Shop Local Series // Moringa What
In today’s Shop Local segment, we’re going to be talking about drumstick trees. You know, those delicious sambhars (made using the drumstick vegetable) we eat at home with rice? (Did you come to the right page?) Okay, okay, we love being corny. But seriously. Drumstick trees. The Moringa genus. Same thing! Should you happen to be one of those beauty aficionados who’s done their research too, you’d know that ‘moringa oil’ is slowly achieving ‘cult product’ status considering the wonders they work on ageing, dry skin. There’s more we don’t know about the magical Moringa, and we thought, ‘Who better to ask than Ekom Mamik?’ Ekom is the founder of a locally grown brand called Moringa What, her products are formulated using moringa oil. Moringa What currently makes a handful of products but the ones they do, they make it well. My editor swears by the 100% Moringa Cold Pressed Oil, it’s been remedial for her eczema. Anyway, I’m going to now cut short on my rambling and share my conversation with Ekom, down below (I learned so much) &ndash
Moringa What seems quite apt an name because after reading more about moringa, I was like, ‘Moringa, whaaat?’ Lightness aside, tell us how you discovered this genus to be beneficial for the skin? (For some time, I foolishly believed moringa to be a variant of the jasmine flower so to learn that it is the scientific name for drumstick trees was news to me!)
“When I first conceptualised the brand and vision for it in 2014, each time I told someone that I was working with moringa, every single person’s response was ‘WHAT’. Glad you caught on! I grew up eating the pods of the moringa tree like everyone else in the South (in sambhars) but never paid attention to what I was eating, where it came from or how it was good for me. I was reintroduced to moringa in all its entirety while working at a sustainable village for HIV-affected parents and grandparents in remote Kenya. The local people were consuming dried leaves to boost their immune system. I was intrigued, and this sent me on a year-long research on all things moringa, from it being a drought-resistant tree and how all parts of the tree can be consumed.
Further research led me to learn how the oil from the seeds are being used by high-end fragrance companies and skincare brands as a mere base owing to its emollient, antioxidant properties, as well as for its stability with respect to possessing a long shelf life. The deeper I dug, the more I questioned why the oil was not being used au naturel when it can be, without the additives or synthetic fragrances masking its true potential. At the time, ‘clean’ non-toxic beauty wasn’t even being talked about. The basic lack of truly clean ingredients in skincare drove me down this path. [The oil was tested and tried on a host of people I know, not animals. (Although I would argue that we are animals too!)]
With respect to our second product, the High Vibrational Exfoliant, it’s a combination of three ‘beauty foods’ rooted in our collective South Asian beauty traditions passed down from grandmothers to mothers and so on. The concept of its formulation is that it combines three whole foods that you can eat, and feed your skin with. This had me really pay attention to my skin and what I was putting on it, because everything applied topically finds its way into our bloodstream.”
I learned that your products are made employing techniques that are cruelty-free, non-toxic and most importantly, sustainable. Tell us more? Does this in any way, hinder production? Is it challenging to produce large batches of the product, every couple of months?
“The challenge is dealing with conventional ideas of ‘what’s good versus bad’ and certifications. The small-holder farmers we work with can’t afford these organic certifications but they are de facto organic. The challenge, really, is to tell the story, be transparent of our supply chain and how the products are made and build trust through that channel as opposed to getting formal certifications. I see absolutely no challenge though with respect to cruelty-free testing - if products are made using single or the fewest ingredients grown in healthy soils and are plant-based, there’s no reason to test on animals. As with every product, basic chemical profiles that are naturally occurring are tested, but I see no challenge with respect to being cruelty-free - it’s the easiest thing to be if your ingredients are clean.
On sustainability, there are two aspects - I’m personally big on it and have spent a large part of my time on ‘sustainability’ as opposed to marketing my products. The first is, the practices involved for growing the ingredients, the people growing them (ensuring multiple cropping versus monocropping, sustainable income and growth for low-income communities) are sustainable and ethical. This is easy to address and ensure. The second aspect, is the life cycle of a product and raw materials used in packaging it. Greenwashing is big, these days, with brands touting themselves to be biodegradable when it’s almost impossible in practice except in specialised factories with temperature and moisture settings in place.
Having said that, with our Moringa oil, the bottles are made of glass, encased in bamboo; the stopper is plastic which is required when shipping the product to avoid leakage. I have researched the space, and there hasn’t been an alternative to using stoppers and bottle caps yet (even metal caps have an inner lining of plastic). More dialogue on this is definitely needed, in terms of practice-sharing in that regard. So while being sustainably conscious is a challenge, it’s a good challenge to have.”
Since Moringa oil can be used on its own or as a carrier oil, do you use it in any beauty remedies of your own?
“In addition to using it as a replacement for moisturiser, I mix the oil with any face scrub (that I might be using, currently) - it eliminates the additional step of moisturising, post exfoliating. In the rare times that I wear lipstick, I use the oil as a make-up cleanser. It truly is multi-purpose. I have friends that use it for its anti-inflammatory properties, for their knee pains and swells.”
Shop Local is a monthly online pop-up featuring and recommending goods from small and mid-sized brands founded by artists and makers we love who tell their stories though their products.
Shop Local Series is a monthly online pop-up featuring small and mid-sized brands, artists, and makers we love from India who tell their stories though their products. This pop-up isn't live anymore on our website as the pop-ups are meant to be for only 15 days, but you can hop onto their Instagram and show her your love.