Kirin Bhatty exudes a genuine warmth and realness that puts you instantly at ease. It’s no surprise that her all-star roster of clients – strong, gorgeous women including Freida Pinto, Jenny Slate, and Kate Upton – trust themselves in her hands. Upon meeting her a few months ago, we felt she was the perfect person to launch our new monthly feature, On Beauty, where we highlight creative, like-minded people who inspire us. Here, she shares her thoughts on beauty rituals, industry standards, and the lessons she’s learned from working with women.
IN FIORE: You grew up in an environment where homemade remedies and rituals were the norm. How has that influenced your approach to beauty?
KIRIN BHATTY: I’m Pakistani – my father was born in India and my mother was born in Pakistan so I’m obviously both but I identify as a Pakistani woman – and there are a lot of beauty rituals that come from that region. When my mom came to this country she wasn’t really going to the American spa and salon, so all the beauty rituals I learned as a coming of age girl I learned from my mother and they came from her mother and her grandmother. We always had this idea that our first beauty counter was Mother Nature. At a very early age, I connected with Mother Earth – not in just a “this is soil, these are trees, this is water” way, but my beauty is reflected in the earth. The earth reflects my beauty. This is where everything comes from.
We always had this idea that our first beauty counter was Mother Nature. At a very early age I connected with Mother Earth – not in just a “this is soil, these are trees, this is water” way, but my beauty is reflected in the earth. The earth reflects my beauty. This is where everything comes from.
My mom would color her hair with henna and while she was having her hair colored she’d put coconut oil from the jar – which you couldn’t get in American stores at that time – in my hair. She would make her skin mask with turmeric, which has brightening properties, so when every other girl was getting things from the store, my mother was encouraging a natural beauty approach. For a long time I resented that, because when you’re young you just want to be like everyone else. But, as I’ve gotten older, I feel so fortunate to have had that. It was a great way to bond with my mom, and to also trust that, in a way, you’re enough, because the things that come from the earth are so simple. They’re simple, but they really have powerful results. Throughout my life I’ve gotten compliments on my skin and my hair, and I attribute that to my mom and taking a less is more approach to beauty and products. I definitely stand by that now in my work. It also makes me feel very connected to my family and where I’m from. Using products that are simple and from the earth lets you connect with who you are as a human being. These are simple ingredients that women for generations and generations have used. You can’t really go wrong.
Is your kit 100% green?
I’m not a 100% natural beauty person. I’d love to be at some point, but for women of color it’s very hard to find shades in the natural beauty area, and I do all skin tones. It would be a disservice to my clients to not do what’s best for their skin.
Can you share one of your favorite rituals?
I love oils so much. Because I travel so much and my body is in so many different climates, after a shower, I’ll use almond oil all over. It has Ayurvedic properties, so it has been a great thing for me – it’s not only relaxing, but my skin is feeling very recharged. I switch it up a lot, but that’s my ritual of late. You know who recommended it to me is Freida Pinto. You can even put it in a glass spray bottle.
Do you have a favorite beauty era?
I love the seventies because you have the fun of the disco era: color and glitter and gloss. It really was a fun time, but in the beginning, there was more of a natural movement, so there were big bushy brows and beautiful skin and soft brown tones and things like that. No matter what kind of girl you were, you could find your beauty. And there’s something so effortless about seventies beauty. Even the really made-up disco queens didn’t look overly girly. And I love a glowy skin moment…if you’re borderline shiny, I’m all about it. It was definitely a time when anything went, and I love a full brow.
What’s your favorite scent?
I love honeysuckle, gardenias, lemon blossoms and jasmine. Specifically lemon blossoms and gardenias. I have a very nostalgic connection to them. When I was young, we had a lot of fruit trees, and my dad would pick lemon blossoms and honeysuckle and gardenias and fill dishes around the house. They weren’t in water, they were just in dishes – that’s very common for people from India and Pakistan. Having parents who came up in a third world country…nature is kind of all you have, so my parents are definitely in-tune with finding the beauty outside. It was very important for my dad to grow a garden, so it’s really a credit to them.
What is your favorite facial feature?
For myself, I love my freckles, and I love them because, for a long time, people would give me instructions on how to get rid of them. I am just not into that philosophy of beauty. I’m into embracing what you have and aging gracefully. For other people, it’s tough, because every face has something special. I have clients who have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen, and another client will have gorgeous cheekbones…I guess my favorite feature on a client is usually her favorite feature. And that’s because when you’re proud of something, it shows. When you feel good about yourself, it radiates, and it really is a “lit from within” thing. My favorite thing to do is someone’s skin. I love the skin, I love it to show through. I generally don't cover it up with makeup – I’m more of a spot treat type of person. You can see someone’s history in their skin, and that’s a cool thing, you know? It’s like a book and tells a story, and I’m into that.
You can see someone’s history in their skin, and that’s a cool thing, you know? It’s like a book and tells a story, and I’m into that.
