One of the buzziest descriptors to come out of the wellness movement is the idea of achieving balance. Nobody’s quite sure what that means, but they’re sure when they spot it. I knew I had seen balance in the flesh upon meeting Shrankhla Holecek, the CEO and Founder of UMA Oils. Having just hopped off a red-eye that morning, and preparing to leave for London later that night, the authority on all things oily spoke with poise and self-assurance. She was well-versed in everything from her farms in India to what the West gets wrong about skin care (buzzword ingredients aren’t for everyone, and treating a symptom will do nothing when its causes goes unchecked, she claims). Luckily, her ‘balance’ is bottled and sold in the ayurvedic oil blends she crafts, farm-to-bottle as her website states, and they hold the key to the calmness she maintains amidst running a prospering beauty empire. “I rely on Ayurveda to keep me going,” she says. “And a fair amount of coffee.”
Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest systems of health and wellness science, and Holecek incorporates it into the recipes for her products that are as old as her farms. She hails from a line of Ayurvedic practitioners who created oils for the royal families of India for centuries. “The reason we started farming was the royalty was very particular about where their ingredients came from,” she explains. “And they started commissioning us with these large portions of land, and we farmed jasmine, and vetiver, and made them into these ayurvedic products.”
Holecek’s farms employ over 50% women, all of whom have access to childcare, healthcare, and equal pay to their male counterparts. They farm everything from roses to sandalwood, vetiver and chamomile (a few of her favorites due to their balancing qualities), and is done organically. “We use things like cow dung as manure to put on our fields,” she explains, amused by the public’s expectations versus the reality of her farms. “Secondly, it’s typically 105 degrees out.” Climate and fertilization methods aside, the products she create are inherently minimal, meant to tweak environmental imbalances or temporary stressors, allowing our bodies to heal themselves. The Ayurvedic principle the most integral to her line, she says, is that everything we need to heal is already within ourselves.
Our own healing abilities may be in abundance, but if one ingredient were most central to the products, it would be her family’s Rose oil. Ranging from $20,000-$30,000 per pound, her family has sold it to every beauty brand from Estée Lauder to Tom Ford, and it’s a key component in the Ultimate Brightening line, which Holecek personally swears by. Take the Rose Powder cleanser, which mixes with water for a good clean and doubles as a mask/exfoliating leave-on treatment. “There isn’t stuff like that in the market,” Holecek says. “And truthfully, it’s complex to use, but once you get hooked on it, you adore it because of the results you see.”
Finally, Holecek’s parting piece of advice is this: emphasize the ritual and turn it into a mindfulness exercise. “I will just push people to find two-three minutes instead of the 20 minutes of self-care things to just make life more pleasurable and really stay in tune with what your body is saying to you,” she says. Feeling beautiful only comes with also feeling well and happy, according to the glowing woman meeting with me between two flights on the same day. “You can’t put lipstick on an (emotional) pig,” she decides.
Main Photo Credit: umaoils.com