Interview with Luminous Beauty
I had the opportunity to visit with Upma Khalsa, the founder of Luminous Beauty at her home in Santa Fe, NM a few weeks ago. Luminous Beauty is a line of handmade, natural skin care products designed to nourish both your skin and your spirit. Luminous Beauty follows eco principles by wildcrafting some of the components from the nearby forest, using miron glass instead of plastics, and supporting organizations such as The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
How did you get started in the handmade skin care business? I worked in the holistic skin care industry for 20 years. I was trained originally through Aveda. Then, I did training with Dr. Hauschka and I’ve worked exclusively with holistic lines. I have a wealth of information about plants and oils and how they work with the skin. After that it was, like, “Okay, well, if I’m going to have a skin care line I know I need basics, like, cleanser, toner, and moisturizer. Personally, I love oil cleansing, so okay, here’s what other people are doing, this is what I know, and this is what I want in it. So, I just started making it from there.
How did you come up with the name Luminous Beauty? I was sitting at Ten Thousand Waves [which is a spa in Santa Fe, NM,] and it was a transitional time for me. I had gotten a White Tara Empowerment from a Buddhist Rinpoche and it was incredibly powerful for me because of the time in my life and what was going on. I just really connected to her energy. She has a very subtle energy and she’s about longevity. The ‘Luminous’ came from the sense of really getting in touch with myself as feminine. In the yoga community there was so much talk about being radiant. I really started getting in touch with my own feminine side and realizing that there is radiance, but the quality that I experienced was much more like the moon- that luminous, soft quality.
And the logo, what does it mean? It is the Japanese word for beauty.
So, how do you come up with the ideas or components for your products? Deciding what to make, initially, was really hard. There are so many things out there and so much potential for different combinations. It was just like “I want everything in everything”, you know. Now, I know that I can just make other products. It doesn’t all have to be in one product.
The first product I made was an aura mist [a room essential oil mist] and a body butter. I think I had some Shea butter that someone had given me and then I got other stuff and mixed it together and there you had the body butter. Then, the goal was let’s get cleanser, toner, moisturizer, some body products. So, there is a base of products and from there, spin out and make more complicated, more complex products.
So the body butter is literally like whipped butter for your body. That’s the texture and consistency. It is very rich. I kept getting feedback from people like “It’s great, but I’m all oily after using it.” So I was kind of forced into making water based crèmes.
I had this ideal in the beginning that I wanted everything “whole”, I didn’t want to use these pieces and parts, but consumer demand wanted different stuff. I still wasn’t okay with it until the actual products came out. It was like “Oh this stuff is actually really nice”! My intention is to really create a whole food kind of product that uses the integrity and the intelligence of natural as it’s intended.
© Upma Khalsa 2015
Water based crèmes are more involved because bacteria can grow in them. I had to learn a lot about emulsions. Every oil has a certain magnetic polarity and different emulsifiers work differently with oils. So there’s a little bit of science in working with those polarities and how those are going to work together. Some oils won’t emulsify well when mixed with, say, vegetable emulsifying wax. I knew, from my previous work, a little bit of how some of these work; then did a lot of research on preservatives and packaging for preservation. The squeeze tubes, for instance, air can’t get in there, also you’re not dipping your finger in it, so it is not going to go bad. So the packaging itself can act as a preservative.
There are two other ways of preserving that I use. First is fermented radish extract. The second is a blend of more traditional herbal things that are used as preservatives. So, there are natural things that really help to increase the antioxidant activity and do have slight antibacterial properties like willow bark, honeysuckle, or grapeseed extract. Those aren’t necessarily antibacterial, but they increase the antioxidant capacity so that bacteria won’t grow and a lot of companies use that.
© Upma Khalsa 2015
So the fermented radish extract, do you make that yourself? I buy it. There are a couple of companies that specialize in ingredients for cosmetics. Another thing that’s really important, industry wide, is sourcing, so where the ingredients come from and that is something that’s important for me. I have some independent people; what I really want is to be getting it direct from a farm, or producer. I’d like to do some of my own growing at some point too. I have done some of my own wild crafting, so going into the woods and harvesting plants like arnica or St. John’s Wort to use in various things. I source a lot of things through Mountain Rose Herbs because they really work to be sure where their sources are and they have certifications in eco-trade, fair-trade, and organic. They are really a company that is really doing their best to be sure that what they’re selling is coming from a place of integrity. That’s cool.
How long does it typically take to come up with an idea from initial idea of a production to having it on the market? It depends on the product. I have ideas for things and sometimes they work out exactly like I think and other times not. It really kind of depends. Some things I think about longer than others. First, I do a test blend. I put it in packaging and give it to people. Then, I’m tracking my usage, others feedback and how it holds up. Really from conception to end it could be anywhere from one to six months. There are certain things like the serums, those are pretty easy. The body crèmes have a little bit longer of a process.
© Upma Khalsa 2015
So, do you have a product that is your favorite? They have all been my favorite at one point or another. LOL! Right now my favorite is my body bliss mist. Oh and maybe the eye crème. This is designed to actually spray on the skin versus the aura mist is meant more for around a room. So it’s got aloe and essential oils and all kinds of stuff. You guys will want to order this. It smells amazing. It’s a great refresher pick me up.
Is there a product that customers seem to love the most? The body crème. She hands me a tub of the grapefruit body crème to take home and try. (I love it, BTW.) I think the body bliss mist will be a big hit. I blended them at the beginning of summer and they got labeled yesterday.
So are there any tips or tricks for using any specific products? The body butter is really good to use when your skin is still a little bit damp, so you are creating your own emulsion. It’s also really great for massage or dry, cracked skin, eczema, and that sort of thing. Just use it and play around with it.
© Upma Khalsa 2015
Where are the products available? They are available online and directly through me. The products are available at Just Move in Pleasant Hill, OR. When I get everything repackaged I’ll be looking at going into Body, Ten Thousand Waves, and Absolute Nirvana [retail locations all in Santa Fe, NM]. Next year, I am set to go to some of the renegade craft fairs in New York, Seattle, and Chicago. They are in large cities but they are a niche market for handmade goods. The vibe of it is very cool, very hip.
What lessons have you learned along the way? Ohhh, there’re so many! To get out of my own way- that would be a big one. To really listen to the voice of the business and not my own. There are times that I make a decision that it is what the business wants. It is not what I would chose personally. Also, learning patience, patience, patience, patience.
What are your plans for Luminous Beauty? The long term plan is to help the consumer and myself feel good about themselves. I want to help the consumer learn to trust themselves through self-care and having products that help them do that. The plan is to be able to employ people and pay them well for a job that they really like to do and then to support organizations that are doing good in the world. I really want to connect and partner more and more with organizations that are doing good in the world. For example, the travel bags come from an organization in India that works with women who have been human trafficked. They give them jobs so they are no longer slaves. I think that’s really cool.