And masking has become a daily occurrence: “I mean, when did I ever have time to put milk and honey on my face for an hour? Well, now I do.” Her favorite recipe is half a teaspoon of raw honey and one teaspoon of milk, infused with a thread of saffron. “It turns into a gel that you can leave on your face and neck for up to an hour,” says Rai. “The honey hydrates, the milk has exfoliating lactic acids, and saffron can give you a more even skin tone over time.”
And in the spirit of looking up, there’s also this silver lining to a country on pause: “I can see a blue sky,” says Rai. “I’ve lived in Delhi my whole life — there’s never been a blue sky. I moved my desk out to my patio so I can see it.”
Mumbai hair salon owner Lekha Shah is also seeing her bustling city in a completely new way — the stay-at-home restrictions there have been intense. “There are cops everywhere, and all public areas are closed,” she told me. “If you walk down the street, a cop will stop you and ask you to go back home.” She lives in a multi-building apartment complex and, “if you go to get groceries, they check you for a fever before you leave and when you come back. They make you write down why you’re going out, and when you’re leaving and coming back.”
Shah thinks hair salons will be some of the last businesses to re-open in Mumbai but is already thinking about what that will look like: “We’re talking about staggering appointments, so there are only one or two clients in the salon at the same time. To accommodate more people, we’ll extend our working hours. People need to feel safe enough to come in again.”
In the meantime, Shah feels lucky that she had enough savings to continue paying her employees thus far, and she’s embracing the quiet. “Hopefully we’ll never have this time again,” she says. “I want to make the most out of it.” She’s been able to give herself frequent hair-oiling treatments, like the one she gave me last year: “With no excuses and nowhere to go, I do it twice a week — I massage almond oil all over my hair and then dip my finger into castor oil and apply that only around my hairline, where I really want to see more growth.” And her DIY mask of choice? “Half a teaspoon of coffee powder mixed into a paste of yogurt and honey. After 20 minutes, you really see a new brightness to your skin.”
After my call with Shah, I tried her recipe myself the next morning — right after five minutes of alternate-nostril breathing (sorry, Vasudha, but I’m easing in). By the time I sat down for a day of Zooming, my face, and my mood, were indeed brighter, calmer, clearer. And I was smiling at the thought of a time (it will come!) when I will be lucky enough to sit down in person again with beautiful, brilliant women in magical corners of the world.
A version of this article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of Allure. To get your copy, head to newsstands or subscribe now.
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