Is there anything better than creating with one of your best friends?
At the beginning of the year I called my dear friend, fellow New Zealander, facialist, aromatologist and skin care formulator Keely Watson with a particular vision in mind. I told her we had to create some magic. That, we did. Over many conversations, combining our individual skills, energy, love for all things oils, skin and crystals, we recreated one of my seasonal rituals, and aptly named it re grounded. A ritual available until October 31st. It was created for NOW, every part of it created with intention and from our hearts. From the Jade Nephrite she hand picked for us from NZ to use in the facial massage, to the incredible synergies used throughout.
Re grounded was launched with Keely flying over and co hosting an event (alonside Ourania from Ourano yoga) at the studio YIN AND SKIN, held under the full moon. It was everything we had intended for it to be, a true connection to each other, the ritual and our clients.
Keely has educated me in the world of oils, it has been humbling and necessary, so I really wanted to share a little more of my dear friend with you. So grab a cuppa, settle in, and meet Keely.
What is an Aromatologist and how did you come to be one?
Aromatology is the study of plant botanicals, organic chemistry, and learning to formulate, practice and safely prescribe products using organic plant materials. I was 7 years into my career as a Facialist, with a focus on holistic health, and had already moved in the direction of natural products and really just wanted to deepen my own knowledge surrounding ingredients and the formulation process. I studied for two years while remaining hands-on with facials which allowed me to put everything into practice as I was learning. During that time I started creating products for clients and from there it's just developed quite organically into a full range of skin health and wellness products.
Essential oils are everywhere, what are your top tips to people for buying quality and using them at home safely?
Popularity has definitely surged due to the wellness industry as a whole on the rise, but unfortunately with that popularity has come a lot of misinformation resulting in both misuse and overuse of essential oils, so my first tip would be to begin by consulting a trained professional. There is a huge amount of information that needs to be considered when looking for quality — from identifying the correct botanical species, specific growing conditions, country of origin, various processing methods, right through to knowing the final chemical composition of the oil in front of you.
Sourcing quality is only part of the equation. From there, understanding more in depth information will further influence your choices such as the knowing the difference between how a CO2 extract, steam distilled or cold pressed essential oil will act differently on the skin, or perhaps how two different botanical variations of the same plant can have completely opposite effects upon the nervous system. Then once you have that essential oil in front of you it's all about HOW it's used to achieve the best results. Even the best ingredient can be outright dangerous if misused or overused. Honouring the above considerations, as well as taking the users own individual health needs into account, will be the difference between having a positive outcome or an adverse reaction. All this being said, when respect is given for the power of plants and essential oils they can offer immense benefits to our health and emotional wellbeing.
To get started safely at home I'd suggest the following general guidelines:
- Diffusing essential oils: Always consider the other people or pets that will be sharing that space you diffuse into. During the day you might opt for something uplifting or energising such as essential oils from the citrus family — Lemon, Orange, or Grapefruit. Then in the evening choosing oils that are less stimulating and more calming to the nervous system, allowing the body and mind to prepare for a restful sleep — Roman Chamomile, Lavender, or Sandalwood are all good choices. Diffuse for short periods only (no longer than 30 minutes at a time) and never in small enclosed spaces around babies or animals.
- Never ingest essential oils. Adding essential oils to water can cause both acute or more long term chronic damage to the delicate mucous membrane structure of the digestive tract. The misconception that if an essential oil is "therapeutic grade" then it is safe to ingest is simply not true. Rather than it being a discussion about of the quality of oil used, it comes down to the fact that essential oils are not intended for internal use through this method. Instead use whole plants or herbs infused in water — peppermint leaves, a sprig of rosemary, chamomile tea, or lemon juice. Save the essential oils for inhalation — not only is this a safer practice but offers greater benefits to your health.
- Avoid using essential oils neat on the skin. Always dilute in a carrier oil first not only for safety, but for effectiveness. The appropriate dilution rate will depend on the type of oil used, the individuals skin health, age, purpose for use, and area of application. It's best to seek professional advice here or purchase a pre-blended product. I don't advise the use of essential oils (even diluted) on babies under 6 months old due to the delicate structure of their skin, but instead you can opt for a simple pressed plant oil with a low dilution of infused calendula flower.
