Neehar Sachdeva’s Triumph Over Hair Loss and Unrealistic Beauty Standards

Neehar Sachdeva

Hair is a huge component of one’s identity and plays an important role in shaping how we picture ourselves and how confident we are about our body image. And so, losing hair can be quite traumatic in any way or form. Society’s shoddy standards of beauty only add to the concerns and anxiety around hair loss — particularly for women. Because, while hair loss and baldness in men is still widely accepted, it’s not so much in women. Healthy hair is not just a measure of a woman’s beauty but also her femininity and her status in society. The world’s view of a beautiful woman is of someone wafer-thin, unblemished, fair and with a mane thick and long enough to leave a trail like a deep, dark river. Even the slightest discrepancy from the rulebook often ends up drastically affecting the lives of young women, particularly in South Asian culture. One cannot even imagine the mental pressures and emotional struggles a bald woman would have to face in the community. Neehar Sachdeva is one such woman, who spent an entire lifetime hiding under the fear of scrutiny but eventually emerging as a triumphant warrior.

[Read Related: “You Shouldn’t Have To Hide Your Skin Because of What Other People Think”: Jasroop Singh]

Sachdeva was diagnosed with alopecia at only six months of age. But after her mundan, a religious ceremony that requires shaving the baby’s head, all her hair grew back. It was not until a few years later that she started losing hair in patches, enough for her to resort to wearing a wig throughout elementary school. Just before her senior year, she got a glimmer of hope. Her hair grew back in full glory, so thick and lustrous that she no longer had to wear a wig to school. However, the freedom was short-lived. Six months later, her hair started falling again significantly. That’s the thing with alopecia. It’s not always consistent; it’s a constant cycle, toiling with one’s emotions and self-esteem, instilling feelings of alienation and recurring failure.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by NEEHAR SACHDEVA (@neeharsachdeva)

“I went to an alopecia support group for almost 10 years,” shared Sachdeva of her journey in an exclusive conversation with Brown Girl Magazine. “There were some kids but also adults and teens — people from all walks of life talking about their diagnosis. Some people were diagnosed with alopecia while in college, others just had a kid and got diagnosed with alopecia. I could never relate to those experiences because I couldn’t imagine having hair my entire life and it never being a concern for me and then starting to lose my hair at a specific point of time. Because I was diagnosed as a kid, I always knew that this was a part of my life. Even if it wasn’t as significant, it was always something I had to deal with.” 

Despite being diagnosed with alopecia early on in her life, Sachdeva’s family chose to keep all hush about it, covering much of her condition with a wig — perhaps to avoid the many stares and questions that would’ve come their way from within their own community. It’s typical in South Asian culture for people to be intrusive, to ask questions and then predict the possibility of your happiness in the future — something that only women that fit the norm may be blessed with.

“The fact that we belonged to the South Asian culture played a huge part in my family being so scared and secretive. At no fault to my parents because that was just how they were raised, but seeing them worry about what people thought; worry about what society would think, worry about presenting ourselves in this way in front of people, it moulded how I thought about it. It moulded my impressions of being ashamed, hiding behind my wig or being so secretive about it,” Sachdeva pointed out.

“I am six years old and missing an eyebrow and my mom is filling it in before we head to a party, it sets an impression on me that there is something wrong with me. And as I grew older and became more aware of the impressions of people around me and the comments that aunties are passing; it made a really big difference. It added an additional layer of fear and self-doubt. ‘Log kya kaheinge’ is a very big concern in our culture; we are too caught up with what other people would think about us.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by NEEHAR SACHDEVA (@neeharsachdeva)

After spending a good six months with thick, healthy hair and no wig in her senior year, Sachdeva decided to take things head-on, redefine norms and find strength in her condition. Sachdeva shaved her head. And obviously, there were people around her who were not too pleased with her decision; her grandma being one of them, because who would marry a bald Indian girl? Neither was her mom, who was thinking 10 steps ahead into Sachdeva’s possible future, full of social and cultural implications. But she stuck to her guns because wearing a wig was no longer an option for her. She had just gotten a taste of freedom; the freedom to be her natural self and she didn’t want to let that go. Interestingly, she turned the entire event into a soiree, called #NeeharsBaldBash, taking complete ownership of her decision and celebrating every aspect of it.

