The Truth About Aromatherapy by Kathy Phillips
Written by Kathy Phillips
3 May 2023
Beauty editor, brand founder and wellness pioneer Kathy Phillips has collaborated with Beauty Pie on a new range of bath and shower oils. Here she describes her own aromatherapy ‘journey’ - and how everyone can benefit from the power of essential oils.
I’ve lost count of the number of years I’ve been using aromatherapy and not just because it smells good: it’s an obvious choice if you are attracted to a more natural way of life in a world that is increasingly polluted.
For me, aromatherapy is therapy, it’s pampering, it’s immune system-boosting and it’s pleasurable all at the same time. And we all need a bit of those things these days. When life is too fast and too complicated, even a sniff of aromatherapy oil from an essential oil-soaked tissue can totally set the world to rights - and it’s a luxury just to spend time in a warm bath surrounded by nature’s most exotic scents - Ylang Ylang, Rose Otto or Patchouli - zen moments of calm and relaxation all poured into a capful of oil.
But aromatherapy can provide more than just a lovely moment of wellbeing. If my 3-year-old grandson has a blocked nose, I only need to wave a little peppermint oil (sourced in Oman by my brother who’s an expert in medicinal herbs) around to see him calm down and breathe more easily.
For me, aromatherapy is therapy, it’s pampering, it’s immune system boosting and it’s pleasurable all at the same time.
And if I feel a sore throat coming, I fill the bath and dab under my nose with essential oil blends which include all my favorites - Eucalyptus, Naiouli, Frankincense and Ginger.
Enjoying aromatherapy and all it can do probably presents as a 'slow burn' in today’s high-expectation world. But it does deliver. In my experience, using high quality natural essential oils daily can keep you happy and healthy.
I started using aromatherapy oils after I was recommended to go and see Micheline Arcier, London’s first great aromatherapy pioneer who had learned her techniques from Dr Jean Valnet and Marguerite Maury, two of the world’s foremost experts on essential oil therapy. Sadly, none of them are alive today to witness the global reach of their healing therapy.
My regular fortnightly massage at Arcier, using blends of her oils and combined with her expert massage techniques, kept me well and full of energy. It was from then on that essential oils became part of my daily life, and I started learning more about the properties of the individual oils, and how they could be blended together.
As someone who has known the power of aromatherapy for many years, I have always wanted to share my discovery. I think essential oils keep me well and - at their very best - come from pure, natural ingredients. I launched my own brand - This Works - in 2003 to create aromatherapy products that felt cool and modern and in-tune with our hectic world.
That’s where I learned all about the art of blending. I think there’s a misconception that all essential oils smell wonderful. In fact, aromatherapy is not just about putting together a mixture of potent ingredients. Some organic oils and blends can smell really awful: too surgical, too abrasive or too much like something you’d smell on a farmyard. When I was a Vogue Editor, I remember being given massages with oils that smelt more like a salad dressing than a floral bouquet.
The best aromatherapists have a “nose” as good as any top perfumer. The trick is to produce a blend that not only smells delicious, sensual and good enough to dab behind the ears like you would a favorite perfume (which actually I often do), but it’s also to put together oils that will work synergistically to make you feel well - whether you want something to calm you down, perk you up, rebalance your mood or any of the other myriad benefits that the right blend of essential oils can bring.
Creating this balance of potent blends that deliver on their promise, but that also smell truly wonderful, is what we tried to do with the bath and shower oils for Beauty Pie. I have known Marcia [Beauty Pie’s founder] for more than twenty years, since I interviewed her in New York at the opening of one of her first businesses, Bliss Spa.
The trick is to produce a blend that not only smells delicious, sensual and good enough to dab behind the ears like you would a favourite perfume ( which actually I often do), but it’s also to put together oils that will work synergistically to make you feel well - whether you want something to calm you down, or perk you up.
When I was a journalist both on newspapers and at Vogue, my focus was always on innovation. I love discovering people who change the goalposts and move things forward. Marcia has disrupted the beauty world on several occasions and has always been a visionary - so naturally I was thrilled when she asked if I would collaborate with Beauty Pie on their first aromatherapy oils.
And to be honest, my concept for the 'Reboot' bath oil – for those who are workaholics and who find it difficult to relax - was very much created with Marcia in mind. I have been in her bathroom, with its mountain of ‘products in development’ strewn all over the place (there is a beautiful bath and shower under there somewhere) - so the Reboot blend was designed for her to stop for a minute, wind down and enjoy a zen moment or two. And now you can too!
If you’re new to aromatherapy, the Power Up blend is a really good one to start with. I initially thought of it as a ‘pick me up’ for the evenings - when you’ve had a busy day, and need to head out again later and need a burst of energy and enthusiasm! But really it will work at any time of the day - it’s great in the shower first thing in the morning, too.
Everyone loves Power Down, the relaxing blend. It’s so comforting. The big thing with that was choosing the exact variety of lavender from the hundreds that are available. I saw a study in the medical journal The Lancet on the particular kind that we use, and the results were impressive (and of course it smells incredible) - which is why we used it here.
I would use The Firewall all year round. We called it The Firewall because it’s really about defence. I believe in the antibacterial properties of essential oils because they’ve kept me well over the years. In the winter, I’ll pour it in a bath, but any time of year, I’ll keep it in the shower and use it in the morning before setting off on a crowded tube.
Finally, The Reboot blend, as I’ve said, is for when you’re busy and stressed, and finding it hard to switch off. It’s got this lovely blend of Sandalwood, Amyris, Cedarwood and Palmarosa and honestly, it makes such a difference. It’s one of those ones you just need to have on hand, and probably an extra one or two to give to burned-out friends, too!