Kavi Ahuja Moltz — half of the husband-and-wife team behind cult fragrance line D.S. & Durga — is one of the coolest people we know. No one can rock a red lip or a bold eye quite like her. Here, she shares her favorite products, including the best dark lipstick, and one thing she and her husband never agree on…
What’s your daily skincare routine?
My whole skincare routine is based on the acne I had when I was a teenager, then took Accutane for, and am now paying for with dry skin. (Though I would definitely still take the Accutane if I had to do it again.) Now, I’m all about exfoliating and moisturizing. I’ll scrub my face with the Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion Skin Exfoliant a few times a week, which feels like a million tiny knives. It really does the job, and makes skin very soft afterward. When it comes to regular cleansers, I don’t like to spend a lot of money because it’s literally going down the drain. So I use CeraVe cleanser from the drugstore, with my Clarisonic brush.
What about when it comes to moisture?
I rotate between several creams and oils, but Rodin Olio Lusso is my favorite. Linda Rodin is a friend; we make her perfume, and she keeps us in supply of her amazing oil. But really — really — her oil is the best. She was one of the first to do this fancy face oil thing that is everywhere now. The scent is just divine; I’m a sucker for white flowers and it smells like jasmine and neroli. I also like Dr. Hauschka Rose Day Cream, which is so hydrating and smells like roses. Not all of the things I use are natural, but I do appreciate a good natural product.
Do you wear makeup every day?
Oh yes. I love makeup and glamour, and have since I was a teen. When you have bad skin, makeup is like wall paint: You use matte paint for questionable walls, because it will hide an uneven surface. Glossy paint will show every little thing. But now that I’m in my mid-thirties, I’m more comfortable with my imperfections and have started embracing a dewy look. I use Armani Luminous Silk Foundation, recommended by makeup artist Quinn Murphy, who is a good friend. I have olive skin with grey undertones, so I need blush to make my face look bright, but I’m a big believer that blush should be subtle. I use MAC Prism, which is a very neutral color with no shimmer. I’m a huge MAC fan. Years ago, they were the only ones who made any colors for Indian skin — with the right amount of yellow and grey — and sometimes when I want a more polished look, I’ll go back to using their Studio Fix Fluid Foundation. I also like NARS because both their colors and names are amazing. I use their cream compact in Stromboli.
At Halloween, as a zombie in a cape, a train conductor and a mummy. (“I was a lazy mom who forgot to plan a costume.”)
What about when you’re feeling dramatic?
I’ve been wearing this very dark brown lipstick lately, Deborah by NARS. I like it with an otherwise bare face, with just RMS Living Luminizer and a severe middle part. The look is somewhere between the late 70’s and a little bit goth. I’m also really good at a cat eye, and I love the matte-ness of Kat Von D Tattoo Liner. A lot of liquid liners look plastic and this one doesn’t.
How did your Indian heritage influence your aesthetic?
I’ve always been proud of being Indian, and in terms of everything — religion, culture, food and beauty — it influences me a lot. I always fall back on this classic Indian sense of beauty. For example, right now, many people I know are chopping their hair shorter, and I always think about doing it, but I hold onto this idea of having long, black hair and threaded eyebrows (more on that later). Silver jewelry is everywhere, and I think it looks so nice, but I always stick with gold. Even though I like to experiment, I think I’ll always be classically Indian, in a way.
What’s the secret to your amazing eyebrows?
I go to an Indian threading place every two weeks or so. I’ll go to any salon — when it looks like my people in there, I know they’ll know what they’re doing. When I was a kid in New Jersey, I would go with my mom to get her eyebrows threaded in her friend’s makeshift beauty salon in her basement. Threading is cheap and easy, and gives you a nice sharp line that plucking can’t. I always tell them I want a touch-up, not to re-shape them. In between visits, I’ll pluck any stray hairs myself using a Tweezerman tweezer, which is the best.
What’s the most drastic thing you’ve ever done with your overall look?
There have been a lot of things — piercings, head shavings, even a platinum blonde phase that was nearly the end of my hair! In high school, I was a goth. I wore serious makeup and heavily smudged black eyes. My parents came here from India, so they didn’t understand anything about counterculture or trying to express yourself. They thought I was in a cult. There was a lot of changing clothes and putting on my makeup after I’d already left the house. I also have tattoos, which my parents really, really don’t like. They’re horrified that their grandchildren are being raised by a parent with tattoos. They’re like, “They might want to GET tattoos!” and I’ll say, “Great! I’ll take them!” It has taken a long time for me to feel like my life is fully mine and get comfortable making decisions that other people won’t be happy with.
Do you have plans to get any more tattoos in the future?
Yes! I may or may not be going through an early midlife crisis and will finally realize my fantasy of knuckle tattoos later this year. I don’t know what I’m getting yet. There will definitely be a four-letter word, but not THE four-letter word. I will keep you posted!
What product do you always have with you?
I use mists all day. They’re so refreshing. If your skin is looking and feeling dry, especially in the winter, if you put on a mist it kind of plumps you up with moisture. I like Aesop Facial Hydrosol, Caudalie Beauty Elixir and plain pure rosewater. I can’t get enough. Your skin sucks it up like a dry plant. I especially like that you can spray it over makeup.