“There were two parts to the process and they were very intentional,” she explained. “First, I threw a party when I shaved my head with my closest family and friends. My dad shaved my head at the party and my friends captured it, put it up on Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, etc. My mom was not keen on the idea. She was like ‘just shave your head and call it a day. Why do you have to do all of these dramay?’

And I told my mom, if I just shave my head and walk out to school today, it’s going to be the same drill of putting my head down, not wanting to answer questions and avoiding the issue altogether. If I want to shave my head, I don’t want it to look like that people need to pity me and feel sorry for me. I want to celebrate the fact that I am shaving my head, I want to own it. I did it proactively and all of my friends were celebrating with me and posting on social media. The whole idea was so positive that if someone would post a mean comment, it would look bad on them.”

“Secondly, almost a week later, we were also hosting a reception for my sister’s wedding. We had invited 300 or so people, all people we knew in California. So my mom also felt we should wait it out,” she added. “I feel at the time my mom wasn’t really thinking how I felt about it. She was still very much in the survival mindset. But I was sure that we needed to set the tone correctly, otherwise it was all going to be for nothing. So when I got to the wedding reception, I could see the question in everyone’s eyes. I met each and everyone there but every time I could just tell what was going on in their minds. They were asking questions to each other, ‘do you know what happened, do you know what’s going on?’

But no one was asking me. Right before giving a speech for my sister and brother-in-law, I said ‘I want to address the elephant in the room.’ I told them about what alopecia is, that there is nothing really wrong with me except that I don’t have hair on my head, that my body has trouble growing my hair back. I told them the situation very blatantly. And that it’s just a decision I’ve made and my condition does not make me who I am. From that moment on, everyone’s questions turned to support.”

Neehar Sachdeva
Neehar Sachdeva posing at the bash she threw to celebrate shaving her head.

Why was it so important for Neehar to take such an elaborate route?

“At that time, I was confident as an individual but my parents weren’t there yet; they were conditioned by the society,” she pointed out. “Even after I shaved my head, my parents still had a bit of shame, a little bit of fear. It was still a big deal for them. It was a difficult journey for me but it was also just as difficult for my family.

So I wanted to make sure that my parents wouldn’t get negatively impacted by my decision, and that people wouldn’t turn around asking them questions. I was like this is my decision, my condition, you have any questions, I will address them. And seeing the positive response from the community and their friends really helped shape my parents perspective that yes, it’s not really a big deal.”

Soon her bullies, attacking her self-worth on a daily basis as a kid, also turned into her cheerleaders. She received overwhelming support from peers and strangers alike. People started relating with her, messaging her to seek her advice and that’s when Sachdeva embarked on her online journey.

“I started mulling on the idea that I want to be this representation that people are very much looking for because they are coming to me and asking me these questions I wanted to be this representation that I didn’t have growing up,” she stressed “I have eyebrows now but there was also a point where I had completely lost one of my eyebrows and I would look up make-up tutorials online but there was nothing available for me. Even before I shaved my head, I would look up pictures of bald women and I could not find anything. I had nothing to look towards.

From my own experiences I thought how much would have I loved to have someone to look up to and then realised that people were looking up to me. I had reached a point in my journey of acceptance and self-love that not many people had. So, while I didn’t know how I wanted to go about it initially, I just developed my own definition of being a representation creator. Not an influencer, not a model, just someone who wants to represent through all of the different venues possible.”

[Read More: We’re the Second-Largest Population in the World. Why Can’t I See Us?]

Unfortunately, hate followed her here as well. Sachdeva revealed that she was severely bullied in school where kids would be ruthless, constantly picking on this one thing she wanted to hide from the world and amplifying it. And while she moved past that traumatic period in her life, evolving into a confident woman, being comfortable in her own skin, online media came with its own share of faceless bullies.

