One day she was in medical school studying global health, the next she was concocting essential oil blends, and now Sara Panton, co-founder of Vitruvi, is leading the charge to make essential oils mainstream.
Chances are you’ve seen her creations at places like Nordstrom, Anthropologie, and Sephora: The ceramic black bottles are meant to look like they’re from the periodic table of elements, stamped with a simplistic 2-letter label, a far cry from the crunchy-granola, health-food store variety many of us have come to know.
“In integrative medicine, when I learned about the 12 cranial nerves, I became really fascinated by scent—your olfactory nerve,” says Panton, who truly lights up when she’s talking about the power of plants. “I then became really passionate about the idea of using traditional botanicals and repurposing them in a modern way. The power of scent is really intriguing and underutilized, so it all started when I concocted my own focus blend to help with my anxiety.”
Panton then began establishing rituals with herself that were connected to scent and oils, blending different essential oils together in her kitchen with her brother, and loved the practice so much that she wanted to share it with the world. And so Vitruvi blossomed into a small, hand-crafted business that’s now a mega company taking over the natural beauty industry. Here, Panton talks about what she wishes more people knew about essential oils, why everyone should be using them, and what she sees for the future of beauty.
How did Vitruvi get started?
Vitruvi wasn’t launched as an essential oils company. If you look at our first collection, it says “fragrance oils,” which is totally not what they are but we didn’t know any better—we just loved the idea of helping people pair scents with different moments of their day, and that intrinsically ended up differentiating us from the market. Our messaging around oils is firstly from science—I love the idea of women using scent association. The brain is wavy so it loves patterns and shortcuts and things that are familiar, so in our crazy days the brain can wake up to the same scent. Whether you’re waking up to it or smelling it in the shower or at work, the scent can make it easier for your brain to get into the zone.
Secondly, essential oils naturally have microbial and antibacterial properties, so we decided to take a different approach. We’re not here to cure anything or make medical claims, but to create beautiful moments of time—take 10 to 20 second spa moments throughout your day through these chemical properties Our product are reminders to take a breath throughout the day.
What are common misconceptions about essential oils that bother you?
Scent is such a powerful yet understated way to influence our mood and essential oils are a beautiful, simple alternative to using harsh chemicals and synthetic fragrances. There are a number of common misconceptions about essential oils, but the one I feel most passionate about is how easily and readily they can be used. That’s why I believe they should be priced in a way and used so that they can elevate even the simplest moments of your day, from the shower to doing laundry to working at your desk.
What do you wish more people knew about essential oils?
Essential oils are so versatile, and therefore incredibly simple to integrate into your routines and elevate moments throughout your day. They are also super portable, allowing you to maintain your sense of ritual no matter where you are in the world. One of our favorite, most simple ways to use essential oils is keeping eucalyptus in your shower. When you shower in the morning, just add 3 drops of eucalyptus to the palm of your hands. When you rub them together, hold your palms up to your face and breathe deeply—the heat from the steam will help release the aroma and intensify it. It’s like a mini spa moment you can enjoy every morning, no matter where you are.
What do you love the most about essential oils?
The customization ability—when it comes to choosing your favorite scents, it’s really up to personal preference, but different scent families can also help you achieve specific goals. For example, citrus scents like grapefruit and sweet orange can be great to add a boost to your morning ritual and help you wake up naturally. And woodsy and floral scents together can be calming and grounding, and are nice to wind down within an evening bath or with a book before bed.
Where do you see the future of beauty?
I see this emphasis on not anti-aging but prevention in terms of: “How am I showing up as my best self right now?” There’s a focus on how people are focusing on themselves, and thinking about the skin, how they’re nourishing it, what they’re eating or drinking and how that influences their overall health and ability to show up. I also believe that customization and scent is a new luxury, and that essential oils should be used in the simplest moments of beauty, body, and home rituals.
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