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— Jasmeen Dugal

'Our aim at MITTEE is to create clean, nature-inspired high-performance formulations to help reveal the most beautiful and radiant you!' Intrigued by this luxury skincare brand with its roots in ancient healing modalities, I reached out to founder Yashica Keswani. Hearing about her deeply personal inspiration, her extensive research and her skincare line with medicinal herbs, plant extracts and marine elixirs combined with cutting-edge technology, I felt like Alice tumbling down the proverbial rabbit hole. And I thought it only fitting to pass the love along to you!


Tell us about yourself, Yashica.


I was born in India and brought up in Nigeria. At eleven, I was sent off to boarding school in India and thereafter to England, where I graduated with Honours in Hospitality and Business Management. That was almost twenty years ago. From there began my journey of coming into my own. I got my first job with the Marriott Group in Atlanta, GA, then moved to Buffalo, New York on an exchange program, San Francisco and Perth in Western Australia. After being away from home for almost fourteen years I moved back to Nigeria where my family has always resided, settled down with a wonderful man and we have an adorable nucleus of our own. Ten years back, at 29, I was diagnosed with acute ulcerative colitis, which left me feeling destroyed and distraught physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, professionally and spiritually; I didn't think I would ever be able to come through. My family has always been my rock and this time they were stronger than ever. A year later, after being heavily pumped with medication, my health had begun stabilising, however, I was determined to wean off the prescription drugs and decided to research ancient healing modalities to restore my wellbeing. I began spending time in India, Indonesia and Mexico, learning about Ayurveda, Jamu and ancient Mayan medicine. In 2015, I became a Certified Organic Skincare Formulator and graduated from Formula Botanica, UK.


Were you fascinated with natural beauty from a young age? Where and how did this interest take seed?


My love for nature, adventure, Mother Earth are my mother's gifts to me. From the age of six, all I remember my mum saying was, 'Yash, you are my Swan!' Every Saturday she would pound herbs, add dollops of yoghurt, a drizzle of honey, a dash of lemon and whatever else she could get her hands on, and masque me from head to toe. As I grew up, I understood why she loved beautifying me so much. My mother's life mission was to beautify every woman she met!!


What is the core vision of your brand 'Mittee'?


My vision of wanting to help women become the best version of themselves is simply an extension of my mother's dream. To me, beauty runs far deeper than the skin. I believe that each day is an opportunity not only to grow, but to evolve. Sadly the world sees us from the outside in, hence the launch of our mindful wellness brand. Wellness is so much more than    spending a day at the spa or a week at a health farm. Wellness is holistic care across all seven dimensions of our existence: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social and occupational. Each of these seven dimensions act and interact in a way that leads to an enhanced quality of life. To me, spirituality is the essence of our existence but somewhere along the line, the ever-changing landscape of human evolution has brought about so many distractions that we've lost connection with who we truly are. We are constantly looking outward for gratification when the secret to feeling whole and complete lies within us. Through MITTEE, my vision is to help people connect deeply with themselves.


Nature-inspired high-performance beauty formulations is a new concept in India. How do you explain it to people and what has the response been so far?


There are other brands in India that have paved the way for natural and organic beauty products and I think many women are now keen to know more about the products they use on their skin, making it easier to migrate to 'natural' skincare. The challenge we face with MITTEE is that we are not just nature-based or nature-inspired skincare. We focus on creating high-performance, nature-based formulations that are designed to deliver effective, lasting results. The general understanding in the beauty space is that natural skincare is not as effective as synthetic [entirely lab generated] skincare. Our mission is to dissolve that thought process. It will take time, but we're willing to be patient.


How challenging is it to make sophisticated, nature-inspired formulas that deliver texture, fragrance and results in sync with today's demanding consumer standards?


We collaborate with some of the world's finest laboratories in Italy, France and Canada to create our formulations. We do not use synthetic fragrances, fillers or any ingredient that could be deemed toxic. Our products are all manufactured in Canada and are Health Canada Certified. Advances in science and working with these meticulous laboratories have made things a lot easier, however, having said that, the challenge we face is ensuring that our formulations stay natural yet effective. Different countries have different regulations regarding the use of certain ingredients and preservatives and we are constantly trying to work towards creating formulations that are viable and safe for use, worldwide. We are currently working towards becoming EU compliant and in skincare, the EU is the most stringent regulatory authority.


What is your recipe development process? And what is your process for creating a new product?    


With each recipe, I honour the wisdom handed down from several generations. I honor all the grandmothers, mothers and daughters who have played pivotal roles in bringing my inner wisdom to life. Every recipe is deeply imbued in sacred rituals and lavishly infused with medicinal herbs, plant extracts and marine elixirs; combine this with cutting edge skincare formulation technology and we are able to bring you the promise of beauty that comes forth from that feeling of being in love for the first time, every time.


What is your approach to preservation?


I believe preservatives are an essential requirement in skincare if one intends to create a global brand. It's all very wonderful to think of skincare being organic and preservative-free, however, it also becomes a breeding ground for microbes and it's not appealing to think there could be mould growing in your pot of cream. We follow Health Canada regulations. We choose to manufacture in Canada because after the EU, Canada offers the most stringent quality checks on skincare. Our endeavour is to create a line of skincare that is natural, high-performance and safe to use. We are conscious of the ingredients we choose to formulate with and without, and each formulation is designed to give you optimum results in a shorter period of time. We take pride in being 'Chirally Correct', which basically means we use ingredients where inactive molecules have been eliminated, so what we have left are the active, hardworking molecules. Chirally- correct ingredients are more efficient and hence offer superior performance.


If you had to pick a favorite product of which you are most proud, what would it be, and why?


I love all the four products we have launched and the magic lies in using them as a comprehensive ritual. Within MITTEE we have four sub-brands and each is inspired by a different region of the world, and as a result, each ingredient deck is unique, result-driven and designed to have a specific impact on the skin. The Rateeh Gentle Foaming Wash [inspired by the Indonesian Archipelago] deep cleans without stripping the skin of its natural moisture. The Vapurda Masque-Polish [inspired by beauty rituals from India] is high on lactic acid is our once-a-week booster, which gives the skin an instant glow. The Yemaya Retexturizing Serum is a marine-inspired product enhanced with Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Beta Hydroxy acids. It gently dissolves the dead cell layer whilst allowing for deeper penetration of all the ingredients in this product. Our Ixchel Revitalising Night Cream neutralises acids in the serum and nourishes the skin while arresting the ageing process. Our hero ingredients in the night cream are Apple Stem Cells, Hyaluronic Acid and Retinyl Palmitate.  All the acids we use are nature-derived and safe for even the most sensitive skin. We have an extensive growth plan laid out for MITTEE — with our current focus on facial care. And we shall also be extending our product ranges to cover hair and body in due course.


What changes do you think need to take place within the beauty industry?


The beauty industry is a dynamic environment with new brands like us flooding the space and aiming to carve a niche. The one thing that absolutely needs to change is that we need to shift focus from generating fear to promoting acceptance. The beauty industry thrives on fear — fear of ageing, fear of not being the fairest of them all, fear of not being slim. This needs to change!! At MITTEE, we believe that every human being is beautiful, just as they are. What we aim to do is help you become the most beautiful version of yourself by unveiling your true beauty.


Since you are a global traveler, do share some essential skincare routines when travelling.


My skincare routine for and during travel is very simple. I keep my skin clean and deeply moisturised while focusing on keeping myself hydrated. And I wear sunscreen every single day!

Yashica Keswani, Founder, Mittee
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