“I have received a lot of negative comments online, just faceless strangers typing away,” she shared about the never-ending trolling she continues to deal with. “But to be honest, I am not affected by them. What can they possibly say to me that I haven’t heard before. Rock bottom was so bottom, that all of these comments don’t mean anything to me. Others have not experienced what I have in flesh and what it feels like to be bullied on your face. I’ve just accepted that some people are going to hate because that’s what they do. I am just proud and content of the reality of my situation.”

In the face of adversity, Sachdeva has been her own hero and now a hero to many. She recently collaborated with Brown Girl Magazine for a 3-part photo and video series called The Bald Brown Bride, decked up in opulent lehengas and ornate bridal jewelry, courtesy of Panache by Sharmeen and BG Jewels. 

“I can just hope that the efforts that I am putting in can help someone just take one step forward in their journey. They don’t need to achieve nirvana, be enlightened, just one step forward that they have someone they can look towards and say, ‘if she cannot have hair and still be happy and still be beautiful then why can’t I do the same thing.’”

With starry eyes and the glow of a true Indian bride, Sachdeva stands beautiful, confident and as hope to many women who may feel discouraged and dejected, amidst stereotypical and unrealistic beauty standards, simply because they are different.

It’s a mission she has signed up for — to challenge, change and diversify existing perceptions of beauty and to promote authenticity and self-belief. 

A huge thanks to our team without whom our three-part #TheBaldBrownBride series would not have been possible.

> Photos by @nachi.sheel
> Cinematographer @itsjonbradley
> Creative director & model @neeharsachdeva
> In partnership w/ @browngirlmag & @tsakhuja_walia
> Jewelry by @bg_jewels
> Outfit by @panachebysharmeen
> MUA @rachna.mua
> Mendhi @mehekmehndi_by_dee

By Nida Hasan

Managing Editor at Brown Girl Magazine, Nida has worked and written for several publications in a journalism career spanning almost … Read more ›

17 Ayurvedic Beauty Brands on our Radar Right Now

Holistic beauty trends are more prevalent than ever — that makes ayurvedic beauty brands incredibly sought-after, as well. Do you find yourself asking what your beauty products are actually made of? A lot of us even resort to food products for a skincare routine such as honey for face wash.

The term “Ayurvedic Beauty” is getting more recognition outside the South Asian world as well.

Ayurvedic beauty is coined upon the term “Ayurveda,” which originated in Hindu culture as the basis of utilizing the five life forms — air, water, ether, fire, and earth — to heal the human body.

[Read Related: The Budget-Friendly Beauty Guide you Need This Spring Season]

Ayurvedic beauty brands focus on using herbs and natural ingredients to create their skincare range and consumers around the world are attracted to these natural products.

Scroll down to see some Ayurvedic beauty brands founded by South Asians.

Soma Ayurvedic

Is your skin feeling a little dry this winter? Nourishing your skin with body oil will lend it the right amount of moisture — Soma Ayurvedic’s jasmine body oil can do that trick! Shop the oil, and their full line of products, here.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by SOMA AYURVEDIC™ (@somaayurvedic)

Sama Tea

If you’re familiar with author and podcast Host, Jay Shetty, then you may have heard of his tea line, Sama Tea. Herbal teas provide many natural benefits. Has it been a stressful week? Try their lavender rose chamomile tea for some TLC. Check them out here.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sama Tea (@samatea)

Sahajan Skincare

Know the Netflix show “Ginny & Georgia?” Loved the actress’ fresh-looking skin? Sahajan Skincare is behind that glow! They’re a must-try, featured in both Vogue and Elle India. See their full range of products here.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sahajan (@sahajanskincare)

Shaz and Kiks

This unique company showcases its brand with an emphasis on ‘holistic.’ Whether it’s bad hair days or excessive shedding, not only do Shaz and Kiks provide the products to help but also break down the science behind the problem. Go on your very own shopping spree by clicking here!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by SHAZ & KIKS (@shazandkiks)


Looking for accessible ayurvedic beauty products? Look no further! Ranavat is now in Sephora. With a beauty line that covers both hair and skin, there’s something here for everyone. See for yourself here.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by RANAVAT (@ranavat)

UMM Skincare

UMM Skincare is known for its brown sugar body scrub, made with natural ingredients, and Bakuchi oil known to improve signs of aging and hyperpigmentation. Try it for yourself by shopping here!


