The Conran Shop sits down with the founder of UMA Oils, Shrankhla Holecek, to discover more about the story behind the luxurious skincare and wellbeing brand.
Blending each product using botanicals grown on its very own 100-acre meadow, UMA draws upon its rich heritage and pristine ingredients to transform the skin and overall wellbeing. Each bottle of oil is characterised by the exquisite craftsmanship that goes into it, redefining luxury as we know it. Shrankhla Holecek tells us more...
What first inspired you to set up UMA Oils?
I think a part of UMA was born when I was, for centuries my family has farmed and distilled some of the world’s finest essential oils (my family has been the Ayurvedic physicians for the Indian Royal family for the last 800 years). As a child, I spent long summers at our organic rose farms, learning about our sustainable farming or extraction processes and by the age of nine I could make a mean all-organic face mask!
I’d be lying if I said there was one precipitating moment – it was the sum of my education, experiences and heritage that led me to found UMA. I have long known that my family produces some of the world’s finest organic oils and that our potent secret formulas are very illustrious, but it wasn’t an emotional decision to move into this industry. It was the fact that consumers were finally questioning the ingredients and formulation of their products that gave me the confidence to believe that our absolute dedication to ingredient purity will resonate with customers.
What makes UMA Oils so distinctive from other products?
When you make the switch to natural and organic products, two things are critical to seeing the same results you saw from their synthetic counterparts: potency of the natural ingredients and powerful formulas. Our family has uniquely had access to both of those critical elements for generations.
I grew up on fresh, organic Ayurvedic beauty and wellness remedies and after a brief departure whilst living in the US, I returned to those remedies with renewed faith. Many years in business have given me a practical approach and I’m a big believer in judging products based on the noticeable results they achieve!
I think the most distinctive thing about our brand is that we’re amongst the only beauty companies that grow, harvest and formulate its ingredients entirely on our own farms, distilleries and quality-controlled labs. This gives us an unprecedented level of quality control and accompanying efficacy, as well as the ability to bring our customers the most pristine, precious and rare ingredients.
Our products are unique because they leverage centuries of expertise and time-honoured formulas to address skin and wellness issues that sometimes feel inherently modern. There is real power in simplicity and by going back to basics – in the form of pure and unadulterated botanicals – we’re bringing these powerful solutions directly to our customers.
We are and have always been, deeply committed to socially and environmentally responsible business practices. Our low-impact farming practices are pesticide-free, and we repurpose and recycle our waste to minimize our environmental footprint. We also foster gender equality in India by employing a workforce of over 50% women and providing them with the consistent and fair salaries necessary to ensure their financial independence. This is in addition to other community initiatives, like free health and childcare, ongoing education and retirement planning guidance.
Why is Ayurveda important and what is its impact on the body and mind?
Central to our philosophy is the Ayurvedic wisdom that beauty, health and emotional wellbeing operate in a pristine balance. Accordingly, our products are aimed at restoring that equilibrium through ‘skin and soul’ nutrition.
In this spirit, we consider synergy of the mind and body to be fundamental to maintaining glowing skin and preventing signs of ageing! Therefore, our skincare and wellness formulas work hand in hand with one another, to address every customer’s unique concerns, and create a regimen that promotes mind and body balance.
For example, a customer may be noticing dryness and fine lines in her skin and turn to our Total Rejuvenation Night Face Oil, as a topical solution. However, we believe that beautiful skin is linked directly to internal harmony. Everything from a stressful workweek to a lack of restful sleep can throw the body out of whack and result in skin that looks dull and dry. To complement the Total Rejuvenation Night Face Oil we would recommend our Pure Rest blend, a potent Ayurvedic blend that rivals traditional sleep aids in efficacy, without the chemical side effects.
Many of the skin’s most fundamental restorative functions happen during sleep, and in this way, Pure Rest and Total Rejuvenation complement one another and work to restore the balance of the mind, body and skin.
In short, UMA was built on the notion that pampering and treating the skin and body should be one of the same. Each of our blends was formulated to deliver dramatic results, as well as an immersive and sensory experience that leaves each customer feeling like they just stepped out of the spa!
How do you ensure you select the highest quality ingredients?
Our products are created purely from essential oils that were grown, extracted, formulated and bottled entirely at our heirloom family estate in India. We farm several hundred acres of a family-owned meadow that was chosen for its nutrient-rich soil. A dedicated team of caretakers select only the finest seeds and then nurse the plants through the growing season.
While many crop growers harvest the same plant multiple times to produce as much oil as possible, at UMA we harvest each plant no more than two times before replanting, because we have learned that the first two harvests generate the highest quality essential oils and that their potency declines after the second harvest. Once the plants move from the meadow to the factory, they are greeted by the team of dedicated and skilled technicians and extractors, who shepherd the plants through the distillation process.
The UMA team rallies around the vision of creating the best quality products with the highest impact. You will never hear talk of a ‘lower cost option’, and you will often see our extractors cycle through bushels of a plant or flower crop to select only the finest raw materials. Our formulators have epic intellectual battles over the percentages of oil in a formulation, and our Ayurveda doctors are notorious for throwing away formulations that are anything but superlative.
Each product you will use is a source of pride and hope for every individual that has been part of our operations for many, many years. UMA is the culmination of our expertise, ambition, and love for the art of essential oil creation, and for the science of wholesome beauty.
How do you support and encourage employees of UMA Oils?
We believe that giving our female employees financial independence through fair pay, enrichment programs, and flexible and supportive employment terms is a necessary contribution toward the broader movement to emancipate woman in India.
To support and enrich this vibrant ecosystem, we invest heavily in initiatives that are crucial to ensuring that women in our community can come to work while balancing social expectations around their caregiving roles. We run the only Health Clinic in the village (providing free services and medication), free childcare, as well as academic scholarship funding for their children. At UMA, we believe that these initiatives are not only the right’ thing to do but that it is impossible to create the highest quality, locally-sourced essential oils without investing in the community that makes it all possible.
In your opinion, what should be essential components of any skincare routine?
I'm a huge fan of simplicity, powerful ingredients that do more with less, and rituals that take your products beyond.
Accordingly - I love a good cleanse, and periodic exfoliation, with top Ayurvedic ingredients such as orange-peel powder, oats, or honey, all of which can be found in UMA Cleansers. I try to get both water-soluble (e.g. Vitamin C) and oil-soluble (e.g. Vitamin E) nutrients into my skin during my skincare build up - so I'll use a solid tonic like UMA's Ultimate Brightening Rose Toner and a supercharged face oil like our Absolute Anti-Aging Face Oil after cleansing, morning and night.
So, the number of products I use is minimal, but I never skimp on the ritual of the application which typically involves a 5-6 step facial massage starting at my neck/ décolletage and ending on my forehead, massaging upward. For extra self-love plus that red-carpet glow, I try to mask a couple of times a week.
What does the future hold for UMA Oils?
We are humbled by the great reception our more complex Ayurvedic products - such as our Wellness Oils with their patented six-step application ritual - have had and are excited to launch more in this category like UMA navel therapy oils™ coming this summer!