The process of using PritiPolish, a gentle rice powder exfoliator and Prakti Beauty's staple product, feels ritualistic in itself. To scoop the appropriate amount of powder into your hand, you must use the provided golden keepsake spoon. And, once you apply a splash of water to prepare the scrub for application, you'll notice that it "magically" transforms from white to lavender. "These details were all thought about when we were first creating PritiPolish," Prakti Beauty Founder Pritika Swarup tells Fashionista. "All these little components are a part of Prakti's hybrid positioning in the beauty market. It feels both exotic and exciting."
Through Pratki Beauty, which Swarup launched late last year, she sought to fill in a gap she noticed in the beauty industry in her years as a model posing for brands like MAC, Clinique and Fenty Beauty and for publications like Allure, Vogue, Elle, Harper's Bazaar and L'Officiel India. Swarup is of Indian heritage and was born and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia. And while she knew from her own family's traditions that Indian culture is rife with rich wellness, beauty and skin-care practices, she didn't see herself represented in the products that existed in the beauty space. Beauty products and brands that drew on Indian culture were extremely rare in the United States, and those that were available felt largely obsolete to Swarup.
"From the messaging to the packaging, I felt that there wasn't much of a space for Indian beauty products in the Western mainstream because the products that I saw on the shelves were often coming from an outdated perspective," Swarup says. "They simply weren't as accessible to the modern Indian woman, or any woman who might find interest in them."
Thus, Prakti Beauty was born. To date, its streamlined product curation includes only two products: MahaMask, a creamy hydrating treatment mask and the aforementioned PritiPolish (though a third is on the way soon). With these offerings, the brand has sought to incorporate Ayurvedic practices, Indian beauty rituals and a dash of Western innovation for the modern consumer.
Rice and turmeric, staples in many Indian recipes, are also key ingredients in Prakti's skin-care formulas. The cylindrical shape of the brand's packaging reflects those found in Hindi culture, and even the graphics used throughout the branding are direct nods to Indian women.
Swarup, who studied Financial Economics at Columbia University while simultaneously pursuing her modeling career, also serves as a global ambassador for Operation Smile, an organization that provides free surgical care to children born with craniofacial conditions such as cleft lips and palates.
Prakti first got involved with the organization as a student volunteer in eighth grade, and has expanded her role in the years since to include speaking at press conferences, leading global fundraising initiatives and even participating in the organization's medical missions around the world. She also chose Operation Smile as a philanthropic partner of Prakti Beauty from its launch, using the beauty brand as a platform to help boost awareness about the organization.
Swarup says envisioned Prakti as more than "just a beauty brand" from fruition, noting that "there's a lot of symmetry" between the company and Operation Smile. Social and community impact are pillars of Prakti, and in addition to partnering with Operation Smile, the company has also developed the "Suman Saroj Initiative," which Swarup named after her grandmothers.
Through the Suman Saroj initiative, the company employs local craftswomen in and around Swarup's grandmothers' hometown of Lucknow to create hand-crafted accessory items that will "complement our skin-care offering and highlight the traditional artisanship of the local culture."
The goals of this initiative are to celebrate and protect the Indian tradition of Chikankari stitching and to afford local craftswomen in the region the opportunity to create a sustainable income to provide for their families.
"Not only does it put Indian culture out there, but craftswomen are often severely overlooked," says Swarup. "We want to provide the skills of being financially independent without relying on men."
Indian women, especially her grandmothers and mother, have always played a vital role in Swarup's life and have heavily influenced the brand ethos. "The biggest life lesson [my mom] taught me is 'satnam,' which means, 'truth, I am,'" Swarup says. "She'll call me before, say, a photoshoot or interview and say, 'remember: satnam,' and it brings me comfort every single time."
With Prakti Beauty, Swarup hopes to bring skin care and philanthropy together as one while celebrating her Indian heritage. "Indian beauty is never just about one's physical appearance," Swarup says. "It is always a combination of body and soul."