making my lips disappear.



The neutral of the nineties is in the past!  With new technology, neutral colours are no longer safe and boring.  They highlight your natural skin tone and create a professional look that infuses you with confidence.

In this picture, my skin is prepped with Burt’s Bees BB Cream in Medium, the eyes are done up in Nars Chiang  Mai, lined with Nars Last Frontier, the cheeks are lightly defined in Givenchy Prisme No 4, and the lips are filled in with Burt’s Bees Suede Splash.


In this picture my skin is prepped with Dior Forever Makeup Foundation in No 31, the eyes are done up in Cuir Cannage (lower eyes are lined in Last Frontier), the cheeks are lightly defined in Nars Orgasm and the lips are lined in Givenchy Brun Createur and filled-in with Urban Nude.



Neutral make-up is no longer an automatic pass to blah-ville, because:

  1. the skin should not be covered in cakey-powdery foundation, instead focus on liquid foundations or BB Creams that create a soft finish;
  2. having brown eyes and brown skin does not mean that brown eye shadow will look dull. There are two approaches, either use a contrasting colours juxtaposed on a neutral base or use a neutral colour in different finishes to create a lively eye;
  3. pinks and peaches have a place in the neutral palette, namely the cheeks, where you need to add a lively shade to prevent the face from looking flat; and
  4. nudes now come in a variety of shades and the one you pick should be suited to the shade of your lips. Since nudes are supposed to be subtle, make sure to define the lips so that your lips do not disappear.  A great alternative is to wear pinks or mauves, which add softness and complement the neutral look.

A Lipstick Love Letter to Aunties

Growing up, I was always fascinated by my mom’s make-up.   Her routine was simple: kajal, lipstick and powder but to me it was the epitome of glamour.  I used to drop everything and stand next to her, drinking in her steps and hoping that she would swipe some lipstick on me.  Each time I was anointed with lipstick I felt like I was pretty like my mom.


My mom in 1984

Mom’s options were limited because she did not have much money and let’s face it, products were limited for all women of colour in Canada in the seventies and eighties… regardless, mom always had kajal , powder and dark lipstick.

In the nineties when I started to wear make-up and benefited from the emergence of M.A.C., I asked mom why she insisted on her maroon lips when she could try neutrals.  I lectured her on how dark lips aged her and it was so dated… so seventies!

Mom, to her credit, stuck to her lipstick tubes, and insisted on dark lipstick because that was her signature.  In fact it was the signature look of my mom and her desi friends, a.k.a. the aunties.  These women, who came from hot countries, knowing English but no French (unless you count pronouncing Chanel correctly) clung (and still cling) to their trusty kajal, powder and dark lips.  Looking at older desi films it makes perfect sense why they adhere to this look… The actresses and models of their heyday, before they were married-off to men living in foreign countries, wore kajal, lipstick and powder.  The look connected them to their youth and a time when they were free.

As I watch my mom do her make-up, I chuckle at the simplicity of her routine but I have also grown to appreciate the unabashedly glamourous  and timeless nature of the look, if not my mom’s particular shade of dark lipstick.

The look can easily veer from glamour to gloopy during a desi party as:

  • the throngs of people at these parties induces perspiration which affects the powder as it goes from silky soft to besan (chick pea powder) granularity.
  • the kajal that rims the eyes to exotic perfection, migrates into the dark circles, amongst throngs of people, so that you look exhausted, rather than exotic; and
  • the oils in desi cuisine reduce the darkest of lipsticks into sad stain at first bite;

The look that is epitomised by the aunties is easy to pull off and maintain, the whole,  with a modern touch when you follow these steps.


Philosophy:  Kajal and dark lips require a smooth, soft base, so that the focus remains on the eyes and lips.