Give your skin the best by adding ZAILA to your daily skincare routine! Click here and start shopping!


This brand is all plant-powered, and we’re here for it — you should be too! Check out their full range of products here.

Inde Wild

Are you looking for brown skin-friendly sunscreen filled with nutrients? Look no further. Inde Wild has its very own SPF 50, with natural substances such as liquorice extract and cica, and it’s a mineral SPF suitable for all skin types. See what the brand is all about and shop it here.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by ind? wild (@indewild)

Mango People

I’m always in the market for brown girl-friendly lipsticks, and ones that are made of natural ingredients are a huge plus. Mango People does just this with their unique lipstick colors that suit all brown skin tones. Try them out here!

Kama Ayurveda

Need to swap out your shampoo for something better? Try Kama Ayurveda’s Ayurvedic Hair cleaner, infused with a variety of herbs and pulses with key ingredients like vetiver, tulsi, rose, moong beans, and shikakai. They have a variety of products to choose from so start with your hair and keep shopping for more here!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kama Ayurveda (@kamaayurveda)

Forest Essentials

According to Forest Essentials, night time is the best time for hydration. Check out their night cream, filled with nutrients to enrich your skin. You can shop their wide variety of products here.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by @forestessentials

Koppen Ayurveda

A brand made for modern living, their essentials are all worth a shot! Start shopping here!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by KÖPPEN Ayurveda (@itskoppen)


Looking for a new face mask to try? AAVRANI has a variety of face masks and explains in detail when you should apply the mask during the week depending on your skin type. Take a look here!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by AAVRANI ? (@aavrani)


Plant-based skincare, anyone? Delhicious has got everyone covered, so click here and fill your baskets!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by delhicious (@delhicious_body)

Pratima Skincare

Just getting into skincare and don’t know where to start? PRATIMA skincare has starter sets, with basics, that every woman can use such as vitamin C serum, essential oils, and collagen creams. Grab yours now by shopping here!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by PRATIMA Skincare (@pratimaskincare)

Fable & Mane

Struggling with hair care recently? Fable & Mane includes various hair oils in their collection that help grow and nourish your hair. Not only that, they have a scalp detox line as well — definitely worth checking out. See their full range of products here.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Fable & Mane (@fableandmane)

[Read Related: 10 Clean Beauty Products That’ll Have you Winning on Earth Day]

In a world that’s becoming more conscious of holistic living, embracing Ayurvedic beauty in your day-to-day is a step in the right direction, and these brands are here to help you get started.

By Hrishika Muthukrishnan

Raised in North Carolina, Hrishika Muthukrishnan spent 18 years thinking there wasn’t much to the suburbs before she discovered how … Read more ›

South Asian Creators Claim Their Space at the Cannes Film Festival

Ever since we can recall, the Cannes Film Festival has been a merger of movies and glamour. On one side, there are hand-picked films — ready to premiere and make their mark in the world of entertainment — and on the other, audiences and paparazzi alike are served epic moments in fashion.

The festival, aimed to preview upcoming films from all over the world, invites a wide variety of guests that span the film fraternity, of course, but more recently, has opened its doors to many digital content creators, including renowned South Asian creatives.

With a more vast guest list comes a more recent debate: Cannes is a film festival and not a fashion showcase. Kickstarting the debate this year was none other than ace Bollywood director, Nandita Das, who in an Instagram post shared:

Sometimes people seem to forget that it is a festival of films and not of clothes!

In short, Das wants Cannes’ narrative to continue to focus on films.

[Read Related: Cannes Film Festival 2022: Red Carpet Representation at its Finest]

But of course, there’s been a paradigm shift in the guest list over the last few years; this shift has allowed talents from various industries — including lifestyle content creators, entrepreneurs, etc., who showcase their work in fashion and beauty like fine masterstrokes — to walk the carpet and represent their craft, making space for others in their industry.

