Sunday, March 16, 2014

The three main ingredients in our Gourmet Luxury Soap: By Theresa & Timothy Minor

Our goal at UESS is to educate our customers. We want you to have real and correct information. We will be reviewing some of the main oils/butters that we use in our Gourmet Luxury Soap. Shea Butter, Olive Oil and Coconut Oil. This week we are going to discuss the benefits of these fatty acids as it relates to soapmaking.

Image courtesy of africa /
Shea Butter is extracted from fruit of the Karite tree which is native to the savannahs of western and central Africa. Shea Butter is rich in vitamins A and E, and it has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. Shea Butter is a triglyceride (fat) derived mainly from stearic acid and oleic acid. We use Shea Butter in many of our handcrafted products because of the multiple benefits that it provides for skincare. The benefits of using Shea butter include, but are not limited to, nourishing dry skin, minimizing blemishes, combatting wrinkles, and stretch mark prevention during pregnancy. It is also widely used by people suffering from Eczema, Dermatitis and Psoriasis.

Image courtesy of bartosch /
Olive Oil, like many other oils, is an oil that is highly favorable. Olive oil is mainly used for cooking, however, it has many other uses as well.
Today you can find Olive oil in cosmetics and hair care products. You can find two grades of Olive oil in UESS products, Pure and Pomace Olive OilsOlive Oil has a high level of unsaponifiables, meaning it contains components that will not turn into soap when combined with lye.This is extremely important because the unsaponifiables help to achieve high levels of moisture. The benefits of Olive oil include, but are not limited to, moisture for extremely dry skin, helps to maintain soft and smooth skin, and contains antioxidants and Vitamin E which helps the skin to regenerate and  increases the elasticity of the skin.  

Image courtesy of foto76 /
Coconut Oil is obtained from Copra, which is dried coconut meat. Coconut Oil provides wonderful lathering and moisturizing properties to soap. In soapmaking Coconut oil is an anomaly and it helps achieve huge bubbles. The benefits of Coconut oil include but are not limited to its ability to penetrate deep into the skin and it also helps to condition, moisturize, and softens the skin. In addition, it can also help shrink wrinkles, sooth bug bites,and protect your skin against sun damage. It has also been used to help keep tans longer. 

At UESS we are committed to using vegetable-based oils and butters. In addition, to these three fatty acids we discussed today, we also used Mango butter, Rice Bran oil, and Grape Seed oil in many of our signature handcrafted luxury bath & body products. Our goal is to help refresh, renew, and replenish your skin.
Please feel free to comment or post any questions you may have.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Who What When Why of Urban Essence Salon & Spa - Our journey into the Bath & Body Products industry, By Theresa & Timothy Minor

Theresa making soap
When we started our company 11 years ago our intention was to have a full service Salon & Spa. During that time  in 2003, there were a few things that was going on in our life. Our sisters started their journey into parenthood, and with that, we had new additions to our family. Along with the births of our nieces & nephews came eczema a skin aliment that was not familiar to our family. Simultaneously, while we were setting up our business, we discovered that opening a Salon & Spa was not going to be easy. We needed to raise capital and I came up with the idea to sell baskets with lotion, soap and body spray. Me being the person that I am, I wanted those products to bear our name. I did an extensive search on the internet and found several companies that did private labeling. We ended up having a full line of bath & body products and at the time, I was very happy with the private label company that we were using. I  always had an interest in making handmade items, so conversations I had with the private label owner peaked my interest. I never thought  I would be interested in this sort of thing. My interests were in Information Technology not bath & body products and definitely not making it! At this time, the handmade bath & body industry was not new, there were only a small number of people making products. Handmade product makers did not like to share their list of suppliers, and it was by accident that I discovered the supplier that my candle maker was using. 

Theresa pouring fragrance in the soap pot

Meanwhile, while all of this was going on, I had already setup our business and the name Urban Essence Salon & Spa was set. Remember we were opening a Salon & Spa not a Bath & Body shop. After about 2 years of buying our products from the private label company, the owner started a family of her own and decided to sell her business. I was devastated and felt like someone put the brakes on our business because at this time we started to build a base of customers and we were far away from opening a Salon & Spa. I was very disappointed to say the least! I started to do extensive research on the internet to find companies that sold base products. More importantly, I was looking for a company that sold base products that was similar to what we were already using. Then one day I found the exact company that our private label company was buying their bases from. I thought to myself, "all this time she was not even making the products, she was just adding fragrance and color and re-packaging." I could do that. right? After about 6 months the owner of the private label company contacted me and asked if I would be interested in buying her supplies along with her recipes and list of suppliers. After we purchased everything we needed to get started, I then had to get started on making our label and packaging looked just like the one we were already using. So by 2005 we were on our way to making our products using bases for everything and our soap was made with a glycerin base which was good but not great! I, like most people, was scared of the cold process method of making soap. More importantly, it was the lye I was afraid of.

Timothy making soap
I was still researching and continued to learn about making our products. All the while, my husband Timothy realized early on that we had little control over the ingredients that were actually in the products we were selling. He kept saying to me "you need to make everything!" Then I came across a class that was being offered in Washington, DC on cold process soap making. Who could pass up a road trip with a purpose, so I registered for the class. It was a Saturday morning that Timothy and I hopped into the car and drove to DC from Philadelphia so that I could take the class. Timothy waited for me patiently in the car for over 6 hours while I attend the class. Remember, at this time there was little to no YouTube videos and Blogs on making soap. I had the process figured out, I just about bought every book I could find on making cold process soap. I just needed to see the process performed! From that day on we stopped using glycerin bases for soap and started making our own cold process soap.