1. Apply a matte primer which not only creates a great canvass for make-up, it also keeps greasiness at bay. My current favourite is Dior Pore Minimizer Skin Refining Matte Primer because it feels like silk, sets to a soft finish and reduces the appearance of pores;dior-primer-dior-website                                              Photo Credit:

2. Spot apply a soft, luminous foundation so that your complexion is even, your unblemished skin comes through and the face has dimension. I am blown away by Estée Lauder Double Wear Nude Cushion Stick Radiant Makeup because both the formula and packaging are made for the multi-faceted modern woman. estee-lauder-foundation-estee-website

                                                  Photo credit:

It comes with a built-in mini sponge for blending; and the sponge can be removed for cleaning.  I love that one twist of the base emits the perfect amount of foundation and the sponge tip blends the foundation in perfectly.

4. The under eyes are the bane of millions of desi women and after much trial and error, I recommend the following three steps and products to cover them without looking cakey:

  • Shiseido Perfecting Stick Concealer is a stick concealer that goes on creamy and sets to a soft lasting finish. I use Medium Deep as a corrector, and its orangeness sends the bluish tinge of my circles into neutral territory. shiseido-concealer                                       Photo credit:
  • I then swipe the Dior Fix It 2-in-1 Prime & Conceal directly on top. I use Shade 003 and it blends the under eye with the rest of my skin. The centre of the tube is a primer which prevents the products from becoming too cakey;


Photo credit:

  • After applying eye make-up, I dab a luminiser to perk up the eye area and fade the demarcation between the concealer and/or skin.  I am impressed with Dior Flash Luminizer because the bristles are shaped like a duck’s bill so it is easy to blend and tap.
  • dior-luminizerPhoto credit:
  • Further, the liquid is lightweight and adds light without the over-the-top Vegas touch.  I tap this product on the outer rims of the dark circles.
  1. The cheeks must not be forgotten but they play a background role. Strong eyes and lips means that cheeks cannot join in the drama because that will result in a clownish look.  I have previously and still rave about the Stila Star Light, Star Bright  palette.  It consists of a trio of luminisers which range from soft pink (Transcendence), to a sexy champagne (Kitten) to a sultry summer night (Bronze).  Depending on your skin tone, you can tap your fingers in one or all three, to create a highlighter that you tap delicately along your cheekbones to create definition.


Photo credit:

For this look, I opted to not contour my nose because I wanted to experiment with strobing – and I am glad that I did.  I tapped a bit of Kitten down the centre of my nose and its looks photo ready.


Philosophy:  Create a smouldering frame for a softly lit face which draws people in.

  1. Strong lips demand a defined brow. I was slavishly devoted to the eyebrow pencil because I loved the precision but what I did not love is that sometimes in an effort to fill in my sparseness at the base, I created a rectangular shape and the tail at the end really made for such a flattering look.  I decided to experiment with the Benefit Goof Proof Brow Pencil  which is a two-sided pencil.  benefit-brow                              Photo credit:
  2. One end is a bristle brush, shaped like a mini-mascara wand that lifts hairs and exposes sparseness.  The other side is a wax that goes on light.  The wax leaves a soft finish and its thickness means that you do not go over a small area multiple times to fill-it in.  The result is thicker-looking ,defined brows that look sensual.  Also the wax is thicker than a pencil so I skip the brow setting gel.
  3. I use the Dior Flash Luminizer all over the eye lid because its lightweight texture keeps the yes fresh and the liquid adds freshness while neutralising any darkness ion the area;
  • For special evenings I like to add a bit of luminiser under the arch so that there is more light in the eye area. I tap on Benefit High Brow  under the arch and tail, and then use my ring finger to blend the product into my skin.  benefit-pencil                                           Photo credit:
  • For darker skin tones the pinkish tone might be too light and recommend that a gold shade be used instead.  One great product for darker skin tones  is Burberry Eye Colour Cream in Gold Copper.


Photo credit:

  1. Always curl the lashes. I love the Shiseido Eye Lash Curler because it never pinches my eyes!shiseido-curler                                        Photo credit:
  1. Kajal time! Experience has taught me that kajal, when it migrates, is a complete disaster.  Given that the upper lid is mobile, the risk of migration is pronounced, which is why I have fallen in love with YSL Eye Marker.


