For Mukti, founder of the Australian brand of the same name that is based in
Aromatherapy is an incredible, personal tool that can help you feel well, as well as enhance your self-belief or creativity. I have been using aromatherapy for many years and know first hand the benefits that it reaps on your mind, you body, even the sense of who you are and what makes you feel happy and complete.
Why do I find Audra facinating, would you ask? Well, she is the first person I came across that provides bespoke aromatherapy blending bar service for groups of people, as a party idea for example, where after talking to you, she will formulate different body or face products tailored just for you. Instead of your usual blow-dry or pedicure party, you get a sensory, as well as well-being experience that will stay with you for weeks, changing you in very subtle, but effective way.
During one of our e-mail exchanges Audra surprised me by telling me that in her practise as lecturer, she sometimes used to get her ‘students to formulate the exact same blend and each one was always different. It is almost like the personality and energy of a person goes into a blend. That’s why I never formulate in a bad mood’. I pondered that for a while and it made me question the make-up and skincare that I use on a daily basis. An interesting idea, don’t you think?
Audra has her own clinic in Brisbane where she sees primarily women for a variety of treatments, like bespoke organic facials, relaxing aromatherapy massages or pregnancy massages and she also makes custom blended skin and body products for her clinic clients, as well as her clients around the world.
I was fortunate enough to receive Audra’s custom blended body oil prior to writing this article and my first though was how incredibly lucky I was to have come across Audra in the first place. Before Audra made an oil for me-I could choose between face or body oil- I also filled in a questionnaire, asking me a few health questions, as well as my smell preferences for oils, skin type and what type of oil-relaxing, energising, mood-boosting etc. I preferred. My bespoke Audra James parcel arrived when London was cold and uncomfortable- a beautiful black box, tied with ribbon and inside, safely wrapped up, like a newborn, was a bottle of the wonderful oil and a letter, which described my bespoke blend. Audra actually started her business by formulating body oils for her clientele to have their massage with and several years later she seems to be only getting better, like a good wine.
For my body oil Audra used uplifting citrus oils and combined them with light floral notes of French Lavender and Rose Geranium, finishing it with an infusion of Frankincense, which is known for encouraging relaxation, due to promotion of deeper breathing. My oil was also infused in a natural plant oil blend with skin softening properties ( Thank you Audra, Fairy Godmother, my skin so needs moisture and soothing, after lacking sun and warmth for so long this winter !). Tne wonderful thing about Audra’s oils is that they can be used in different ways, in my particular case I use it to moisturise my skin, scent myself instead of perfume on occasion, by adding it to my pulse points, to moisturise my hair, as well as a de-stressing remedy, when I distill a few drops into the palms of my hands, rub them together and breath in deeply, meditating for a short while, thus enhancing my senses and inviting a deeper sense of calm. Audra also suggested that I can use it as a body scrub, by combining it with sugar-I did it with brown sugar-and I have to say that it was a wonderful treat at the end of one lengthy and particularly trying day, when things didn’t go according to plan.
What also surprised me is the subtle smell of this bespoke body oil. Many aromatherapy blends have a strong smell and not just linger, but drum on your skin, while this oil caresses the skin, like a gentle whisper, securing you in a cosy blanket, sheltering you from the world’s stresses and creating an invisible armour to face a day at work, or attending to the children or having a conversation with someone who is a little too aggressive.
Products like the ones that Audra creates linger, like your DNA, invisible to the eye, yet powerful. But enough said, let me put the wonderful woman and therapist in the spotlight and let her shine !
Q & A with Audra James, Aromatherapist, Facialist and Formulator
GAP: Tell me about your professional background and how you got into beauty and aromatherapy.
Audra James: It was 20 years ago. I was working as a corporate trainer for a large media organisation here in Australia. I’d never actually heard of ‘aromatherapy’ as such, but was asked to write and present a training course on stress management. In my research I came across a book on aromatherapy and found it fascinating – in fact, I couldn’t put it down! I knew there and then that I was going to work with essential oils in some way or another – I studied for a Diploma in Clinical Aromatherapy here in Australia and then also went on to do further studies in counselling (which I feel is really important). I later lectured in Aromatherapy at the college where I initially studied, which was a wonderful experience. I’m still fascinated by aromatherapy and still spend time each week researching and testing new ingredients and product ideas. I think it’s really important to keep up-to-date with new developments. There are some very effective natural ingredients now that weren’t readily available 20 years ago, so I like to constantly re-formulate things if I find something that works better.
GAP: Why do you prefer to use oils to traditional cosmetic products?
Audra James: Oils are skincare it its purest form and the quickest way to deliver essential nutrients to the skin. I think one of the reasons they have become very popular is that are incredibly effective and the misconceptions about them (that they are greasy and clog pores) really doesn’t apply when the correct oils are used. The secret is always in the blending – high quality ingredients in concentrations that work but it’s also important not to ’over blend’ which can have the opposite effect. I also love the fact that they are multi-tasking and that because they don’t require synthetic preservatives, they are suitable for all skin types, including sensitive.
GAP: How long did it take you to create the treatments ( for face and body ) that you offer to your clients ?
Audra James: It’s really been a work in progress over the last 20 years. I initially started doing aroma-therapeutic massages for clients and very quickly had a very busy clinic in Sydney, Australia where I was living. At the time, natural skincare was not very mainstream or even popular, but I used to persuade clients to let me work on their face in order to relieve tension and they loved it. I’d studied facial acupressure with one of the leading experts in that field and started creating facial oils for clients – they were soon asking for more when they saw the results. My treatments are always Bespoke, depending on what a client needs on that particular day. So if a client has skin problems due to stress – I would always work on the stress first.
