By  on August 5, 2005

NEW YORK — Skin care is personal. So personal that Essencia, an aromatherapy-focused beauty company, saw fit to offer personal product customization, an option that allows customers to buy products specifically formulated for their skin care needs.

The concept took root when Essencia co-founder and creator Juliana Lipe started the company six years ago. "I value products that are tailored to meet specific needs," said Lipe. "I couldn't find [skin care] products on the market that fit my needs, so I developed my own," she said. Soon, she added, friends began asking her to formulate custom blends for them.

Lipe said, "Customization was really part of the birthing process of this company." Lipe, an aromatherapist, runs the company with her daughter Alison McCloskey.

Together, they have created more than 100 items, ranging from facial toner and scrubs to body cream and massage balm. Each formula relies on essential oils, and contains such natural ingredients as green tea, oatmeal, chamomile, lemon and lavender.

As Lipe explained, the key to Essencia's product customization is choosing unfamiliar essential oils — not typically found in skin care products — and using them in greater quantities. "It gives people an opportunity to experience product they could not find on the market," said Lipe. She named seabuckthorn berry, a Chinese extract said to have restorative and regenerative skin properties, as one of her favorites.

After a phone consultation and product research, Essencia will concoct a personalized formula for the customer. The company will customize every product it produces, including bar soaps, liquid cleaners, facial and body lotions, and scrubs and masks. The price for a custom product is $250. Lipe acknowledged the cost may be prohibitive for some, but notes it is on par with high-end creams on the market, including several La Prairie and La Mer skin creams.

Customers can expect to receive their custom products in four to six weeks. Their information is filed into a database, and they can re-order products from the company's Web site. Refill prices vary based on ingredients used, but range roughly between $15 for a bar of soap to $40 for facial and body oils.Essencia launched product customization in March, and reports the response has been good, judging by the number of people who have filled out the initial questionnaire on the firm's Web site. Follow-through, acknowledged Lipe, has been more of a challenge. However, she sees the effort as a core component of the business, which is on track to increase 30 percent to $650,000 by yearend. Lipe explained that all sales of custom products will be incremental to this year's total.

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