Shop Local Series // Junaili
Discovering Junaili and their product range felt like uncovering a mystery – much like a secret we were suddenly privy to, and one we couldn’t keep all to ourselves. Junaili is a family-owned apothecary nestled in the Kumaon Himalayas in Uttarakhand - it is where the label’s restorative personal care products are crafted and formulated from the finest wild apricots and botanicals. Learning that Junaili translates to ‘moonlight’ in Pahadi (what’s spoken by the locals living in the lower Himalayas) furthered our quest to unearth more about the label and what makes its apricot-based products so revered by their patrons (we spoke to Junaili’s maker, Anshuman Sen) –
Tell us how Junaili came to be?
(We’ve got to say that we adore the schematic packaging label design.)
“Junaili is an embodiment of the Himalayas. We were trying to minimise wastage in fruit cultivation by utilising some of that waste to make something people would benefit from using. We first experimented with the discarded seeds of apricot fruits and began cold-pressing oil from them. Thus far, all our products are derived from apricots. In the meanwhile, experimentations continue, and we will soon begin extracting oils by distillation. (The label is hand-drawn. It took us a day and a night to make it.)”
Does being based in the Kumaon Himalayas pose any difficulties with respect to production?
“We’re based in Rautakhet (Nainital District) which falls under Kumaon. We’ve faced no difficulties in manufacturing so far.”
Apricot is the key ingredient in Junaili’s concoctions – climatically, is it difficult to sustain production throughout the year?
“Apricot fruits ripen only once a year in June. During the harvest, as much as 30% of the fruits are discarded in the orchards. These fruits decompose and leave behind their seeds, which are harvested and sun-dried by the farmers in July. Each seed is broken by hand to obtain the kernels. We buy apricot seeds and kernels directly from them at a good price.”
Is it true that Junaili was born out of family remedies passed down from generation to generation?
“I think you might have read something that was a misinterpretation of facts. The business of my ancestors for more than a millennium has been Ayurveda. We are Vaids by caste. Having said that, I have no personal knowledge of Ayurveda or Sanskrit. Traditionally, apricot oil has been used as a remedy for joint pain and eczema. Modern research has confirmed its benefits for skin and hair. In a way, we are re-packaging a confirmed local best-seller.”
What would you tell a curious (potential) customer looking to buy a face oil?
“All creams are basically an emulsion of oil and water held together by an emulsifying agent. In most commercially manufactured creams, the oil and emulsifying agent are chemically derived or of poor quality. Apricot oil is non-greasy and gets absorbed quickly. Being 100% natural, our face oil won’t permanently damage your skin. We only use natural ingredients to make our oil, and we are obsessed with quality.
We take cold-pressing, very seriously. Being manufacturers, we are not procuring our main ingredient from a vendor whose processes we are unfamiliar with. We press oil under 45°C in small batches and use only the best kernels.
For our face oils, we use the finest grade of oil and blend it with essential oils that have proven benefits. In our Lavender Face Oil, we blend the best Kashmiri lavender with our apricot oil. Lavender has anti-microbial and anti-acne properties, so it’s great for people with oily skin. Our Apricot Face Oil contains geranium which helps fade scars. Our formulations are simple and effective.”
What do you use in your beauty routine? What would you recommend from Junaili for the winter season?
“My all-time, all-in-one cosmetic product is any soap. I use some oil on my beard from time to time. We are lucky to have long-term patrons who have helped us develop and fine-tune our products. They are the real force behind Junaili. We started with a pure apricot oil. Someone suggested adding geranium to it because she tried it herself and benefitted from using the blend. We followed this up with research and launched our Apricot Face Oil, a year later. Even the Apricot Face Scrub was a suggestion from one of our early patrons. Junaili is nothing without the wonderful people who nurture it by using these products and suggesting new ones to us. We want to keep improving our range of products.
Our scrubs are grossly under-rated. There is no scrub in the world like an apricot-based scrub. Those who use our scrubs, order them regularly.”
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.