Influential names like Dolly Singh, Kaushal, Diipa Buller-Khosla, and Shivani Bafna — all of whom made a raging impact on the red carpet this year — weigh in on the significance of representing South Asian artists/influencers on the red carpet, and how they feel they’ve been part of this paradigm shift at Cannes Film Festival.

Diipa Buller-Khosla

I believe that each step we take at events like Cannes sends a powerful message of diversity, cultural richness, and artistic excellence. Representation matters, and the presence of South Asian creators on the red carpet at Cannes helps broaden the narrative of beauty, talent, and creativity. It allows us to showcase our unique perspectives, narratives, and contributions, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive industry. By actively participating and making our presence felt, we help create more opportunities and spaces for South Asian creators, encouraging others to share their stories with the world.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Diipa Bu?ller-Khosla (@diipakhosla)


Since 2015, the first time I walked the red carpet, till this year I have always been invited by L’Oreal Paris, one of the main sponsors of the event. It has always been such an honor to be invited to the festival through the makeup brand that I have been using for almost two decades, and, before my social media career began. Personally, I feel a sense of acknowledgment from such a prestigious brand, and its head office teams that sponsor Cannes Film Festival, and value the work I have done and continue to do as a South Asian content creator within the beauty space. Makeup, hair, and beauty will always play a big role within the film industry and it’s something I have always created my content around which is why I am proud to attend.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kaushal ? (@kaushal)

Dolly Singh

This is a proud moment not just for me but also [for] my peers and the entire content creator ecosystem given that we have reached such new global stages and presence. Of course, as you said, such film festivals, once considered as an exclusive hub for a congregation of the finest acting talents have, in the last few years, opened their arms to more people from the entertainment industry.

This is not just a sudden phenomenon with a burst of Indian creators at the festival this year but there is increased participation from non-film and non-South Asian celebrities across various spectrums from different sides of the world. Along with the many filmmakers, actors, producers, etc I also met some amazing influencers and entrepreneurs from other sides of the world. It’s amazing to represent India and celebrate and champion the advent of the digital ecosphere on such a prominent platform.

The confluence of actors and creators signified the amalgamation of traditional cinema and new-age digital influence, highlighting the transformative power of creative expression and how festivals like Cannes have become more forthcoming and progressive in their approach.

Cannes, like any other prominent festival, boasts of a red carpet that is synonymous with fashion and glitz, and I wanted to use this opportunity to represent all the amazing Indian fashion designers on the carpet besides, of course, attending the screenings. As someone who is just not an influencer but also an actress, I thoroughly enjoyed all the red-carpet screenings and meeting like-minded film talent from around the world at the event. At some point in the future, I would like to be attending Cannes for a film I’ve featured in.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Dolly Singh (@dollysingh)

Shivani Bafna

Creators are often placed into boxes of where they belong and the rooms they can be a part of. Being on the red carpet dismantles the ideology that there’s a cap on how far we, as creators and as a South Asian community, can go and what we can achieve.

The Cannes Film Festival has always been viewed as the epitome of a glamorous event — everyone who attends looks like they’re living their best lives. I used the platform to share an authentic message of what the experience felt like for me. To represent all of us who doubt our potential, experience imposter syndrome, and are nervous to find their place, yet continue to push through to achieve their dreams!

As the first Indian American influencer to walk at Cannes, I hope I can inspire young women to confidently ask, ‘Why not me?’


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Shivani Bafna (@shivani_bafna)

There’s no doubt that the Cannes Film Festival is centered around films, and continues to be a unique space for the global film fraternity to bring their art and showcase their aptitude. But, creators like Bafna, Singh, Buller-Khosla, and Kaushal — a special shoutout to Raja Kumari for being instrumental in paving the way as well — have their own set of responsibilities to fulfill upon their invitation to the prestigious event. Their will to represent their South Asian identities, celebrate their industries, and continue to hold space for their peers makes their presence at Cannes more than just clothes.

All images in the featured photo are from the influencers’ Instagram feeds.