Photo credit:

The applicator is doe-tipped which permits you to draw either a thin line or a thick line.

For the lower rim, I recommend Givenchy  Khôl Couture Waterproof in Black.  The colour is inky and sets within a few seconds.  The waterproof formula means that migration into the concealer should never be an issue.givenchu-khol                                             Photo credit:

10. The eyes are naked without mascara. I enjoy Benefit They’re Real because for real, the applicator wand’s separated bristles means that each lash, regardless of size , will be coated.  The formula lends itself to multiple layers so you control the intensity of the gaze.


Photo credit:


Philosophy: Just go for it.

  1. Now for the pièce de résistance the lips! A great base consisting of moisture and definition is a must!  I am a big fan of Estée Lauder New Dimension Plump + Fill Expert Treament, because one end is a hydrating balm and the other is a clear gel that fills in deeper crevices.  This product increases the plumpness of lips.


Photo credit:

  1. Lip liner is a must for dark lip colour because:
  • if you have vertical lines around the mouth, liner prevents bleeding;
  • dark can overwhelm what is relatively small surface area so you need to define it so that the shape is not lost in the colour; and
  • you can define the corners of your mouth (lipstick will smear in such a tight place) to prevent fish mouth.

The next question is whether you should use a neutral or a matching lip liner.  A neutral is practical in that you buy one liner for all pencils, it is like the LBD for your lipstick wardrobe.  Its neutralises lips that are deeply pigmented to the point that lighter colours which lose their impact on the lips appear in their full glory.  A neutral liner expands your options for lip colour.

On the other hand using a lip liner that is in the same colour family as the lipstick adds a vibrancy to the lips that permits you to make a statement without saying a word.  Further, for darker-lipped beauties, the liner maintains the richness of the shade so that what you see in the tube is what ends up on your lips.

Based on the above analysis, when deciding on a lip liner, examine your natural lip colour, the lipstick shade and your budget before deciding on a lip liner.  If you opt for neutral, try Buxom Plumpline™ Lip Liner.  This product raises the lip liner game from mere supporting role to battling for lead role on the lip stage.  These matte pencils serve as the traditional lip liner but can be used alone as a lipstick.  For desi lip tones, I recommend Hush Hush for light-medium lip tones and I recommend Dolly Danger for dark lip tones.


        Photo credit: and I am wearing Hush Hush

  1. Now is time for the lipstick! There is debate as to whether a lip brush is required and I believe that like lip liner, it is a choice.

A lip brush guarantees precision if you possess a deft hand meaning one slight twitch and the bristles will displace the lipstick off your lips.

Applying straight from the tube guarantees maximum colour impact but it is difficult to apply the product gracefully around the cupid’s bow.

Lip brushes are not cheap, and personally, I do not need one.  I used one until I noticed that I had trouble putting the cap back on which means that the cap would cut into the bristles. After several months, the bristles, in particular the outer ones, would become bent because of my inability to put the cap back on properly.  Consequently, I do not like lipstick brushes.

14. Mom’s mantra was dark lipstick. Maroon was her dream colour – and so not mine. Dark lips, like neutral lips come in a plethora of shades and below are five outstanding ones that suit the full rainbow of desi beauty:

  • Burberry Oxblood is a browner red that veers to maroon but still maintains its red credibility. It is extremely sophisticated, and its air of gravitas will imbue you with confidence for a tough meeting.


     Photo credit: and I am wearing Oxblood

  • Dior Poison Matte brings me back to the nineties without all of the beauty errors. This blackened chianti shade hisses danger and exudes mystery.  It walks the thin line between the rebellious nineties and the enlightened aughts.  This is a quasi-black that you can wear to work and the afterhours club!