- Direct inhalation: This method has the most immediate effect on the emotional centre of the brain and is ideal for any stress related conditions. Oils such as Frankincense, Sandalwood, and Cedarwood are all great choices for breath work, meditation, or personal healing. Rose, Geranium, and Blue Tansy for the heart, and Orange, Bergamot, and Neroli for uplifting the emotions.
- Keep it simple. Don't underestimate the power of using a single oil. If you want to get creative try pairing 2-3 oils together that have complementary benefits. Respect the power of plants and become mindful of the quantities you personally use. The body needs time to process essential oils so too much of a good thing can burden the elimination pathways which include the liver, kidneys, and skin.
What are you favourite ingredients to work with?
Plants as a whole — whether it's a pressed oil, extract, hydrosol or herbal infusion. My favourite ingredient for personal use is the essential oil of Sandalwood, and because of that it happens to feature in a lot of my products, even if only as a subtle background note. I also love the complexity found in Rose Otto, the simplicity of a Calendula infusion, and have a great appreciation of how certain ingredients mature with age like the woods (Sandalwood), resins (Frankincense), and roots (Vetiver). Manuka honey is another favourite ingredient for use in facials due to its multiple benefits for the skin — it has a gentle exfoliating effect, is super hydrating and naturally antibacterial. I can tailor a beautiful mask to suit any skin need combining honey with clays and oils.
What's a perfect day for you?
I've come to realise that I need a lot of space and restorative practices to keep me feeling balanced and grounded. So my ideal day would start with coffee at the beach catching a sunrise, precious alone time, silence, meditation, gentle movement, float therapy (my latest obsession) or floating in the ocean, massage, food, and lots of laughs. Then bed by 9pm... I love my sleep!
What does grounding mean to you?
Grounding is an ongoing practice to find stability and strength through connection. Connection to ourselves through mindfulness and breath, connection to mother nature, and connection with others.
Why is it important for us to find moments to ground ourselves daily?
Being grounded allows you to respond to life rather than react to it. Finding moments throughout the day help you to keep coming back to the present moment so you can proceed through your day dealing with whatever may come (visualise a tree with deep roots and how it can withstand the winds through a storm). I encourage clients to start by choosing 3 anchor points that they can fit into their day taking into account their current lifestyle including budget, time, commitments, etc. It might be a breathing exercise, simple breath awareness, a walk, a cup of tea, a bath, etc. Use these anchor points at the same time each day to come back to the present moment and ground yourself. The body and mind respond well to cycles, routines, and rhythms, particularly during times of high stress.
You are the creator of the Anahata Balm - what is the balm for and why is it special?
All of my products have a special place in my heart, but Anahata a little more so because it initiated a shift in the way I create. Born from my desire to develop a product that was breaking away from a traditional moisturiser by eliminating unnecessary ingredients, I'm proud that every drop is 100% natural and plant based and that each ingredient not only brings it's own unique benefit to the skin but combine to have a powerful synergistic effect. It was the first product I created where my intention was purely focused on the process behind it rather than how it was received. That being said, I'm beyond delighted that it's been received with just as much love as I've put into it.
What are your favourite skincare products and why?
I adore brands with heart and whenever I spend money I think about the vote I'm casting with that. I definitely look for the bigger picture of what a business is creating before I put my energy (money) there. Of course the ingredients have to be of a calibre that I'm comfortable putting on my skin and into my body, but I find those that create with heart are the ones that care about those things. Because I have the luxury of my own products at my fingertips I don't tend to deviate far, however the products I choose are ever-changing depending on the season and what my current skin health needs are. Right now I have a super simple ritual that starts with a cleanse and warm towel compress using my Botanical-11 Oil Cleanse, followed by massage with The Little Alchemist Kyella Rose Mist teamed with Anahata. I keep things simple with makeup and use either the Inika BB cream or RMS un cover-up + un-powder, and their Living Lumizer — which is the one product I'll never go without. For the body I layer Magnesium oil under the Aromatology Goddess Body Blend, and wear Kester Black nail polish. And in my arsenal of wellness products and tools I have the Grounding (Tu Kaha) candle from Aroha, Palo Santo, an Amethyst Gua sha, and of course I can't past my trusty dry body brush.