She started making her own soaps to treat her husband's skin condition. The chemicals in the steroid lotion he was using were too much, she thought. Then, she mixed up a batch for her entire family. Soon after that a friend came knocking when it was time for a unique bridal shower gift. She created heart-shaped soaps for the gift basket.
Before long Ingrid Chuley, a North Lehigh Avenue resident, was launching an online store dedicated to organic soaps and beauty products right from her Cranford living room. Married and with two children, the stay-at-home mom calls her work a mix of science and craft. Chuley is a former marketing executive at pharmaceutical company Celgene and has worked as director of marketing at botanical ingredients firm Cepham in Piscataway. She's a member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, and she calls her current work a blend of science and craft.
"You take a chemical called sodium hydroxide," she said sitting at her kitchen table one evening. "When you mix that with your oils you have to leave it for at least four to six weeks to get your oils to go through that level of saponification, which does away with the sodium hydroxide and it becomes soap.
The Peruvian-born and NJ-bred Chuley calls her company Caseb Naturals. Much of the inspiration for the organic product line she creates takes inspiration from the home remedies and beauty treatments she grew up with. "It drives me to want to stick to as natural and chemical free as possible," she said.
Chuley is something of an expert in the organic beauty field. One of the bars of soap sitting on her table contains fir needle extract.
"Back in the day they used to brew it and rub it on the body for muscle aches," she said. It's her husbands favorite soap, and the one she recommends for guys.
Then there's the exfoliater, which contains Peruvian coffee bean and ground apricot kernels. "That one's reserved for the feet," she said. There's also a soap that contains thyme, for a smooth face, or peppermint, to give your skin that spark.
Chuley has been working since the fall to get her business off the ground. She starts smaller batches of soap in her kitchen and makes the larger hauls in a rented facility. "Once they're done, I package them in my home office and keep my inventory there as well, so it all gets shipped from Cranford," she said. Sales are picking up, she said, and next on tap will be a line of lotions.
The Cranford mom will be debuting her products on Spanish TV today, on the morning show La Revista Semanal, on MundoFox at 6a.m.