           Photo credit: and I am wearing Poison Matte

  • Givenchy Rouge Velours in Framboise Velours paired with Givenchy Lip Liner 6. This is a beautiful example of how a matching lip liner heighten the intensity of the lipstick to a beautiful effect.  This unabashed raspberry combo adds brightness to the face but its deepness hints at sophistication, like a wine stain that entices you to try more.  I feel confident and alive when wear this combination.


I am wearing Framboise Velours and Givenchy 6 Liner

  • Givenchy Le Rouge Grenat Initié brings grenadine to the lips. The red is so deep, so luxurious that you could literally drown in the colour.  It has a hint of blue that suggests that still waters run deep.  Very sexy!


I am wearing Grenat Initie

  • Bobbi Brown in Chocolate is a classic from the nineties that brought grunge to the pucker. Its resemblance to all delicious desserts turns the mouth into a siren call to indulge.  It is supposed to be tough and rough but the satin finish makes this colour a desi delight!


I am  wearing Chocolate


Our desi mothers birthed and raised children during  a time when there was little resources available to help them transition from living in Asia to North America or Europe.  A key part of their identity was to dress up and the make-up routine consisted of dark lipstick , kajal and powder.

As the new generation of desi women, namely Canadesi women, we have a plethora of options to pull off the ultra-glamourous look.  The key is to prepare the skin, prepare the eye area and then pick lip products that suit your skin tone and mood.

B to the Glow by Meena Khan

White Versus Brown

Growing up, I was the one of the few people in my school that could be classified as brown all year round, not just in September and January, like my Caucasian friends.   Typically, as the summer’s rays faded into autumn’s frostiness, they would hold their arms next to mine and lament their paleness.  A classic sentence that was uttered by many of my friends (and their mothers) was, “You are so lucky!  You always have colour!”  Their reaction contrasted sharply with the comments I received in the Canadesi community.

The difference between the reactions was like white versus brown.

At home, mom would say that it is wrong to judge by people their skin colour, yet during the summer months, she would casually track my skin tone.  If I got too dark, she (or a big-mouthed aunty) would comment, “Meena, you are looking tan.”  To a Caucasian family, the statement would be a mere observation of skin tone.  To a Canadesi girl who overheard how some aunties lamented that some children are “bilkul kaali” (completely black), the message was clear – dark is not good.

The differing messages left me in the middle of two beauty ideals.  On the one hand, I wanted to be free of desi skin colour baggage and enjoy my brownness, yet the discomfort I feared of being perceived as too dark impacted my behaviour.  As a child who played soccer and swam outside, to an acne-ridden teenager who feared that the sun would make her scars darker, I started to avoid the sun.

Tangerine Nightmare

In the early 2000’s, I dared to experiment with the bronze look popularised by Jennifer Lopez.  My experimentation stopped when I realised that I looked like a tangerine, and worse, my neck, arms and legs were considerably paler than my face.  These forays convinced me that all tanning products were for Caucasian girls and for years I paid scant attention to summer beauty articles that featured such products.  I also ignored articles that advised how women can extend their summer glow… until something changed.

After years of being embarrassed by my face and my figure, I started to improve them by my mid-thirties.  I understood how to deal with IBS which bloated me and that certain foods would cause acne.  As I gained the upper hand on my chronic condition, I saw for the first time the possibility of celebrating all of me.   I realised that desi girls have summer glow, just like Caucasian girls.  The point was driven home  when I realised how pale my legs looked when I wore skirts and was shocked that my Caucasian friends looked darker than me at the end of summer.  I realised that I too wanted to extend my glow without descending into a tangerine nightmare.

                Prepping for the Brown Glow

The question became how could I achieve the full-on Jennifer Lopez glow that suited my skin tone, was affordable and easy to maintain?

After several failed attempts, and lots of research, I realised that when the sun is leaving that you need to step up the preparatory steps to ensure that glow products work properly.

To that end, a quick way for all desi girls to inject brightness and glow to their faces  is to apply the Bliss Mask-a-‘Peel’.


