After being inspired by the ancient perfume distilleries in India, Alanna Quin decided to combine her Ayurvedic studies with her love of perfume to create AYU, scented oils that blend intoxicating fragrance with traditional Indian perfume-making principles. In a nutshell, these are perfume oils that have the power to calm, ground and balance different personality traits based on the three fundamental energies in Ayurveda’s properties - Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Oh, and they smell pretty incredible, too...
Together with her business partner, Alanna is juggling a part-time job in PR with motherhood and running AYU, but wouldn’t have it any other way. “I love the balance between PR and Ayu, they’re worlds apart but that’s what I love about it… I work most nights once Stevie is in bed and during the weekend on Ayu, but it honestly doesn’t feel like work. I have an amazing husband, family, business partner and work-family who provide an incredible support network.” We caught up with Alanna to delve a little deeper into AYU’s inspiring philosophies, and to hear how she juggles multiple hats with caring for her two-year-old daughter, Stevie. Go to www.theayu.com.au | Photography: Jedd Cooney
Ayurveda means “the science of life” - can you tell us how this ancient practice translates to perfume oil?
Ayurveda is based on the idea of creating balance in the bodily systems and uses a whole range of tools such as diet, herbal treatments, exercise and scent to help with this. Scents are really powerful as they travel to the olfactory bulb in the limbic system of the brain that affects the control of emotions and memory. Smell is the most primitive of the senses, triggering a strong connection between memories, emotions, and instincts. When blending our perfumes, we work with scents that we know help to ‘smooth out the rough edges’ and positively influence emotions.
What inspired Ayu’s inception - did you always set out to start a scented oil business? Have you always been interested in perfume and scent?
My business partner Madeleine introduced me to Ayurveda years ago and I was always so intrigued by it. After my first visit to India, I came home and enrolled in a course straight away as it all just made complete sense to me. Madeleine and I had travelled to India together numerous times and we’d come across some incredible ancient perfume distilleries who still use methods passed down from generations and that were keeping the dying art alive. It clicked to us on one of the trips that we could work with these distilleries and perfumers and weave in what we’d learnt in our studies. After lots of trial and error, our first scent, Souq, was born and so was Ayu! We had never specifically set out to start a scented oil business but we’ve both always loved perfume and mixing our own scents and have both studied courses in perfumery along the way. The business has grown really organically and at the perfect pace for us.
Can you tell us a bit about the three fundamental energies in Ayurveda’s philosophies - Vata, Pitta and Kapha. How do we find out which one we are and what does it mean?
Ayurveda believes that there are three universal energies that exist in the universe and every living thing within it, which are called Doshas; Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each Dosha performs different physiological functions within the body and is made up of a mix of the universal elements – ether (space), air, fire, water and earth. All three Doshas are found in everyone and everything in different proportions, and so this ratio makes up the blueprint for optimal health (also known as our constitution) and garners a significant influence on our individual physical, mental and emotional traits. While each person has all three Doshas, usually one or two dominate. Vata is characterised by air and ether and therefore a Vata dominant person might be ungrounded and quite anxious when out of balance, so we work to ground them with warming scents such as amber and sandalwood. Pitta is made up of fire and water, and so a Pitta dominant person is quite firey and tends to get quite heated. We would work to cool a Pitta dominant person with cooling scents such as rose and ‘green’ based scents. A Kapha’s primary elements are water and earth and so a Kapha dominant person is quite emotional and can be quite lethargic. We would then look to balance a Kapha dominant person with quite enlivening, spicy and grounding scents. There are plenty of basic tests that can be done online to help figure out your constitution or if you’d like a more in-depth assessment you can visit an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant or Doctor.
Oil is having a moment in all aspects of the beauty industry - how does perfume oil differ from its more traditional counterparts?
Perfume oil differs from more traditional counterparts as generally speaking they tend to be far more concentrated, so a little goes a long way. Oils tend to stick to the skin whereas perfumes that contain alcohol tend to dry up and fade quickly as the alcohol evaporates. Our perfume oils are all blended in a base of natural oils including jojoba and wheat germ, which are super emollient as well as acting as natural fixatives. Many traditional over-the-counter spray perfumes contain a myriad of chemicals and some even animal by-products.
You juggle Ayu with a role in public relations as well as being a mum, how do you make it all work?
It’s a constant juggle but I try not to put pressure on myself and I think it really helps if you enjoy what you do. I love the balance between PR and Ayu, they’re worlds apart but that’s what I love about it. I work part-time in PR and Stevie is between daycare and both grandparents during the week, who she adores. I work most nights once Stevie is in bed and during the weekend on Ayu, but it honestly doesn’t feel like work. I have an amazing husband, family, business partner and work-family who provide an incredible support network.
What has motherhood taught you?
Unconditional love and finding little moments of joy every day.
How do you handle the more challenging aspects of being a mum?
I’m still trying to figure it all out but having time to do your own thing and having a little time out here and there is really important. It puts things into perspective and for me brings back some patience I may have lost throughout the day!
What is your favourite thing to do with Stevie?
Spending time at the beach. Stevie is such a water baby and watching her little face light up in the water or playing on the sand or running up to other kids and making friends is so sweet.
What is your definition of self-care and how do you make time for it?
Self-care to me is anything that brings you back to yourself. I practice yoga regularly, either early morning or at night time, working around what my husband is up to.
If you could give one bit of advice to any new mums juggling work and baby, what would it be?
Don’t put pressure on yourself, do what feels right for you and don’t ever compare yourself to others.