You want your skin to eat.”
So says Andrea Becerra, founder and owner of Aromas para el Alma, explaining in simple terms the importance of aromatherapy.
Scientifically speaking, the oils of plants are like their blood, and have chemical properties and energetic compounds that have the power to transform and heal our physical, emotional and mental states, Becerra says.
Since starting out concocting simple massage oils in her mother’s kitchen, Becerra, 32, has grown her aromatherapy business into a line of lotions, bath salts, facial products and other items – even toothpaste – all made with organic essential oils. In September, she opened the first Aromas para el Alma store in the western San José suburb of Escazú.
Becerra studied anthropology in her native Costa Rica, but, drawn to the study of holistic medicine and integral balance, she went on to pursue international certification in “subtle aromatherapy” from the International Certified Aromatherapy Institute in Ontario, Canada.
What fascinates Becerra about aromatherapy, she says, is how it is able to unite nature with science.
The science element involves using the life force of plants – essential oils – and mixing them with other organic products in a laboratory in Santa Ana, southwest of the capital. The result is a vast variety of sprays, creams, insect repellents, antibacterial gel, soaps and other products. All are 100 percent biodegradable and contain none of the petroleum derivatives commonly found in beauty products.
Becerra uses 16 essential oils, including lavender, peppermint, sage, tea tree, lemongrass, citronella, rosemary, orange, lemon and geranium, each with specific healing properties. For example, lavender is an anti-inflammatory, helps to relieve muscle pain and treat scar tissue and can alleviate insomnia, while eucalyptus revitalizes the respiratory system and can be used to treat sinus infections, bronchitis and colds, Becerra says.
The oils are mixed with other certified-organic ingredients from Costa Rica, such as coconut oil, coffee, honey, sugar and chocolate, to produce delightful products like peppermint and lavender hand soap, bath salts made from lemongrass, or a face scrub of coffee and sugar. Becerra says her current favorite is a facial toner made from sage, tea tree, lavender and geranium, which makes skin tingle as it cleanses.
Aside from its line of enticing products, what sets Aromas para el Alma apart is the company’s commitment to environmental and social responsibility.
“We mix all products ourselves from scratch,” Becerra says. “There is nothing derived from petroleum, we use recyclable products made in Costa Rica, we are women-run and -owned, and we are carbon-neutral.”
The company also plants trees in environmentally fragile areas, donates a percentage of sales to the Corcovado Foundation, a conservation group that works on southwestern Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, and recently became a sponsor of Hogar Siembra, a nonprofit that helps girls and women escape abusive conditions.
How does one young woman grow a business like this from scratch? Becerra received support from Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas, a program started by Hillary Rodham Clinton that mentors and supports small-business entrepreneurs throughout the Western Hemisphere. Through the program, Becerra last year traveled to Washington, D.C., where she was given an invaluable resource in mentor Lisa Nitze, vice president of Ashoka, an organization that promotes social entrepreneurship around the world. Becerra met Clinton personally and says the U.S. secretary of state even took some Aromas para el Alma soaps to the White House.
To experience Aromas, visit the new retail location in Escazú, in the Buena Tierra commercial center, 100 meters south of the main entrance to the Escazú church. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Aromas products are also sold at Auto Mercado, Hallmark, GNC and Fischel stores and in hotels around the country. For information about products and retail locations, visit www.aromas.co.cr or call 2289-3229.