Photo Credit:

I first encountered this product in Singapore and fell in love with how I became my own beauty scientist when using this product.  I had to mix the Vitamin C-infused powder in a little container, add a precise amount of water and then mix them a wooden stick, until they turned into a paste.  I applied the cool, sticky, clayish paste to my skin, and I loved how it cooled the surface.

Looking in the mirror I start to hum Phantom of the Opera, as the paste dried into a rubberised masque.   After 20 minutes, I stripped off the masque and underneath, each time, was a brighter, fresher complexion that made me glow like a 100 watt light bulb.  A quick rinse with cool water sealed in the “younger and newer” me, and my skin was softer than a pile of cotton balls.  My face was ready to extend the glow.


Photos from left top right: Me bare-skinned, the masque in production, masque on the face, peeling off the masque.


Me with a refreshed complexion

The body, like the face, needs to be prepared.  The beauty winter bane of many desi women, Canadesi ones in particular, is how ashy their body looks as the temperature drops.  The ashiness is due to the accumulation of dead skin cells on the surface and their presence blocks creams from penetrating and hydrating the skin.  A quick  way to remove the dead skin cells is to exfoliate several times a week.

The Caudalie Divine Scrub lives up to its name.


Photo Credit:

This gentle scrub which whisks away dead skin cells with brown sugar crystals is infused with four oils: grape, argan, hibiscus and sesame, which always leave my skin soft.  I love how it frees tiny hairs so that my shave is extra-close, and the oils create a gentle, protective barrier so my skin is not irritated after shaving and it feels soft as I towel off.  As temperatures drop further, and in Canada they will (so far… with climate change one can never be certain), a thick cream such as Nuxe Anti-Tightness High-Nutrition Balm should be massaged all over the body, so that when you apply the glow product, it will adhere to, rather than pill on, the skin.


Photo Credit:

                Adding Glow to the Face

After applying your skin care products, you need to decide how you wish to glow – overall or only on the peaks of the face (cheekbones, forehead… etc.).

If you want an overall glow, use a glow primer such as Dior Glow Maximizer (light-to-medium) or Burberry Fresh Glow  in Golden Radiance (dark) all over your face.


Photo credits: Dior: and Burberry:

These primers do not make your skin greasy or oily.  Instead, they catch light and make you look like you sprinkled pearls, instead of sugar, over your cereal for breakfast.  The effect is subtle and is a sure victory against Jack Frost in the battle of maintaining your summer glow.


Left to right: Me bare-faced and the my skin with Dior Glow Maximizer

Another method is to apply  a highlighting bronzer, and before you remind me of the risk of the tangerine nightmare, I urge you to run and purchase the Victoria Beckham Estée Lauder Highlighter.


Photo Credit:

This product does not have a speck of orange in it and infuses your complexion with a subtle warmth that suggests that you had a quick jaunt to Aruba over the weekend.  I love passing  a big woolly brush over its surface and then lightly dusting the peaks of my face.  It is so easy to apply and it has a 100% guaranteed  look hot rate of return.


Left to right: My make-up prior to highlighter, then my make-up with the highlighter

A third method represents a direct counterpoint to the over-stylised, unnatural-looking kontouring trend that has been de rigueur for far too many seasons.  How about using your trusty fingers to apply lightweight particles that impart angelic elegance in a few swipes?  I am in love with Stila Star Light, Star Bright Highlighting Palette which contains a trio of shades Trancendence (pink), Kitten (champagne) and Bronze (self-explanatory), that can be used alone or mixed together on the cheeks and eyes to create a luminescent glow.


Photo Credit:

I use the Transcendence on my eyes and cheeks and then slightly contour with Bronze on a daily basis.  The fact that my fingers can manipulate this product without creating a mess and imparting instant glow, makes me feel like I literally have the Midas touch.  The colours are soft and easy to use on all desi skin tones.  A great buy!


Left to right: Me before the palette and then I use the palette to highlight my eyes and cheekbones.