Cutting soap
So by the end of 2007, we were no longer using bases for any of our products. As we started to gain more and more recognition, we realized that we wanted to offer our customers quality products that contained an equal amount of the highlighted ingredients. Over time we have developed several new recipes for not only our Gourmet Luxury Soap but also for our Whipped Body Butter, Bath Teas, Bath Bonbons, Bath Salts, Hand & Body Lotion, Bath & Shower Gel, Sugar Scrub, Foaming Butter Scrub, Herbal Wheat & Oat Shampoo, Herbal Wheat & Oat Conditioner, and many other products that we currently carry. This has allowed us to be able to offer our customers customized products to fit their individual needs. It's nice to be in control. Right? Our goal at Urban Essence Salon & Spa is to create recipes for our products that do more than cleanse and moisturize, we want it the invoke a great personal and lasting EXPERIENCE!

Please feel free to comment or post any questions you may have.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Support your local arts, By Theresa & Timothy Minor

This past summer we participated in about 6 farmers markets, one in particular was the Bellefonte Farmers Market.  This farmers market was new to the area and just like other farmers markets the people who organized it, Stu, Wendy and Frank wanted to bring fresh local food to their community.

At every market there are always members of the community that appreciate the merchants and the products we have to offer.

While shopping, one of the local artist's of the area suggested that we place our products in Bellefonte Arts. Bellefonte Arts, is a "visceral gallery and studio, that celebrates and showcases various artistic mediums, and forms of expression. Diverse cultural and human creativity is valued, highlighted, and presented through a collaborative effort of the local Bellefonte Arts community." Located on 803 Brandywine Blvd, Wilmington, DE 19809.

Here's a picture of our Gourmet Luxury Soap and Hand & Body Lotion at Bellefonte Arts.

The Bellefonte area of Wilmington, Delaware is a small close knit community that supports one another and their local businesses. If your near the Claymont, Delaware area come support the local artists at Bellefonte Arts!


Monday, February 24, 2014

A Happy UESS Customers By Theresa & Timothy Minor

Every Saturday we participate as vendors at the Artisan Exchange. And every week we meet customers that end up becoming friends. We met Janet Stevens and her husband Chip Morgan a few weeks ago when they came out to the market. We had a great conversation with them about their time living in Florida and their move back up north to the West Chester, PA area.

As creators of handcrafted bath & body products we really enjoy producing products that give our customers a great soothing experience.  Janet and Chip returned today to express their pleasant experience with our Whipped Body Butter . 

Our Whipped Body Butter is made with Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Sweet Almond Oil, Grape Seed Oil and Sesame Seed Oil. It is whipped to a thick and frosty consistency and is extremely moisturizing to the skin.

Thank you Janet and Chip for stopping by today, we really enjoyed chatting with you guys!


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Weavers Way Coop - Next Door

It gives us great pleasure to announce that you can now find Urban Essence Salon & Spa's Handcrafted Luxury Bath & Body Products at Weavers Way Coop Next Door.

Weavers Way Next Door is a full-scale health and beauty aids store focusing on natural and organic product lines. They are located at 8426 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA.

Currently they are offering our Gourmet Luxury Soap, Shower Gel, Lotion and Whipped Body Butter. 


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Organic Skin Care and who defines it?

Over the years we have presented our handcrafted luxury bath & body products at many different types of venues.  Some events that we have participated in include farmers markets, wine festivals, art shows, craft markets and many more. We get asked a lot of questions relating to the ingredients in our products. A frequent question we are asked is "are your products organic?" This lead us to ask our own questions. What is organic? How is it defined? How does organic relate to the bath & body industry? There are tons of organic raw materials on the market. Some certified and some not. 

Here are some the facts:  According to the FDA organic does not have a designated definition. As a matter of fact the FDA does not define organic at all. "The Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees theNational Organic Program (NOP). The NOP regulations include a definition of “organic” and provide for certification that agricultural ingredients have been produced under conditions that would meet the definition. They also include labeling standards based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product, including cosmetic products."

"The USDA requirements for the use of the term “organic” are separate from the laws and regulations that FDA enforces for cosmetics. Cosmetic products labeled with organic claims must comply with both USDA regulations for the organic claim and FDA regulations for labeling and safety requirements for cosmetics. Information on FDA’s regulation of cosmetics is available on our Cosmetics Web site."

"Are cosmetics made with “organic” ingredients safer for consumers than those made with ingredients from other sources?"

"No. An ingredient’s source does not determine its safety. For example, many plants, whether or not they are organically grown, contain substances that may be toxic or allergenic. For more on this subject, see FDA Poisonous Plant Database. Under the FD&C Act, all cosmetic products and ingredients are subject to the same safety requirement: They must be safe for consumers under labeled or customary conditions of use (FD&C Act, section 601(a). Companies and individuals who market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure that their products and ingredients are safe for the intended use."

This information is an excerpt from the USDA Organic Skincare website. Our objective here is to help inform our consumers and to arm them with the facts as it relates to the bath & body products industry. Please feel free to send us your comments.

Theresa & Timothy Minor


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Posting to our blog

All most everyday I hear people talking about posting to their blog. And everyday I struggle with what the content of our blog should be. Looking back on some of my unpublished drafts I've noticed that what I have written is not relevant now. I wish I could go back and publish those posts. Even though those posts were about a different time of year.

Writing a blog post takes commitment, time and energy. And I want our blog to be as relevant as possible to our readers. Particularly when it comes to the direction our business is going. We are in the a bath and body industry and we want our customers, clients, friends, family and general readers to be enlightened and engaged.

From this day forward we will commit and devote time and energy to write a blog that will let you in on what we are doing. How we are doing it and where we are headed.