GAP: How long did it take for you to formulate your products ?
Audra James: My products were an extension of the work I was doing in my clinic. When you treat clients on a daily basis over many years, you formulate thousands of different products and this gives the kind of hands-on experience that cannot be gained from a book or a training course. So each product I have in my range was a result of formulating and using that in treatments. All my products are formulated to order – to ensure freshness – so they take approximately seven business days depending on the product. I also offer a Bespoke service for products which includes skincare, therapeutic essential oil formulas and also natural perfumery – these obviously take longer and are created via questionnaire and a skype option is also available. I now have customers world-wide who love my personal approach.
GAP: What drives and inspires you professionally ?
Audra James: I guess firstly I’m incredibly lucky that I found my calling and the fact that I’m still doing this work 20 years later, which is why I always tell people if something grabs you – do it! It’s meant to be. I love spreading the word about essential oils and how they can be used everyday to make life less stressful and more enjoyable. I think more and more people are also making the switch to natural skincare. There are a lot of brands out there – but I always tend to go for the ones that have been created by therapists, as they’ve worked with clients and tend to know what works and what doesn’t.
GAP: Can you describe your client base-men, women, children ? What are their main concerns when they come to you ?
Audra James: My client base is mainly women (who often purchase products for the men in their life! ).Their main concerns are skin and stress. When it comes to skin, congestion and ageing are the main concerns – both of these are affected by stress, so I never treat one without the other. I’ve also seen the demand for baby products grow considerably in the last few years, as people are really starting to question what they put on their skin. Interestingly enough – I’m now seeing skin problems that were quite rare many years ago, especially sensitive and reactive skin. I personally believe this is due to lifestyle, stress, diet as well as using products and treatments that are simply too harsh for the skin. To me it makes sense that if skin is reactive, it needs to be treated very gently.
GAP: What makes your product stand out from the other available in the beauty market ?
Audra James: I think there are some amazing products out there and as I said earlier, I have found that the best ones do come from ranges that have been started by therapists who have years of experience treating clients. Mine do differ in that my products are formulated to order and I’m always happy to work with a client and tweak things a little if need be and also formulate something completely bespoke if necessary. I also formulate products for other ranges.
GAP: What you do is very intuitive and emotional, how do you protect yourself from emotional stresses and recharge your batteries ?
Audra James: I’m a huge believer in taking time for myself every single day. I start my day like this with a few minutes of meditation, a cup of coffee to myself and I often take myself off somewhere in the middle of the day to just breathe deeply. I also never book treatments in solidly between each client – instead I like to give myself time to relax and re-energise – that way I can give the best possible treatment and also spend the time needed with each client. I think the key to managing stress is to do something consistently every day that helps reduce that – even if it’s for five minutes. I almost always end my day with an aroma therapeutic bath – which gives me time to unwind before bedtime.
GAP: What’s your beauty routine like and what products can’t you live without ?
Audra James: It’s a simple routine because like most people today I really don’t have time to do anything complicated. I cleanse in the evening using my Skin Cleansing System and then compress to get rid of any dirt and grime – then using a natural floral mist to refresh and make sure all the cleanser has been removed. If I’m wearing makeup I do a pre-cleanse with my cleansing oil. I always spend at least five minutes massaging in a facial oil and I repeat that in the morning. I do give myself an at home facial once a week, where I include a treatment mask and a deeper cleanse using my cleansing balm. I do think the key is to be consistent and do something every day that you enjoy and also gives you results – that way you are far likely to continue.
GAP: When choosing Audra James products, what effect can your clients expect to see/feel ?
Audra James: My products are formulated to help client look better, but also to help them feel better, which is a huge part of what aroma-therapeutic products are designed to do. I think modern beauty now means that you look and feel as good as you can. My products are also designed to get customers spending a few minutes each day applying the products. This in turn means that they stop and spend a little time on themselves.
GAP: What are your beauty/lifestyle secrets ?
Audra James: I’ve been a yoga fan for almost 30 years so together with exercise, yoga and meditation – these are the things I cannot live without. I think too, as we get older, it’s accepting that and looking and feeling the best you can, but not going overboard and worrying about it. I believe in having friends of all ages because it makes life interesting and I think it’s these things that are the real beauty secrets. I’m a huge believer in facial massage because I think with the right facial oil it really can be the secret to beautiful skin and I guess one of my passions is to pass that on to as many people as possible. I’ve also applied a body oil every day after showering (where I sprinkle a few drops of an energising essential oil onto the base of the shower) – combining skin softening botanicals and essential oils that either uplift or relax depending on the way I want to feel. It’s a fabulous way to start the day.
GAP: Where do you source your oils from ? Have the climate changes been affecting your suppliers ?
Audra James: I’m very fortunate in that I have suppliers that I’ve known and worked with for over 20 years. I like to use a number of different suppliers because I like to choose the best from each. My products are not certified organic because I do believe it can limit what you can use and I’d rather just choose the ingredients that I feel are the best quality. Climate changes can certainly have an impact on availability and when that happens I usually find there is always an alternative that can be used. Luckily, my customers trust me to change something in their products if I need to.
For additional information about Audra, her treatments and Audra James bespoke products, go to her website below: