Photo: Uma Oils/ Instagram
Just under three years old, UMA Oils is a 100% organic ayurvedic brand founded by 37-year-old entrepreneur Shrankla Holecek. A few months ago, Net-a-Porter brought the brand into Singapore, and thanks to that, we had the opportunity to speak to Holecek.
According to Holecek, UMA Oils has a surprisingly long history – 800 years, in fact. Shrankhla Holecek hails from a line of royal Ayurvedic physicians, and her ancestors tended to the royal family in India. Her family is legendary for growing and sourcing high-grade essential oils for respected beauty brands around the world, including names like Estée Lauder and Tom Ford.
Growing up, Shrankhla Holecek wanted to be a lawyer or actress – in fact, she didn’t want to take over the family business of dealing in essential oils. She studied engineering at one of the top universities in India, and later moved to Los Angeles to earn an MBA at UCLA. Holecek spent six years working in management consulting, before realising that the demands of her high-pressure job was taking a toll on her health and appearance. It was then that she finally decided to go back to her roots and explore the world of Ayurvedic healing and oils.
UMA Oils is sustainable and ethical
“All the ingredients used by UMA Oils are a 100% under our stewardship. UMA is able to showcase the entire life cycle of every ingredient used in our products because everything is produced in our estate. This is important as consumers become increasingly savvy about what goes into the things they buy,” Shrankla Holecek explains.
It doesn’t just stop at that. Holecek’s family-owned factory and farmland employs workers who receive a fair wage in exchange for their work, and more than 50% of their employees are women. There’s also a free health clinic in the village for the workers and their family. This is especially important since healthcare can be hard to come by in rural areas, and stories of people walking for hours to reach the nearest hospital are not uncommon.
Why did UMA Oils take such a long time to enter the local market?
“It’s the first time we’re coming to Singapore to tell the story of the brand. We are very, very careful when choosing who to trust to sell our products. Net-a-Porter is uniquely-equipped to do so. The fact that your package arrives on time in a beautiful box that showcases the craftmanship of our bottles, that’s very important to us,” Holecek says. “It’s a privilege for us to be able to present our products in the right frame.”
“UMA Oils has partnered with many facialists and therapists overseas. We’re still in the process of incubating the brand and talking to spas in Singapore, so stay tuned and keep your eyes peeled in the next three months!”
On how her background and family lineage has benefitted UMA Oils
“It’s been a fascinating process of rediscovery, what you take for granted when you move to a foreign country. I lived in Beverly Hills for 12 years, and I rediscovered my heritage with a foreign lens, in a place where women loved eating organic and practicing yoga. And that sparked my appreciation for everything I had growing up.”
“My family always ate clean, 100% vegetarian and organic. I learnt yoga at the age of seven. I had access to breathing meditation at the age of fifteen, when I was not sleeping well and anxious about exams coming up. So, that rich repertoire of education and tips I had growing up, suddenly became very relevant,” says Shrankhla.
“I didn’t learn about oils formally, but daily interactions with [my family’s] farmers taught me all about things like how rose oil is harvested, what are the key ingredients that make rose oil so special, or how grapeseed oil is great for thinning out the sticky sebum in your skin. So, there’s a lot of things that brand founders go out of their way to learn about, that I had an inherent knowledge of.”
“I was also able to combine this knowledge with science. My family is full of doctors, and I come from an engineering background. So it was great to be able to approach this from both a scientific perspective and also understand the philosphy behind making oils. And I think that’s part of what makes UMA Oils so special.”
Why you should look at the big picture when it comes to beauty
“You know how people tend to think that the skin on their face is different from say, their body or legs? No, everything is connected. So, when you sleep better, your eyebags and puffiness go down. Similarly, lymphatic drainage is important. Try using ice rollers and massaging your face. I’m a big fan of touching your face and moving things around – give your face a little massage while applying toners and oils,” Shrankhla suggests.
“One tip I have is to put a drop of oil in your belly button. It’s an Ayurvedic treatment. Also, before you sleep, massage the bottoms of your feet with oils. Oh, and try breathing through alternate nostrils. That will help you relax and sleep better.”
Ayurveda 101 for the layperson
“Starting at the basics, Ayurveda has a strong emphasis on the concept of ‘harmony’,” says Holecek. “And that harmony extends beyond just your body, to your environment. Everything works in balance. In Ayurveda, we believe that our bodies are made of five elements: earth, water, air, aether, and fire.”
“There are three types of constitutions, based on these elements. There’s Vata: you’re probably kind of frail, anxious and have trouble gaining weight. Kapha is kind of the opposite. Kapha types are a little slower, more sluggish, and have bigger builds. And they struggle with things like acne when their Kapha is out of balance. Pitta is right in the middle – they’re the symbol of fire and they’re very passionate and eloquent. But they’re sometimes quite prone to anger.”
“Basically, all of Ayurveda is about how you should eat, what kind of lifestyle pattern you should follow, how you should take care of your skin in order to keep all these elements in balance. For Kaphas, we tell them to control oil in both their diets and skin. With Vatas, we tell them to nourish, so that their skin feels hydrated and plump, and so that their minds feel fulfilled. And with Pittas, we focus on cooling. So, you know, lots of cooler varieties of spices and avoiding sour foods. And that’s Ayurveda for you!”