My Morning Routine

Masala Chai Ice Cream and a Swipe of Glow Balm

Written by: Megan O’Neill


Published on: May 7, 2024


Pooja Bavishi | Founder and CEO of Malai ice cream

Taste a creamy scoop of her cardamom pistachio crumble ice cream and you know Pooja Bavishi—the founder of Brooklyn’s wildly popular Malai—is a mix master. Her trick for combining two skin serums in the mornings is as brilliant as some of her best artisanal flavors. The 40-year-old’s luminous skin prompts an instant I’ll-have-what-she’s-having response—it’s similar to the feeling you get when she lists off some of the shop’s bestsellers.

Bavishi, who left a career in urban planning to start her business, once had an extensive skin-care regimen. But now that she travels frequently for work (a second Malai in Washington, DC, is in the works), she’s pared it down to a few powerful clean treatments, plus one do-it-all miracle color balm that’s almost her entire makeup routine. “I love it so much—I smooth it onto my cheeks and lips with my fingers and it just makes me look better,” says Bavishi of her favorite shade, Afterglow, a soft sheer berry that’s swirled with nourishing botanicals and deposits the perfect flourish of warmth. “It’s just easy.”

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Stroll by the Carroll Gardens shop on a warm day and you’ll see the line that snakes out onto Smith Street. Inspired by Bavishi’s South Asian roots, flavors like tulsi chocolate chip, Holi sweet milk, sweet roti and ghee, and saffron pistachio taste moan-elicitingly luscious and come gorgeously packaged in pastel-colored pints. “I’m first-generation Indian American and grew up eating these spices,” she says. “I love introducing new flavors to people and introducing a flavor of my home to people who are unfamiliar. I want a pint of masala chai at the grocery store to feel as normal as a cookies and cream one.”

One could say that Bavishi tells stories with her flavors. “Storytelling is such a huge part of the immigrant experience,” she says. She tells the story about how her mom’s morning ritual inspired one of Malai’s top flavors: “Every morning my mom made chai. Spicy, milky, and sweet with tannic bitter notes, it tasted so cozy,” she says. “Today we use her blend in our ice cream. Of course, she loves all the flavors except the chai,” she laughs. “Chai, she says, should never be served cold.”

Bavishi treats herself to the “cold chai”—or another of her epic flavors—three mornings a week. More morning treats: hair oil for intense shine, double cleansing, and, of course, that serum-layering trick.

5:35 a.m.

I play the New York Times’ Wordle or On the Record, the Washington Post’s news quiz, on my phone. Then I lie in bed for about half an hour, reading the news and easing into the day.

6:15 a.m.

I get up, brush my teeth, and double cleanse. I used to double cleanse only when I wore heavy makeup, but once I did it after a not-heavy-makeup day and I loved how my skin felt. Now I do it every night and morning. I use an oil cleanser first, then follow with the brightening one from Indie Lee.

6:25 a.m.

Once a week, before working out—either on a Friday with no meetings or Saturday—I do a deep-conditioning treatment with the hair oil from Ranavat. I love the brand (we used to source our saffron from the same place), and I love supporting brands founded by South Asian people. The oil is made with amla, an amazing source of vitamin C and something my mom has told me to use for a decade.

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Here’s my trick: I section out my hair, take a dropperful of oil, and massage it into my scalp and through my ends. I toss my hair into a ponytail and either work out, eat breakfast (sometimes I do a green shake if I’m not having ice cream), read, or walk to the farmers’ market to give it time to sink in before washing it out. It leaves my hair so shiny, and over time I feel like it looks healthier.

6:35 a.m.

I bike on my Peloton or do a strength workout from their app. I just turned 40 years old, and now sometimes I do a little stretching routine to keep the limbs flexible. Then I jump in the shower.

7:30 a.m.

I get out, dry off, and pat on exfoliating toner from Sahajan. I smooth on the goop vitamin C serum, then layer the Youth-Boost serum on top. I love the combination, which does exactly what I want it to do: It tackles all the lines and leaves my skin looking hydrated and more alive.

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Next is this eye cream—omg. I do the vitamin C, peptide serum, and eye cream morning and night; it’s a little routine I don’t even have to think about.

7:50 a.m.

If I have a meeting, I fill in my brows and dab on a little concealer, mascara, and the goop blush balm in Afterglow. Otherwise I apply only mascara and the Afterglow, which makes me look awake and put-together—in all of 90 seconds. I love the balm so much that I just ordered the five-pack.

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8 a.m.

I’m either off to the Malai shop—I go once a week these days—or to our office to work on marketing strategies, fundraising, or brainstorming new seasonal flavors (I have a standing tasting meeting Mondays at 10 a.m. with my kitchen team; I’m loving Shahi Toast right now).