My favorite destination so far would be Bali. It’s a feast for your eyes – it’s so breathtakingly beautiful. You go there and you know that the world is bigger than you because the beauty is beyond. And I just like the vibe. I like that people are kind and open. I love Asia in general; I feel connected to the land there.
Do you have a special charm or talisman?
I’ve worn a necklace every day the past three years that says “OK.” It has a tiny little “O” and a tiny little “K,” and it is a reminder that everything is going to be OK, no matter what. As human beings, we tend to persist and survive and thrive. It was given to me by one of the most important people in my life, someone who loves me very much. It’s also beautiful – a tiny delicate gold piece of jewelry. It’s such a simple message, but for me it’s a very calming idea. Someone who cares for me reminds me every day that it’s going to be OK.
Flax seed oil is my game changer. I get a facial every month – I’m diligent, I take really good care of my skin. But I was going in to see my facialist and she was like, “You’re so dry, you’re dehydrated.” And I was like, “How is that possible?! I’m glowing! Get outta here!” And she said, “No, your skin is dehydrated. I think you’re missing something in your diet, something to give you that extra hydration from the inside.” Flax seed oil has changed my skin. I recommend that to people when they are suffering from dry skin – up your avocado, up your flax seed oil – anything that has those good oils, and then check back with yourself in a month and see how you’re doing. Because our skin is our indicator if something’s wrong.
Do you have a beauty vice?
I’m a sucker for luxury skincare products and I love an oil. I mean, my house is full of oils, and I love a mist. So I’d say my beauty vice is expensive oils and expensive mists. I also can’t get enough of products that are illuminating. I probably own 30-40 of them! I like really glowy skin for myself and my clients so anything I can find to make skin dewy and enhanced in that way...that’s a vice.
What are your must-have beauty items for long-haul flights:
Number one, a good hand cream because I wash my hands all the time, especially on the airplane and at the airport. I always have a beautiful hand cream with me because your hands show your age. It’s also a way to feel kind of special. I am all about the travel-size situation – I tend not to bring a lot of my oils because they spill. Something like Fleur Vibrante is great because it’s solid unless you’re in a hot climate. I always have a sheet eye mask with me. (I tend not to do a full sheet mask on the airplane because I think it kind of scares people but I’ll do an eye mask, no problem.) I bring a good lip balm because the plane tends to dry you out. And I’ll always bring a skin mist because it’s easy to travel with and it’s a great way to refresh your skin. Hydration just goes out the window when you’re traveling.
It’s all about good skincare, honestly. Skincare above everything. I generally don’t wear makeup unless I’m going somewhere special because I stand by my skin. I work really hard on it, and I think if you are confident with your skin you want everyone to see it; you’re proud of it. I feel like it’s very encouraging to the women I work on, as well. Because look, you’re in a vulnerable position when you’re in the makeup chair, you’re showing somebody all of your so-called flaws, so I want to be as real and as respectful of that as possible.
It’s all about good skincare, honestly. Skincare above everything. I generally don’t wear makeup unless I’m going somewhere special because I stand by my skin.
Who/what are your influences when it comes to inspiration for a red carpet look?
I’ve been very lucky – my clients are all women who really inspire me, who I love as human beings. I’m proud of them and proud that they want me in their space and trust me with their looks. Because of that, my style is really about less is more and enhancing what somebody already has. So whoever I’m working on becomes my muse for that day. And the project they’re working on, what they’re wearing, what their stylist does…it’s such a great collaborative effort.
How have industry standards changed in beauty over the course of your career? What would you like to see more of?
I think a lot of things have changed that people would say were negative and I could say that too, but I’m going to focus on the positive. I think every year, especially this year, multicultural beauty and women of color have come to the forefront when it comes to ad campaigns and the range of shades that are being made. That companies are making strides to be more inclusive is a great thing and it’s a great movement to be a part of. Especially in our current climate, women are really meeting and supporting each other by valuing all shades, all textures, all points of age. And for all of the anti-aging…really it’s about aging gracefully. I think we’re getting to that place slowly. I practice that with the women I work with and in my personal life and I have definitely felt more comfortable in my skin this year than ever.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from working with women?
Oh my gosh, this is the big question. I work with a range of women, from age to skin tone to life experience, and I’ve been very lucky and fortunate. It’s shown me that we’re all so powerful. There’s nothing more inspiring than working with women because you see the power. We’re constantly faced with all of this shit that our male counterparts don’t have to deal with, especially – obviously – in the beauty arena, which is why I have a job, really. But we’re powerful, we’re also united, as different as we are, because we all deal with the same stuff! I’ve learned how to be humble. I’ve learned that all women struggle in their own way, and every woman I know has come out of her struggle with so much grace. It’s just – it’s cool. I’m constantly surprised by how much these women can take on and conquer. I mean, I want to be that one day.