Behind the Scenes With Clean Cosmetic Label Kulfi Beauty

The South Asian beauty brand is vegan, cruelty-free, and made without nasty chemicals.

model wearing Kulfi Beauty eyeliner

Kulfi Beauty

Each time I step out for an errand, I swipe on kajal from a retractable pencil. Kajal, or kohl, is a go-to beauty quickie for many South Asians like myself, who are going for the lovely doe-eyed look that makes the eyes look beautifully luminous and large.

So, when Priyanka Ganjoo, who worked with beauty houses such as Estée Lauder and Ipsy, wanted to create a brand that celebrated South Asian beauty, naturally she launched it with kajal.

"Growing up, grandmothers would make kajal by burning almonds and combining them with castor oil or ghee, which would make a thick, creamy paste. When I was a baby, my parents used kajal to line my eyes, as it is traditionally used to protect people from 'nazar', or the evil eye," she says.

When Priyanka started Kulfi Beauty, the eyeliners were promoted with the creative and expressive "Nazar No More" campaign.  

A Steady Start

Priyanka spent extensive time on research before launching Kulfi Beauty in early 2021. Recounting her days as a beauty professional in the industry to Treehugger, she says, "I always felt like an outsider. Finally, I became tired of waiting and left the world of corporate beauty to start Kulfi."

The clean beauty label is named after the popular dessert of the same name, made from slow-cooked milk and often flavored with fruits, spices, and nuts. Steeped in nostalgia and fun, this is what she wants Kulfi Beauty to stand for.

"I was inspired by kulfi, which I used to enjoy with my friends during the summer growing up in Delhi. The name pays homage to my younger self, and the woman I have grown to be today," says Priyanka. 

Kulfi Beauty eyeliner in boxes

Kulfi Beauty

A Clean Swipe

The five creamy Underlined Kajal Eyeliners are infused with moisturizing aloe vera, vitamin E, and safflower seed oil. "Our products are formulated without parabens, phthalates, mineral oils, formaldehydes, coal tar, sulfates, butylated hydroxyanisole, and more," Priyanka tells Treehugger.

Each glides smoothly on the waterline and stays without smudging, unlike ordinary kajal which smears down your cheeks soon enough. Though Kulfi Beauty’s formulation is water- and smudge-proof, you have about a 30-second window after application to create a smoky effect, should you like. 

The kajals are free from gluten and fragrance. "I wanted the brand to be inclusive of everyone's beliefs and values. So, ensuring that we are both vegan and cruelty-free was a conscious decision from the start," adds Priyanka.

Kulfi sources mica ethically, working with suppliers that own mines and use ethical labor or with companies that have audit programs in place to assure source compliance. "We use an independent regulatory consultant to ensure our claims are verified," Priyanka says, adding, "we will consider applying for certifications as we grow and have more resources available."

Kulfi Beauty’s products are shipped in compostable, biodegradable, and recyclable shipping mailers that they say break down within two years. Wrapped in recyclable tissue paper, the cartons are manufactured in a facility that’s FSC and SFI certified and is powered by wind energy. (Their brand cards are not recyclable yet.)

For the eyeliners' plastic casings, they have an arrangement with recycling company Terracycle. Once you’ve collected five empty liner containers, email Kulfi Beauty for details to return the casings for recycling.

terracotta-colored eyeliner from Kulfi Beauty

Kulfi Beauty

Holistic Beauty

Post-launch, Kulfi Beauty was selected by beauty retailer Sephora as part of its Accelerate 2021 that incubates BIPOC-owned beauty brands. The aim is to help younger generations perceive beauty in a more holistic way—an agenda that’s also embedded in the brand.

"I want to continue diversifying the beauty industry to make it more representative of the South Asian community. In the past, people believed that there is a limited amount of space for BIPOC-founded brands. With Kulfi, I want to change this belief and see the BIPOC community in the beauty industry grow and expand, so that everyone can experience seeing themselves represented in this space," explains Priyanka. 

Self-expression is a core value for Kulfi, and the muted conversation around mental health, beauty standards, and identity in the South Asian community led her to associate with South Asian Sexual & Mental Health Alliance (SASMHA), an organization that works to removes cultural stigmas, educates, and empowers through resource sharing.

Going ahead, more products are on the anvil. "We want to expand our product line and create more clean beauty products that are able to combine South Asian beauty traditions with new, innovative approaches." We’ll raise a kulfi to that.