By Sandeep Panesar

Sandeep Panesar is an editor, and freelance writer, based out of Toronto. She enjoys everything from the holiday season to … Read more ›

Ankush Bahuguna: “My Favorite Makeup Hack is to Underpaint”

If I DM my friends a bunch of videos on any given day, one of them is almost always an Ankush Bahuguna reel. When I first stumbled upon his content, I saw him as an actor and a comedian, lifting our mood up during the lockdown one video at a time. However, his day-to-day content is more than just that — Bahuguna is changing the landscape of the beauty industry by making (and holding) space for men who aspire to be makeup artists and who have a passion for all things beauty.

[Read Related: The Art of Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes]


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ankush Bahuguna (@ankushbahuguna)

Content creator, makeup enthusiast, actor: Which title do you resonate with the most? And, why?

A creator is the word I’d resonate with the most — that’s what got me here — creating comedy, creating beauty content. Even as an actor, I’m very collaborative. I tend to weave nuances around a character and make it my own. I believe, no matter what you do, your work should be unique to you and that can only happen when you build it up yourself.

How did “Wing it with Ankush” come about?

Till three years ago, I used to work for a media house that had a whole team of stylists and MUAs working on every shoot. So when the world went into lockdown, I realized I would have to don all those hats myself. I used to [regularly] shoot videos with my mother and she didn’t know anything about makeup either. So I had to try my hand at it — I would do her makeup and we’d shoot videos together. Soon I realized how much I enjoyed learning a new skill from scratch. I used to paint as a kid, so makeup just somehow made sense. It felt like even though I had a whole lot to learn, it came naturally to me. I decided I would journal these experiments [on] a ‘secret’ page called Wing it With Ankush so that I can look back at it five years from now and see what I was up to [during] lockdown. I didn’t tell anyone about it. But people eventually discovered it and there was no looking back!

One word for gender stereotypes?

One word: Ingrained. It’s so deeply ingrained in us that we find it hard to just accept people the way they are.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ankush Bahuguna (@ankushbahuguna)

How is (or isn’t) India evolving in terms of stereotypes?

We are definitely evolving. It’s a slow process but there’s hope. There’s a long way to go and for starters, I wish people could give non-cis people as much respect, appreciation, and credit, as they give to cis people like me, especially in the beauty space.

Must-have makeup products for men?

Makeup ‘must-haves’ are very subjective across all genders. Some people can’t do without a full face of makeup, while others could care less. I feel nothing is a must-have. [D]on’t wear makeup because you feel you need to, wear it only if it makes you feel good. My must-haves would be a color corrector, concealer, and powder.

Favorite makeup hack ever:

My favorite makeup hack is to underpaint. Apply bronzer and blush before your foundation. It’s so much more natural looking.

Let’s talk about your career in entertainment. What does comedy mean to you?

Comedy is a defense mechanism for me. It’s also self-expression, to be honest. That’s how I go about my day — finding humor in mundane things. Comedy is how I see life.

Beauty Influencer Of The Year Male (Popular Choice) — Ankush Bahuguna! Congratulations! You left your audience with these words in your Instagram post: “There’s always been too much self-doubt and too little self-worth.” How does one overcome that feeling of self-doubt?

As someone who has grown up constantly feeling inadequate, it’s difficult for me to not give in to self-doubt, literally every day. But I guess the idea is to be as kind and forgiving to yourself as you are to others. If you’ve come this far, you must’ve done something right. Right?


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ankush Bahuguna (@ankushbahuguna)

Absolutely right!

We can’t deny that Ankush Bahuguna is going out of his way to put a smile on our faces with his day-to-day content — reels, photos, Insta stories, and more! All while paving a new path for himself and, like we mentioned before, holding space for those who aspire to be them one day. Ankush continues to push the envelope one makeup tutorial at a time, showing the modern world that it’s time to take men in makeup seriously because they’re here to stay!

The featured image is courtesy of Dream N Hustle Media.

Avatar photo
By Shezda Afrin

Shezda Afrin is an aspiring physician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of four, it was quite normal of her … Read more ›