When Elena Koutsoukos’s pappou lost his battle with cancer in 2020, his passing brought the family together under sorrowful circumstances to celebrate his life.
Amongst the many colourful stories shared of his life, Elena was reminded that her great-grandmother made soap in her village in Megalopoli, a town in the southwestern part of the regional unit of Arcadia, southern Greece located in the same site as ancient Megalopolis which was founded in 371 BC.
Eager to reclaim her family heritage, Elena began her quest to obtain her proyiayia’s original recipe, travelling to Peloponnesus to find it.
There, Elena was fortunate enough to meet with locals - who continue to produce the very same soap to this day - and witness first-hand how they make it.
It was in that moment that Elena was hit with a revelation.
“Whenever I walked into SEPHORA, Credo or Target, there was never any clean Greek skincare and I always wondered why as Greek ingredients are the best for your skin due to the country’s climate and soil density,” explains Elena.
So she decided to create the first clean Greek Skincare line, SOMA+SOUL.
Treat your body, treat your soul
The core of Soma+Soul is summed up by a Greek saying: “When you treat the body, you treat the mind, you treat the soul.”
Soul+Soul products are clean, cruelty-free (Leaping Bunny programme certified), sustainable and vegan, and made with Greek ingredients in a Greek laboratory.
Some may be wondering, “What is ‘clean’ beauty and why does it matter?”
For Soma+Soul, ‘clean’ means transparency in sourcing ingredients; sustainable packaging provided through a partnership with PACT programme; giving back to nature through a partnership with Arcturos, ethical testing; and products that are not only natural but nontoxic.
Twenty-six year old Elena was born in Dallas, Texas because her parents had travelled to the United States to receive their Master’s degrees. Just 40 days after Elena’s birth however, her parents decided to move back to their homeland of Greece so that she could grow up in Thessaloniki with the rest of the family.
In 2008, the economic crisis hit, and with an unpromising future ahead in Greece, Elena applied to several United States universities. She accepted an offer at Suffolk University where she graduated with a Bachelors of Arts and Sciences in Psychology with an honours scholarship and then attended Boston University's Questrom school of business for her Masters in Management Studies.
Elena has been living in Boston since 2014 but every Summer and Christmas she returns home to Greece to be with the family.
Beautifully simple skincare
“Skin is my passion and something that I have been researching and using since I was 18 due to my sensitive skin,” says Elena.
“What made me start Soma+Soul was the lack of representation in the US market of 100% clean Greek skincare, with glass packaging (despite being easier to get recycled and nontoxic), vegan, cruelty free, and transparent ingredients.
“At the same time in Greece the term "clean" is not known. We mostly focus on natural skincare.
“Part of my mission is to educate Greek women on what they put on their skin and how they can make safer selections.”
Learning about the soap and that her great-grandmother was making became inspiration for Elena who says that she also felt the responsibility to continue her proyiayia’s legacy.
“I wish my grandfather had talked to me about it, I would have asked him so many things!” says Elena.
“Back then it was just a commodity. Going back to 1930 in Greece, after all the wars, people were very poor, especially in the small villages.
“I discovered that my great-grandmother was making the soap with oils and herbs. The secret ingredient was olive oil and also they were adding animal fat sometimes. You had to heat it up, leave it to cool for a day, and test if it is ready by creating small holes and then cut it up.
“You can see in photos that the soap looks nothing like what we are used to. The soaps were huge, looking like bricks, and white.”
The process of developing a product range for Soma+Soul took Elena two years. Elena began by collecting products - either from the places she visited such as Peloponnesus, Naxos, Chalkidiki, Chios, Kalymnos, Athens, or from any boutique stores that she could find that were carrying Greek skincare - and testing them out.
“And I was always running into the same issue, plastic packaging, no transparency about fragrance, or toxic ingredients,” says Elena.
“The biggest challenge I would say that I faced was finding a laboratory where they could develop products according to the American Clean beauty standards but after a lot of research, I finally found it.
“Then it was a matter of testing the products that we developed. I was sharing testers with friends and family to get their opinions and feedback.”
With Elena’s love of her homeland shining through, the Soma+Soul packaging is inspired by ancient Greece.
“Our pattern which I name "Modern Greek Faces" was inspired by Greek architecture and ancient Greek statues,” she explains.
The name of the products are similarly Greek-inspired.
“Astrea was the Greek Goddess of purity and we gave this name to our make up remover because it is purifying,” says Elena.
“Gaia was the Greek Goddess of the earth. Our ‘This Face’ product contains ingredients like cucumber water, pumpkin oil, and avocado that are products of the earth.
“Our ‘Greek Summer’ shimmering body oil is inspired by Greek summers. It is apricot oil, and gives you a sun-kissed glow.”
It is Elena’s goal is to expand the Soma+Soul range by creating more products.
“In September we will be adding a very hydrating body oil for winter and we will expand to toner and face wash,” Elena informs us.
Soma+Soul clean Greek skincare products are to be available in boutique stores in Greece that support healthy lifestyle. The rest of the world can find the products on the Soma+Soul website which will be live very soon. In the time being you can find the range and product updates through the Soma+Soul Instagram page.
I like my products just like I like my people: non toxic
“My dream is to see the brand in a big retailer and make Greece known not just for our food and islands but for our blessed land that has unique ingredients.
“My vision is for Clean Beauty known in Greece and for Greek consumers to become more educated about skincare ingredients.”
And as the family legacy lives on in Soma+Soul we think that Elena’s pappous and proyiayia would be very proud indeed.
Read also Best Family in Greece