Outside of work, do you and David ever weigh in on each other’s aesthetic choices?
Yes. We actually disagree a lot! He’ll ask for my opinion on an ensemble, and it will inevitably end with him saying, “You don’t understand men’s fashion!” It goes that way for both of us. Even David, who is a modern fashionable man, doesn’t understand certain things — like any women’s jean that isn’t tight. I’ll say, “I don’t dress for men, I dress for me!”
Do you have any favorite beauty splurges?
A good facial. I love the whole experience of it. I started getting facials very young, because they’re a part of my mother’s routine. Many Indian women get them. A good steam and extraction session always helps me feel clean, and I particularly love when you go to a place (like D’Mai Urban Spa) and they don’t leave the room during the mask-drying bit, but instead massage your hands and feet. Such a bonus. But my splurge is going to Christine Chin and sadly, they are room-leavers.
Are there any foods or drinks that make you feel your best?
I was vegan for about 15 years and would love to go back to it. I’m a vegetarian, but now if I had to cut butter and cheese out of my life, I might be too sad to go on. I read this blog by Kimberly Snyder. She has a lot of beyond-healthy recipes, including her Glowing Green Smoothie, which she recommends drinking daily. I don’t make it every day, but I love the idea of eating right and having your beauty issues addressed at the same time.
What’s your desert island product that you cannot live without?
RMS Living Luminizer. It’s a genius product. I put it on my upper cheek bones, the bone that runs along the lower edge of your eye socket. This is the only luminizer that I like. It’s not glittery, it’s not even shimmery, it just makes my skin look moisturized and plump, with a little sheen. I love it.
The million-dollar question: Do you have a signature scent?
I strongly do not believe in signature scents, and am more of the “fragrance wardrobe” school of thought. As the wife of a perfumer, I’m always having to test new stuff, but there are a few scents I gravitate towards again and again. We are about to take one of our candles, Spirit Lamp, and make the scent into a perfume oil, and I imagine I will be wearing that a lot this summer. I love smelling lots of perfumes from different lines, but I only wear ours. The scent I’m wearing right now is Coriander. It’s delicate, green and peppery, with no fruit or sweetness.
We LOVE D.S. & Durga candles. So I’m curious, what are some of your favorite home scents?
As the perfumer between us, David’s nose gets pretty overworked at the studio. So home scents are pretty much restricted to fresh flowers, with tuberose being my favorite. Tuberose is hard to find, but it’s just intoxicating to me on another level. My dear uncle who passed away last year used to always leave a fresh bouquet of them on my night table when I visited Delhi, and the scent of that mixed with the bracing air conditioning is one of my fondest scent memories. One of our new launches coming up this year is called “Durga” and commemorates him and that memory.
Who are your beauty inspirations?
I have so many. I love Debbie Harry, Siouxsie Sioux, Tilda Swinton and Beth Ditto, for being badass. They do their own thing, and I love that. Another favorite is Rekha, the ultimate glamorous golden age Bollywood star. I really admire Dita Von Teese, whose makeup skills are unparalleled. I love that she’s a production, and every time she goes out in public she’s always “on.” Diane Kruger is the one person where every time I see a photo of her, I’m like, “I want what she’s wearing!” And I love Patti Smith, because she’s a bridge between that rock and roll mindset and also a beautiful, restrained palette and applying things in a practical, subtle, minimal way.
What are your thoughts on nail polish?
I wear nail polish pretty much all the time, except for a weeklong break maybe twice a year. Red lips and nails I never tire of, they’re part of me. I believe in glamour in a really old school way. I like a lot of different reds: Essie Really Red, Geranium, Russian Roulette. OPI Big Apple… You get the idea. I pretty much always pay the $10 for the 10-minute chair massage while my nails are drying. Multitasking!
Do you have any advice for de-stressing?
Meditation and a few drops of lavender or ylang ylang on your pillow. My husband David is really hardcore into meditation — twice a day he’ll go into our daughter’s room when she’s playing elsewhere (it’s the quietest room in the house), turn off the lights, and sit on a meditation cushion. Meditation is very good for him. He’s definitely not calm — he’s very talkative and energetic — but he’s a really grounded person and a good human being. I sometimes join him, and I’d like to start doing it more.
How do you care for your hair?
I use Oribe Gold Lust shampoo; I think all of their products are amazing. I wash my hair every day, and it’s long, so I need something that keeps it in good shape. I’ll also use L’Oreal conditioner. Every few weeks, I’ll put warm almond oil in my hair at night and wash it out in the morning, a very Indian thing to do. When I’m staying with my parents, my mom massages it in while I watch TV and zone out, which is total heaven.
When’s one time in your life when you felt really beautiful?
I always, always feel beautiful when we are vacationing in Jamaica, my spirit home. I want to move D.S. & Durga headquarters to Jamaica and run it from a house on the sea. The ocean air, the tan skin, the fresh fruit, the absence of shoes, the kids playing in the sand, splashing in the water, the sun! There, I feel happy and beautiful.
Thank you so much, Kavi!