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Madeleine Whitter of Ayu

The scent designer on how doshas influence essential oil blends, her advice for those who are new to pure perfumes and why sandalwood is an essential ingredient.

Sydney-based friends Madeleine Whitter and Alanna Quinn founded their scented perfume oil brand, Ayu when they were holidaying in India. Long inspired by Ayurveda, the Indian system of medicine healing, and the fact that both women had already been creating their own blends with essential oils respectively, the marriage was organic.

Hand-blended and absent of alcohol, Ayu’s scents are so concentrated that only a drop is necessary for each pulse point. The secret to making their smells last so long? Sandalwood and attar — the latter of which are essential oils derived from botanical sources. For their facial mists line, in particular, Madeleine and Alanna travelled to India, to a traditional distillery where thousands of rose and jasmine petals were distilled for days to produce vats of perfumed water.

Pouring their Ayurvedic knowledge into the crafting of their creations, the collection comprises of three body oils centred around our biological energies, or our doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha; as well as five facial mists and eight signature perfume oils. The one product they have to constantly restock is their Souq oil, a light and floral wonder made up of rose, jasmine and sandalwood. What’s more, all of Ayu’s compositions are tridoshic in nature. That means that they feature an equal balance of our energies.

With mind, body and spirit balanced, everyone’s a winner.

Ayu Apres Avant
Ayu_Apres Avant

How did you come up with the name, “Ayu”?

We had a few different names mostly relating to our travels in India and Ayurveda. We tossed them around and realised we both couldn’t really put down “ayu”, which is short for Ayurveda and is at the core of how we create. It seemed to really encompass what we were doing in a subtle way.

Tell us more about how the three fundamental energies, or doshas — Vata, Pitta and Kapha — influence the methods in which Ayu blends are crafted.

The doshas are basically three biological energies that are made up of five elements: Vata – air and ether, Pitta – fire and water, and Kapha – water and earth. These energies govern bodily functions and personality traits. By recognising the dosha in each individual, we are able to try and maintain balance within the body by adjusting the doshas according to the imbalance.

We try to create blends that are tridoshic in nature, which make them balancing for all doshas.

Ayu-Apres Avant

Should one use oils of only our doshas or can they be mixed?

One can use the oils according to one’s individual constitution, or you might use a specific oil for its attributes specific to the season you are in or for a particular situation. Of course, your sense of smell is to be trusted -—if you fall in love with a scent that is not your particular dosha, it would be silly to avoid it as you’re obviously attracted to it for a particular reason.

“We find that using sandalwood as a natural fixative helps to retain our scents for a longer period of time.”

What are your personal experiences with the power of essential oils?

Essential oils work so effectively as they go straight to the bloodstream and can have a direct effect on our organs. I personally use essential oils to treat the skin but I also use them around the house to clean and disinfect. When inhaled, they work specifically on the limbic system, evoking powerful memories and emotions. Having smelt so many different oils over the years, they really bring memories of beautiful places and times in my life.

What is your bestseller and what about it makes it so irresistible?

Souq is by far our bestseller. You can’t really go wrong with jasmine and rose mixed in with sandalwood. It smells like spring! The scent reacts differently and uniquely on a person’s skin and almost becomes a signature scent — it can smell very differently to the person next to them who’s wearing the same scent.

Your facial mists are made from 100 per cent natural steam distilled water of ingredients like jasmine, rose and vetiver. Can you tell us more about this process?

Last year, we visited a traditional distillery using ancient processes that are dying out but are still being carried out in rural villages scattered throughout India. Families spend time hand-picking thousands of rose petals and jasmine flowers from the flower fields to distil in old earthenware vats over hot coals over days and days. While witnessing this process, they showed us the by-product, which was simply steam collected from the vats. This water had been perfumed so incredibly by this process that we just knew that we wanted to add this to our range. So we added facial mists in November 2017.

Ayu Souq Apres Avant

For pure perfumes made of oils and essential oils, what is the key to ensuring these concoctions have strong and long-lasting scents?

Generosity. We use a lot of essential oils and attar, which can be very costly but vital in achieving a strong, long-lasting scent. We find that using sandalwood as a natural fixative helps to retain our scents for a longer period of time as well.

“By recognising the dosha in each individual, we are able to try and maintain balance within the body by adjusting the doshas according to the imbalance.”

Tell us about your daily skincare and hair care routines, and if you incorporate your oils into your rituals.

My routine stays the same but the products change regularly. I like to wash my face with a milk cleanser in the morning. Then I apply moisturiser. I always apply a few drops of Ayu to my wrists and neck. At the moment, I’m wearing Rumi as spring is in the air. At night in the shower, I like to oil pull using coconut oil.

For the face, I alternate between cleansing and exfoliating, and I use vitamin A and C serums to finish. For my body at the end of my shower while standing in the shower with the water off, I apply Ayu KAPHA oil over my entire body and massage it into my skin while standing in the steam. After five minutes, I step out of the shower to dry off. I love the neroli in this blend. And I love the scent that lingers on my skin.

For my hair, I use Aveda products and a Forest Essentials hair tonic. Lately, I’ve been testing a hair oil that Alanna and I have been working on. I’m loving the results so far. I think we may be able to share this one soon.

Ayu perfume oils_Apres Avant
Ayu perfume oils Apres Avant

What is your advice to those who use but haven’t quite “got” essential oils?

Firstly, I would start by choosing ones that you love the smell of. When you find something you love, you will naturally look a little deeper. You can easily search properties and health benefits of oils so you can slowly begin incorporating them into your life. They all have a multitude of purposes and act as natural healers for many things.

What does conscious living mean to you?

Quite literally, it means being observant about everything you do and say. Make sure the outcome of every action or word is something you are proud of; and step lightly on the earth and all its beings.

Images courtesy of Jedd Cooney; Daniella Rech