Adding Glow to the Body

As with the face, there are many viable options on how to make the body glow like a fading summer sun setting off the Almafi Coast.  If you exfoliate and hydrate regularly (described hereinabove), you have wider options for products than someone who has dry, scaly skin because the latter catches the pigment in the product, thus creating a streaky look.

As someone who does not want an extreme look, hard core tanning in a salon is not an option.  First, by directly exposing your skin to UV rays, you damage your skin with rays that speed up aging and cause burns.  Second, I do not want to look like a messed-up Malibu Barbie.  Tanning salons, in my opinion, should be forced to charge a consumption tax that directly funds skin cancer research.  Their existence puzzles me when we have a market filled with self-tanning products that do not stink and make brown skin glow.

I prefer a soft, slightly tinted effect which reflects 1) that my body caught rays but 2) since my body is covered in clothes, it will not be as tanned as my face but still, there is some colour.  The balance is difficult to achieve but is possible with the following products.

I really enjoy the Caudalie Divine Legs because this tinted body lotion hydrates my skin, and imparts a soft barely-there caramel finish with a touch of gold dust within a minute of being applied.


Photo Credit:

My legs look bronzey – not fake bronzed, and under a pair of fishnets, they look sexy!  The lotion spreads easily and sets quickly.  The scent is more like green plants rather than coconuts and it stays in place, i.e. it does not stain my clothes.

If you have scars on your skin, or hyperpigmentation, wearing skin baring clothes is an intimidating process.  My right leg has some scars from shaving and they take a long time to fade.  If I am going bare-legged in a dress, both my shaving scars and dark knees are an issue.  In this situation, I follow the steps that I outlined in my blog To Hell with Hyperigmentation to cover-up the darkness and I use Benefit Hoola Zero Tanlines, instead of Caudalie Divine Legs.  The former, like the latter, imparts a soft, gentle glow but the former also comes with a  sponge applicator.  The sponge allows you to dab the product and blend it into the skin.  I apply a drop of Hoola to the sponge and dab it atop my make-up so that I get the glow without  smudging the coverage.  The sponge applicator allows you to contour the legs and the décolletage, if you want to add extra definition.


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If you want to maintain regular, slightly tanned look, St. Tropez Gradual Tan Classic  is a wonderful option.  It is a mousse that you rub into the skin and the tan builds to a soft brown, not Fanta, over time.  You need a to wait a few minutes before you dress but over a few days, you will have a bronzy look that will not sweat out in hot yoga.  This means if you meet your colleagues on the weekend, there won’t be sideway glances wondering what happened to the glow – because it’s always there because you were born with it;)


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My journey from being troubled by having brown skin to looking for ways to celebrate my natural brown glow was not an easy one.  Extending the summer glow is achieved by:

  1. obtaining healthy skin – when your skin is scar-free and you feel body confident, “all of a sudden” what you are born with becomes what you want to celebrate;
  2. great skin is key – use a masque, exfoliate and hydrate so that the skin becomes the base upon which products can adhere in a smooth manner. Moreover when skin is unclogged, it emits its own natural glow that enhances the impact of beauty products;
  3. the face can look glowy by using a primer that is designed to add glow, using a classic powder or tapping on illuminating product. The key is using a light touch because there is a thin line between class and clown;
  4. the body can look glowy but it has different considerations. It is not as dark in the face because it is less-exposed to the sun so the key is to add a hint of glow, not to match the face. Subtlety is the driving criterion when selecting products, and remember that a tanning bed is never an option.  It is a bed of poison for the skin and completely unnecessary when there are other products that do not harness UV rays to damage (Oops! I really meant to type darken)  your skin;
  5. depending on the level of hyperpigmentation on your body, you might prefer a lotion or a product that can be applied in a more controlled manner. Further, if you want a constant glow, lotions are not the right option, and you should look at longer lasting self-tanners;
  6. extending the summer glow is not the exclusive purvey of Caucasian women. Every woman, regardless of her skin tone should consider extending their glow as a viable beauty look that imparts the joy of summer as Jack Frost rises from the depths.