Q & A - UMA Oils founder Shrankhla Holecek


What was the inspiration behind creating your beauty brand?

I think a part of Uma was born when I was – in that my family has farmed and distilled some of the world’s finest essential oils, literally for centuries (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; my weekends incorporated body gommages and hair oil massages; I could make a mean all-organic face mask with kitchen ingredients at the age of nine! And yet – another part of me wanted to get as far away from the family business I could – so I studied engineering and moved to the States, got an MBA and worked with management consulting firm McKinsey for five years.

So 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 family formulas are very illustrious – but it wasn’t an emotional decision to move into this category. It was the fact that consumers were finally (and very rightly) questioning the ingredients and the formulation of their products that gave me the confidence to believe that our story and our absolute dedication to ingredient purity will resonate with customers.

How did you grow UMA oils into the company it has become?

With the support of a lot of early believers, a truly incredible customer base, and a great team. I'm very grateful for everyone who has helped us every step of the way on this journey; we still have ways to go, but we wouldn't be here without the love of everyone we've met along the way.

What is your favourite hero product of the range?

I'll admit it does change - with summer in full swing, I'm really enjoying our Ultimate Brightening Rose Toner! It's refreshing, super hydrating - and since I'm a little more prone to hyper-pigmentation, its surge of Vitamin C does wonders for my skin.

Would you classify UMA as a ‘clean’ beauty brand?

Absolutely. There's nothing synthetic in UMA - we're 100% organic.

Will your facial oils work for all skin types?

Yes! Assuming you can’t use oil if you have oily skin is a great misconception; the right oils can actually help balance your skin-type. Many acne products focus on stripping, when in reality our skin loves oils as they respond to its natural composition. In fact, recent research has found that lack of lipids in the epidermis impairs the water barrier function, resulting in bumps and rough skin texture due to excessive sebum formation in the hair follicle. Essential oils such as Juniper Berry, Tea Tree and Clove can help regulate your skin’s pH balance, heal existing damage, and stimulate cell renewal – ridding your complexion of unwanted toxins while maintaining a healthy lipid barrier.

Facial oils have become such a prominent product in the beauty industry - what sets apart from your competitors?

Our complete stewardship of every ingredient - from seed to bottle - allows us unprecedented quality control, and superlative oil quality. At Uma, we believe that, a truly potent skin or wellness oil blend is much, much more than the sum of its (independently great!) parts and that’s where I believe that our generational expertise comes in. Knowing what oils, and in what proportion, would extend the performance and efficacy of another is as much art as it is science. Sandalwood, for instance, enhances the active lifespan and staying power of other essential oils – and is also wonderfully sublime in its aroma, blending in beautifully with some of the richer top notes such as that of Rose. Another reason we blend with such pristine attention to percentages is to minimize the risk of sensitivity to any one essential oil. Essential oils are powerful substances in arguably a plant’s most concentrated form – we combine our scientific knowledge of their components such as esters or naturally occurring compounds as azulene, with our rich, long study of their behaviors to determine every last percentage of each oil that goes into our blends. Keep in mind that our formulas have been perfected over centuries of testing on some of the most discerning clients!

In what way are you giving back to the industry?

A core founding philosophy for the House of Uma is our commitment to empowering women – over half of our staff is female, and employees receive free health and childcare, ongoing education, and retirement benefits. All operations at our estate are conducted using the Ayurvedic belief that humans live in harmony with our environment: everything that we take from the world around us should be given back in equal amounts. We recycle our botanical waste into products like incense, and repurpose water from distillation to grow our crops.

What do you think the future holds for UMA oils?

We hope to have the continued support - and interest in Ayurvedic wellness - to launch some of our more nuanced products like the navel therapy oils we just launched. While we are a business, I feel strongly that as stewards of such a storied Ayurvedic heritage, we have the responsibility to educate on Ayurveda as a whole - even outside of product use, and hence will continue to create platforms to be able to do that in a completely non-commercial way.

What are your top tips in order to relax?

Alternate nostril breathing, rubbing oil at the bottoms of your feet, as well as using UMA's Pure Calm range - on stressful days, there's always a Pure Calm Candle burning in the background, and I give myself a quick wellness ritual with the Pure Calm Wellness Oil when I'm having trouble relaxing.

For a new customer to the range – how would you explain the difference between the Pure Bliss and Pure Calm Wellness oils?

In Ayurveda, when one feels anxious, one's vata (the airy, energetic energy is elevated) so we must relax and soothe that while when one feels low - or depressed - the kapha dosha is out of balance, leading to that feeling of heaviness. Pure Calm helps with the management of those tense, anxious feelings, while Pure Bliss is targeted more towards the low, sad feelings and loss of confidence.

Do you believe the future of the beauty and wellness industry lies together?

As an Ayurvedic, I've always believed the root of beauty is founded in wellness, and it's indeed lovely to see the industry embrace that tenet. UMA is rooted in the philosophy that beauty, wellness, and a fulfilled life go hand in hand. As an Ayurvedic brand, UMA products emphatically address the fact that the health of your skin and mind are deeply interconnected. Our two distinct, yet complementary, lines of Face and Wellness oils work synergistically to bring unmatched vitality to both your skin and mind.

What are your top beauty tips?

I'm a huge fan of a simplified routine, with a huge emphasis on rituals (like facial massages) and picking the most powerful, but clean ingredients. I also recommend using what's easily at your disposal (like washcloths and ice) and in your kitchen (honey, nut powders, yogurt, tomato) to elevate your rituals. So, a gentle wash and using a clean washcloth, followed by a nice water based toner and a great facial oil is what I recommend twice a day (the toner or serum, combined with an oil allows you to get the full spectrum of water-based and oil based ingredients). I recommend a deeper exfoliation with a gommage, and a face mask 2-3 times a week for more enhanced care.

I really recommend rubbing your face with ice as often as possible to calm inflammation and really get the circulation going!

What was the inspiration behind the beautiful packaging?

We wanted customers to be able to appreciate the exquisite craftsmanship that goes inside their product, by holding something as exquisite in their hands. We believed that beautifully crafted packaging implores customers to explore the story of a brand further - and we have really found that to be true.