If you walk into your nearest Sephora anytime soon, you’ll find the Next Big Thing wall and find products from South Asian founded self-care company Blume.
For nearly four years now, the founders of Blume have been making their mark in the self-care industry. Taran Ghatrora, 30, and her sister Bunny Ghatrora, 27, have been finding ways to help others strengthen their relationship with themselves through period-care and skincare routines.
While being on the shelves in Sephora is a huge professional win for the sisters, it’s also a huge win for reclaiming spaces of wellness for women of colour overall.
So much of what we’re exposed to in wellness has been whitewashed and appropriated by white women who have found success in this space. Take Gwenyth Paltrow and her wellness empire known as Goop, for example. Although overtaken by rich white women at times, in recent years we have seen women of colour making strides and getting their well-deserved recognition in the wellness industry.
Bunny and Taran are showing women of colour that their voices can be elevated in this space.
”There's a sense of pride of being able to have others in your community see themselves reflected in you, as the face of a brand,” said Taran.
But they aren’t only reclaiming this space simply from the standpoint of representation, but they’re also well-equipped to speak on matters of self-care and period care.
Taran’s interest originally piqued when she was working on her Master’s thesis about menstrual equity—specifically around access to menstrual care and the lack thereof for girls overseas who often missed school as a result.
“My parents are from India, they immigrated. And my entire life, they put a really big emphasis on education,” she said.
“For me to think so many other girls my age, [that] had a similar experience to me, but their parents didn't move out of India or other countries, that they were missing out on their education and obviously having a really big effect on their future.”
Taran’s research on her thesis motivated her sister Bunny, who was originally working in accounting, to get more acquainted with her own body. She long suffered from issues related to her period and by learning more and inquiring more about her health she was eventually diagnosed with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
“[PCOS] is something that almost one in five women experience, yet, again, that experience of getting that diagnosis or understanding what that means for your body was just very fragmented,” said Bunny.
“There wasn't a lot of conversation around it, even though it's something that's experienced by so many different people. And so we started off with wanting to just create a better experience around having your period. And for us, that was organic period products.”
Their beginning didn’t lead them to Blume immediately. They first started an organic period subscription called Ellebox. They would donate a portion of their proceeds to Days for Girls, a charitable organization that works at bettering menstrual equity for all. They have maintained that relationship even into Blume, which was a move into holistic self-care in a more expansive way.
“We started off with wanting to just create a better experience around having your period. And so for us, that was organic period products, as well as self-care and personal care products that you could use during the time of the month,” said Bunny.
“That really helps you change your period from something that you have to deal with to something that you are excited to experience each month, to really reconnect with yourself and take care of your body.”
What started off as a way to encourage a more positive relationship with our bodies has led to the Gharhotra sisters finding great entrepreneurial success. Products like the Meltdown Acne Oil and the Hug Me Probiotic Natural Deodorant have been endorsed by model Gigi Hadid.
Though their products have been available on Ulta, Urban Outfitters and Chapters Indigo, as well as in the impulse bins at Sephora, the Next Big Thing partnership is one of their biggest feats to date. After all, Sephora is the place to be for beauty-based brands in Canada and to have their products physically on the shelves.
“It’s super, super exciting for our team to now be launching 18 inches of shelf space. Like honestly, I don't think we ever thought that we could even have enough products [to] fill up shelf space,” said Taran.
Not only is it an accomplishment for Taran and Bunny, but it is also monumental as another brand by women of colour being added to the Sephora catalogue.
Highlighting their roots as Punjabi women has always been important to the sisters.
Their products were created with people of colour in mind, and pay extra attention to the kind of care required for melanated skin—something that hasn’t always been prioritized in the skincare industry.
Bunny noted that hyperpigmentation serums from other skincare brands may have great ingredients but they may not always be working optimally for melanated skin.
“There are a few ingredients that are on the market that are totally safe, they're totally clean, and they're in some of the really popular hyperpigmentation serums. But they aren't the best for people with pigmented skin” said Bunny.
That is how their most recent “Milky fade” was born. The serum works to address hyperpigmentation and discolouration through a combination of niacinamide, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid.
“We really wanted the serum to be something that you can add into your existing routine, it doesn't complicate your routine to a really high extent,” added Bunny.
The two have thought of ingredients that not only help people of colour, but they’ve also that are meaningful to them. That was clear with “Sunbeam,” which functions as both a chemical and a physical exfoliant, mainly made from fruit enzymes and haldi (turmeric), which is a staple ingredient in many facets of South Asian culture.
“Growing up my family used haldi for everything,” said Taran. From cooking sabzi for her grandma to drinking haldi doodh after a meal, it has played a huge role in the Gharotra sisters’ lives.
A spice that invokes such nostalgia for them, they started noticing that haldi was being co-opted by the wellness industry—where many non-South Asians were making a huge profit. In some instances, many were confronted with the importance of haldi during the Farmer’s Protest.
That’s also why Bunny and Taran will also be donating a portion of the proceeds from Sunbeam to Sahaita, a non-profit organization to aid in farmer support.
The Sunbeam exfoliation mask also allowed the sisters to dive into their roots through their campaign photoshoot for the product. The entire team for the shoot was made up of women of colour including the models, the photographer, and the creative director. Not only did they come together to create the photoshoot but everyone involved connected with their own use of turmeric and shared their overall experience with self-care growing up.
“We were able to actually bring elements of our culture into the shoot. And then we interviewed each of the models about what turmeric has meant to them in wellness and beauty in their culture and their experiences with it,” said Taran.
“We talked about turmeric being hijacked by the wellness industry and our culture not being reflected when that happens.”
While skincare is obviously a big part of their self-care brand, period products remain a staple.
They introduced sustainable and organic tampons and pads, taking it one step further. Taran and Bunny use their brand as a way to fill the gap in comfort and knowledge for young girls who are seeking products without feeling embarrassed.
In that way, they try to function as a brand that is speaking to their young demographic as an older sister, and to their more mature demographic as a friend.
“We wanted to create a brand that would just become synonymous with growing up that would be able to give you all the information you needed, but in a playful and straight-up way,” said Taran.
She said they didn’t want to sugarcoat the info around needing these products nor do they want to hide behind euphemisms.
But the women of Blume don’t just try to use comforting and accessible language, they hope to also aid the overall experience of sexual education by filling the knowledge gap for their younger customers by creating an entire sex-ed curriculum. They made this alongside a sexual health educator and it is compliant with the Canadian curriculum so that any teacher across Canada can make use of it.
Bunny recalls how necessary it could be to start implementing new ways of teaching about sex education, especially when thinking back to the all too common, cringe-y ways we learned about sexual health.
“Many of us have our very first experience of learning what a period is somewhere in fourth, fifth, or sixth grade, where they separate the boys and the girls into two different rooms,” she said.
That is where the shame and stigma around periods can start, she added. By separating the girls from the boys, the topic can immediately seem taboo.
“We made a curriculum that was really robust and had everything from the science of your body to periods, to sex ed to even some stuff around mental health,” said Bunny.
“Those were all things that we believed was the first step in bashing some of these taboos and stigmas and having a safer way to have these conversations around periods, to make people really feel comfortable.”
From their advocacy around period poverty, to working alongside organizations that benefit farmers, to their desire to give back to their communities, it’s clear that Taran and Bunny are here to represent so many voices that go unheard. It’s particularly promising to see two bright young women from our community have a platform like Sephora behind them, and to see where they go next.
But above all, it’s refreshing to see that the wellness and self-care space which has in recent years become synonymous with white women, is a space where women of colour not only belong, but can thrive.
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