THIS TOTTENVILLE ENTREPRENEUR USES HIS GRANDMOTHER’S RECIPES TO CREATE HOLISTIC SOAPS, BODY SCRUBS, AND LOTIONS IN HIS OLD-WORLD SHOP
BY JESSICA JONES-GORMAN PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH
In a quaint little colonial home on the corner of Johnson Avenue and Amboy Road, Antonio Sciortino is making soap. Using olive oil, bee’s wax, aloe vera, and a range of other all-natural ingredients, the skincare guru toils for hours each day in his Tottenville lab quietly concocting organic ginger body scrubs and hydrating mango face creams before bottling, labeling, and selling the wares in his shop. Some are custom made right in front of customers at a walk-up skin bar, others manufactured in bigger batches and sold in chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Their recipe processes and ingredients, he explained, are all traditional.
“After World War II, in the 1950s, my grandmother and aunt started a small business in Palermo, Sicily, making soaps from scratch,” said Sciortino. “They used extracts of olive oil and grapeseed…all natural basics. Decades later, we decided to bring back that part of our family history, and opened up Atmosphere Essentials.”
The business, which was originally located on Page Avenue, started small, producing only a few bars of soap. But their use of only organic raw materials, essential oils, essences, and other ingredients like vitamins C, E, olive oil, aloe vera, and shea butter, garnered the attention of bigger brands, which soon solicited Atmosphere Essential’s manufacturing services.
“In 2005, we started that new chapter of the business, carrying forward my grandmother’s concept,” Sciortino said. “I was so pleased that these larger companies found favor with our small apothecary-like ideas.”
Sciortino, who came to the United States in the late 1980s, earned a degree in chemistry.
“People always say ‘You’re creating an organic product, why did you study chemistry?,’” Sciortino said. “But I needed that background to know what I was mixing. A lot of companies use heavy-duty perfumes, oils, and preservatives. I wanted to learn about those chemicals so that I could find substitution options for them…use something plant-based instead.” These simple, old-fashioned formulas, Sciortino explained, were actually ahead of their time.
“When we started creating these soaps in the 1990s, there was very little talk about organic,” he said. “We had absolutely no idea that this would be the future of cosmetics and skincare.”
One current company focus is creating products with Cannabidiol or CBD oil. The non-intoxicating marijuana extract is being credited with helping treat a host of medical problems, from epileptic seizures to anxiety and sleeplessness. Sciortino uses the oil for its anti-inflammatory properties.
“It is very helpful for people who suffer from pain and arthritis, and there are beauty benefits, too,” Sciortino said. “But these are the types of ingredients we look for fatty acids, Omega 6, Omega 9…each offer advantages for skin.”
Specific concerns, Sciortino said, can be addressed via a custom blend of botanicals.
“We can blend any kind of essential oils, creating a remedy for whatever plagues your skin,” he said. “If you love the scent of a designer perfume but can’t wear it because of some processed ingredient, for example, we can reproduce it in an organic way. Whatever you need, we have it. And if we don’t, we’ll make it.”
Future possibilities include franchising the business so products can reach more customers. But for now, Sciortino is focused on building custom brands.
“We started as a bath and body shop, but found real success in custom made products,” he concluded. “I simply love being able to help people treat and solve their skin problems.”
7481 Amboy Road / 718.608.9880 /