Since 1998, Santiago has owned, operated and studied the ins and outs of creating her handmade supply of soaps, body lotions and balms with her company, CeleBriTay: Time For Yourself.
With three soaps on the market - the Oatmeal Milk and Honey Unscented, made with palm fruit oil, goats milk and honey; the Bentonite Tea Tree Antibacterial Soap, made with products like bentonite clay and a variety of organic oils; and the Organic Olive Lavender Conditioning Soap, with organic olive and lavender oils - Santiago thinks she has found what it takes to successfully mass produce an affordable organic product.
“I’m fighting very hard to bring back the truth behind natural,” Santiago said, explaining that many name-brand soaps actually dry the skin and cannot be considered pure soap. “In the chemistry world, it can be very deceiving.”
Since graduating with a science degree from Brooklyn College, Santiago has studied the true makeup of a natural skin care product.
“If you don’t do it at the right temperature and you don’t have the right ingredients it can ooze out, the pH can be too low and there are just things in trial and error that you have to learn,” she explained. “Even climate. If you don’t have the right climate and it’s raining outside, you will add water to your soap and that can ruin it.”
Aside from soaps, Santiago also makes organic lip balm, cold cream, exfoliating sugar scrubs and moisturizing mud made with organic moor mud, a mud-like substance formed from a variety of decomposed plants in the moorlands of Central Europe.
“People assume because it says natural that it’s from real natural products from a farm or something,” she said. “That’s the number one thing consumers should understand. Just because its natural doesn’t mean that it’s always good.”
While looking to grow her web-based business and one day open a store, Santiago holds skin-care seminars throughout the city. She recently held exhibitions at the El Puente Earth Day Event at the Espiritu Tierra Community Garden in South Williamsburg, the Ridgewood Market, and the Go Green! Greenpoint Festival in McCarren Park.
Santiago gets her products from local suppliers, such as O Live Brooklyn, located at 60 Broadway in Williamsburg.
“I don’t look for the cheapest, but the freshest, and I look for the truth behind the company,” she said. “I just don’t buy my products, I have to investigate how long it has been there and how long it has traveled.”
O Live Brooklyn’s owner Greg Bernarducci, who opened the store in October 2012, says he began selling products like olive oil and Persian lime oils to Santiago back in January.
“We don’t supply particularly for soap makers, so this was an unusual thing for us,” Bernarducci said. “She started using the olive oil and used the Persian lime and really liked it.”
After working closely with Santiago and knowing the ingredients in her supply, he added that he and his wife both use CeleBriTay: Time For Yourself products.
“They’re terrific, it’s amazing and my wife loves it,” he said. “I’ve used the sugar scrub and it really does make your hands soft.”
Before she mixes her oils and creates her soaps, Santiago says she spends a day with her family and the people she loves to calm her soul and bring out her inner peace.
“This is something you do with your hands and this is not from a machine so your energy is going towards that,” Santiago explained. “I always try to do my mantra and bring out my love because that’s what I want to give you: time for yourself that is difficult to capture.”
This July, she is preparing to rerelease the Rose and Geranium facial scrub, toner and cream.
Named after her children Celene, Brittini and Ayden, Santiago wants the brand CeleBritAy to remind her customers to take time to truly celebrate life.
“Life is too fast, and sometimes you don’t think you deserve or even know where to get it,” she said.