The Medicine Cabinet: Sabeen, Owner of The Indie Shelf

The Medicine Cabinet Series was created to give you a unique look at the everyday lives and wellness routines of a diverse group of women from around the country. Dive in for a candid approach to wellness unlike any other.



Meet Sabeen Zia, the founder of Muskaan Makeup and owner of The Indie Shelf, an independent natural beauty store in Philadelphia. The Indie Shelf curates unique and innovative offerings, supporting small businesses and helping smaller brands get into the retail space. You can check out The Indie Shelf’s website here


An experienced entrepreneur, Sabeen is passionate about elevating unique brands from around the world, giving her customers access to quality natural beauty products, and her newborn baby! 


BINTO: What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?


The first thing I do is chug a bottle of water that I’ll keep on my nightstand! 


BINTO: What is the last thing you do before you go to sleep?


My skincare routine! Don’t skip it - no matter how sleepy you are. 


BINTO: You have a newborn baby! What has that been like?


An adventure! It’s only been 8 weeks but I can’t remember my life before him - must be the lack of sleep. Being quarantined has been bittersweet. On one hand, it worked out because I was recovering and it was nice to just be us at home adjusting to the new life. But then it’s also been exhausting too with no help. My husband and I are learning a lot on our own but we definitely would have appreciated having my mom around. And that too - the baby has yet to meet his grandparent which has been really tough. 


BINTO: How do you define wellness?


Personally, I believe wellness starts from a mental level. You have to take care of your mind before anything else. Take breaks, meditate, call someone who puts you in a good mood - even if it’s for 5 minutes.  


BINTO: What was the defining moment when you realized you could take your health into your own hands?


It was recently - maybe five or six years ago when people my age started to get sick - whether it was something like high cholesterol, something stress related or sadly, cancer. I started slow and small - built up my workouts. I’m no workout expert but I do what I can and push it when I should. I feel like people start working out with high expectations and then when those expectations aren’t met, they quit. But I know I can’t do CrossFit, so I won’t sign up for it. However, I love running and going to barre classes. Maybe one day I’ll build my way up to CrossFit. Maybe.   


BINTO: Can you tell us a little more about what you do? What is the deal with The Indie Shelf?


So, by degree - I have a bachelor's degree in toxicology - but somehow I ended up with a masters degree in cosmetic science! 


Long story short - after working at a few beauty companies, I moved to Philly after I got married. There weren’t a lot of job opportunities for me in Philly so I finally started my own cosmetic line called Muskaan Makeup - that was my first business. I learned A LOT - what to do but also what not to do. One thing I learned was how difficult it was to get into retail as a small brand. That’s how The Indie Shelf was born! 


We carry small brands that aren’t in larger retailers, recently launched, or just have some really effective and unique products. It’s a space for small brands to expose their business to Philly. I have seen some of the brands I carry grow in the last year, which has been great. 


My husband and I also travel a lot so I would find some small brands from all over the world and bring it back to Philly! Hopefully, post COVID life will still allow me to do that. For now, I’ll depend on the internet for some cool international brands! 


BINTO: How do you channel your own ideas about wellness into your work?


I am a workaholic. I mean, I was working 3 days after I got home from delivering a baby, ha. But again, wellness for me starts with your state of mind so when I feel overworked, I will take that break. I’ll take a walk outside, call a friend or family and take it easy before I get back into it again. 


The shop has also turned into a neighborhood favorite - which I LOVE. I treat my clients like a friend has walked into the store: we have casual conversations, will throw some jokes in there, give honest feedback on what’s best for their product needs and there’s no sales pushing. If they won’t buy something today, they may come back later. But I will recommend products that I genuinely think are good for them! 


I never want someone to feel pressured or intimidated on making a purchase because they walked into a small shop. Having a good conversation with someone helps my state of mind but you also never know - you may have made someone else’s day better too!


BINTO: What is one product you absolutely cannot live without, or your favorite thing you carry in the store?


Oh man, this is a hard one! If I had to pick one, I’d say mascara. It really makes a difference, especially if you’re having a lazy day and look tired. My in store favorite is the Sappho mascara. 


BINTO: How do you take your health and wellness routine on the go?


I am always carrying a bottle of water with me. Water is so important and can affect your skin or energy level. Stretches and meditation are easy to do wherever you are. I also take my vitamins - which are individually packaged so I literally can take them on the go! 


Another important thing in my routine is sunscreen! It’s easy to apply sunscreen in the morning but you have to reapply! I carry the Seriously Fun sunscreen mist with me everywhere - it’s a great mist for application that can be sprayed over makeup to! Mind blowing, right? 


BINTO: What is your biggest challenge in terms of health and wellness right now?


Eek, my diet! Being quarantined and postpartum, it’s been tough to recover, take care of a baby, and cook right. We’ve been ordering take out a lot which hasn’t helped my diet at all! 


BINTO: What do you consider to be the most important step of your wellness routine?


Taking some “me time” to relax and take that break.


BINTO: How has your wellness routine evolved over the years?


I’ve learned to eat better, established a workout routine and take way better care of my skin!


BINTO: What advice do you have for our readers who are looking to invest in smaller brands but don’t know where to start?


There are definitely a lot of options out there! I’d say start with asking yourself a few questions:


What is your skin type?


What do you want to achieve from using a product?


How much time do you have in the morning and evening to incorporate a skincare routine? This can determine which product you’d need to start with first. For example, if you’re limited on AM time and you don’t have sunscreen in your morning routine, you should look for a SPF moisturizer. Or if your skin needs some sort of repairing, start with a serum - which is the most potent product to treat your skin. 


What is your budget? Supporting small brands don’t have to break your wallet. We’re lucky to have so many brands that have been able to keep their pricing low. Just because something might be cheaper than another product doesn’t mean it won’t work. You really just need to see what works for you - which could be a $15 cleanser or a $60 one. If it works for your skin, use it! Small brands put a lot more detail, care and attention into their products. They work hard to create a unique and effective product for us so you should always try to support a smaller brand. 


Always keep in mind that no product is an overnight miracle product - it takes time and consistency so be patient! 


BINTO: What’s up next for you? What are you excited about looking into the future?


Oh I had so many plans - had another project slowly in the works but then COVID happened and now everything has been put on hold. For now, I need to focus on reviving The Indie Shelf from COVID closures and raising a tiny human to make sure he grows up to be a kind person.


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