The Secrets of Botanical Beauty

SLIDESHOW: Australian skincare experts Sodashi and Subtle Energies, are both plant-based skincare companies that are harnessing the power of botanicals, basing recipes on a precise set of holistic principles.

In conversation with two of Australia’s natural skincare pioneers, Sodashi and Subtle Energies.

“In this increasingly technological world, there is a human desire to reconnect with nature, providing a balance for our otherwise wired life,” believes Shoshana Weinberg, Asia-Pacific senior spa director at Four Seasons Hotel, based in Hong Kong. Its plant-based treatments are increasingly requested by clients, from the botanical cure to the phyto stem-cell facial. “Plant-based treatments offer an alternative to purely technology-driven treatments, and can give similar results — warmth and lifting — if used consistently over time.”

Australian skincare experts Sodashi and Subtle Energies, are both plant-based skincare companies that are harnessing the power of botanicals, basing recipes on a precise set of holistic principles. Sodashi (which in Sanskrit means wholeness and radiance) was a company created to treat skin conditions, not as a beauty brand. “Sodashi was formed for the humans engaging with the products every day; the beauty therapists applying them, not just the end user,” founder Megan Larsen explains.

This approach has seen Perth-based Sodashi become popular within luxury spas at hotels around the world, from Four Seasons to Aman Resorts. Every Sodashi spa has its therapists experience intensive training; understanding the product and its nature is an absolute criteria of being able to work with the brand.

The ethos of the products is something that Larsen has attempted to inject across all levels of her company. She says: “People often ask me how I manage the stress of running the business and a demanding travel schedule. And my answer is always: meditation. Since the age of 35 I’ve been meditating twice a day, morning and night, almost without fail. I find it so beneficial that I give every member of the Sodashi team an opportunity to learn to meditate when they join the company. Every day we gather together in the boardroom at 3pm to meditate. It has now become an integral part of the Sodashi culture.”

Larsen is dedicated to the improvement of her products. If there is a better organic lavender oil producer in France, Larsen gets on a plane to investigate. She is committed not to engage with anything unethical, from production to end product. “Sodashi operates in a sustainable and ethical manner at all levels of the business, in line with my own personal values. We refuse to test on animals, and we do not enter markets that test on animals, such as China.”

Product transparency is rare in the beauty industry, as many brands have things they wish to hide, usually housed as ‘industry secrets’. Sodashi, however, aims to offer complete clarity: every product has a full ingredient list, as well as setting out the processes that go into making the products.

With an artisanal approach, the product is designed to brighten the skin and target fine lines, leaving luminous skin. Larsen herself aims to be a walking, talking billboard of health; practising yoga and meditation daily, and working with Ayurvedic principles on her personal health. She says: “We believe that creating skincare in its most natural state is the finest nourishment for beautiful skin, intact with all of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Sodashi is about total health, it goes beyond nourishing the physical body; it nourishes the soul, the senses, the mind and spirit,” says Larsen.

Larsen’s mission is to spark awareness for people of not only what we are placing on our skin, but what we are putting into our bodies, and how to best support our own health and wellbeing through a holistic approach.

Meanwhile on Australia’s East Coast, Subtle Energies is a family-run Sydney-based brand with a similar ethos of plant-based aromatherapy, wellness and natural skincare, founded onAyurvedic principles.

Farida Irani launched the company in 1993 as clinic of natural therapies. Six years ago she created a skincare brand as an offshoot, which is now stocked in holistic clinics, spas and, most recently, Lane Crawford in Hong Kong. Subtle Energies products are made from rare and exotic oils, many which you may never have heard of. I sniff a small vial of pure rhu khus – the scent is masculine, powerful, but an exact comparison escapes me. “It’s like the earth after the rain falls,” suggests Irani.

“We use blended oils that aren’t really heard of in the West, such as Mogra; Tulasi; a rare attar of Saffron; and Rhu Khus,” explains her son Nick, who helps manage the business. The family has over the years developed relationships with legacy artisan distillers that live deep in the Indian countryside, whom they source their oils and ingredients from. “When testing ingredients, your nose tells you everything,” says Irani.

A former accountant, Irani was inspired to set up Subtle Energies by her experiences as a small child. “At the age of four I still wasn’t walking. My father — who was a great believer in natural medicine — would bury me up to my waist in mineral salts, massage my legs with a home-made blend of oils, and put me out in the sun. And I started walking in no time.”

She believes that everyone has a different dosha (biological make-up) and treatment should be considered accordingly. “There will always be a place for Western medicine, but it does not take into account different biological energies.” She recalls meeting a young cancer sufferer whose radiotherapy treatment was burning and blistering his skin red raw. Because his dominant dosha was pitta (fire), Irani created a blend of cooling oils. The radiotherapy and Irani’s Ayurvedic therapy worked side-by-side.

“I would like to see integrated medicine in future, where you have medical doctors and Ayurvedic medicine working together,” she concludes.

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