In the Garden with Aesop
We talk cult formulas, botanicals and the great outdoors with Aesop’s Suzanne SantosRead more
Arguably the most mentioned brand in beauty, Aesop became a household name not long after the first store opened in an underground nook in the Melbourne bayside suburb, St Kilda. Not only has its clean packaging design become a blueprint for the modern beauty product, its plant-based, scientifically charged formulas are the ultimate signifier of impeccable taste. Harking back to the brand’s Australian roots, Chief Customer Officer Suzanne Santos talks the power of plants, the significance of science and what she adores about being in the wild…
What is the philosophy behind the Aesop product?
Our philosophy regarding skin care is straightforward, based on research and experience spanning 33 years, both of which tell us clearly that all skin types require daily cleansing, toning, moisturising and protection – with the proviso that it is essential to choose the formulations best suited to your individual needs.
We focus primarily on optimising the skin’s health by addressing its current condition and identifying products that will unequivocally meet its needs. We speak not to age or gender, but to the more pertinent matter of how your skin feels and behaves in response to environmental conditions, hormonal fluctuations, your diet, how well you sleep, and other influential factors. In addition, we advocate a healthy, balanced lifestyle as a vital corollary if the products you apply topically are to be truly effective.
When it comes to prescribing regimens, we strongly emphasise the efficacy of twice-daily cleansing, toning and moisturising, along with twice-weekly deep-cleansing and regular facial treatments; we also encourage use of barrier and SPF protection to help shield the skin from the elements. Further, we encourage generous application of our hydrating products, as well as blending or layering to effect tailored hydration.
While we are aware that our products are often assumed to be purely botanical, we employ both botanical and laboratory-made ingredients to perform specific functions; in our view, this is a harmonious marriage that ensures our products are of the utmost quality and efficacy. We are meticulous in selecting and sourcing ingredients, ensuring each is chosen with the health and safety of our customers and the natural environment foremost in mind. I would also mention that none of our products contain animal-derived ingredients.
“The ever-growing sophistication in both extraction and analytical technique continues to reveal more components of the botanicals we use, furthering the scope of application for our palette of essential oils.”
Citrus rinds feature heavily in Aesop products. Why is this?
We revere these oils first and foremost because of the remarkable and wide-ranging efficacies they deliver.
These are complex mixtures with correspondingly complex chemistry, and this is what continues to fascinate us, encouraging our exploration. .
Whether we consider the vivifying combination of Petitgrain, Grapefruit Rind and Lemon Rind – a trio of oils renowned for their purifying properties – in Citrus Melange Body Cleanser or the Mandarin Rind in Amazing Face Cleanser – used for its well-known ability to bring balance to oily skin – it is clear that citrus oils deliver myriad benefits for skin and hair. And that they therefore have a clear place and purpose in many formulations.
What are the other prevalent ingredients in the collection?
There is no clear or definite blueprint for what constitutes an ‘Aesop’ ingredient, but at all times it is our overall philosophy, careful consideration of safety, efficacy, quality and tendency to do things a little differently—and with an open mind—that are guiding principles for ingredient selection.
The strength of our approach lies in our use of botanical ingredients in generous doses, while also acknowledging the important—indeed, crucial—role laboratory-made ingredients can play. We celebrate science, and understand that you need a blend of well-chosen man-made ingredients alongside exceptional botanical ingredients to make remarkable products.
When it comes to those ingredients that we do visit again and again, such as Green Tea, Lavender Stem, Aloe Vera, Tocopherol (Vitamin E) to name just a few, we do so for the simple reason that they offer value and meaning to our products, delivering tangible benefits to the skin; being as they are, variously renowned for their ability to fortify, calm, and nurture the skin.
Can you tell the story of a cult Aesop product?
I will gladly speak to Sublime Replenishing Night Masque, which was conceived as an alternative to disposable sheet masks that offer a vitamin-enriched treatment or masque, as part of our Skin Care+ range. We aimed to formulate a product in which we could combine a full palette of water-soluble and oil-soluble vitamins to offer compound benefits to dry, dehydrated, dull or patchy and fatigued skin. .
This remarkably nourishing, intensively hydrating gel-cream delivers sustained benefits, employing a combination of emollient, humectant and film-forming ingredients to support the skin barrier and help regulate moisture loss, thereby improving overall hydration. The botanicals it utilises include humectants such as Sodium Carrageenan and Saccharide Isomerate – derived from Red Algae and Maize respectively – for their renowned capacity to boost hydration and promote water retention within the skin. In complement, nourishing emollients including Squalane and Tocopherol (Vitamin E), alongside Safflower-derived Vitamin F (Linolenic and Linoleic Acid) bolster the lipid environment of the stratum corneum (the skin’s outermost layer) to further reduce trans-epidermal water loss. .
It is the perfected blend of ingredients from both synthetic and botanical sources that works in concert to balance, brighten, and fortify skin; thereby supporting its health.
Aesop fragrances paint beautiful pictures of natural elements and breath-taking landscapes – can you offer an insight into the creative process?
The process is predicated on an abiding regard for the intense pleasure that fragrance can bring to our lives, the inspiration we find in many and varied quarters, and the partnerships we have nurtured with skilled, like-minded perfumers.
We have worked for some years now with Barnabé Fillion, who has extensive expertise in the scientific facets of perfumery and also shares our aesthetic leanings, cultural interests and intellectual curiosity – which makes for a unique, deeply satisfying affinity.
At the heart of each fragrance is a poetic, absorbing dialogue around our inspirations and how they might be embodied in scent. It’s a captivating thing to witness—as in the conversations I recall from the development of Rōzu Eau de Parfum, which encompassed our collective admiration for French architect Charlotte Perriand – its chief inspiration – her vivacious personality and ground-breaking work, the countries and cultures that stirred her heart and mind, the enchantments of the rose in all its manifestations, and a great deal more. Barnabé speaks as only a nose of great intellect and vision can speak, and we are honoured to work with him to create exquisitely nuanced fragrances that express our ideas with sophistication and subtlety.
What is your favourite outdoor location to explore?
The beach, always. There is something about the light, the crisp aromas of salt air and coastal vegetation, and the expansive horizon that makes for an exhilarating sense of freedom and possibility. And to lie on the sand, walk the shoreline and swim in the sea—to experience the rhythm of the ocean at length—is to dissipate all cares.
From which plants to you draw the most pleasure?
The plant that appeals most to me is the eucalyptus or gum tree, across its hundreds of species—each with its own modest, nuanced beauty. Perhaps this has something to do not only with ubiquity but also with the history of the genus, which we now know to extend to more than 50 million years. Therein lies a quiet, steadfast and magnificent power, not to mention habitat, shelter and food for countless native birds and animals. It must also be acknowledged that these trees have played a significant role in the lives of thousands of generations of First Nations Australians, the traditional custodians of this land, to whom we owe a great debt and for whom we have the utmost respect. While I see eucalypts in other countries, because of context and history they are never as they are here.
“In Australia, eucalypts are the lungs of the country, with a ubiquitous presence throughout diverse landscapes—a presence I would describe as immensely comforting.”
Which product is your personal favourite?
It’s impossible for me to cite a favourite product because at any given time I will select one formulation over another to meet my immediate needs.
For example, in the midst of the Australian winter, I am favouring Elemental Facial Barrier Cream for its protective properties and superlative emollience. My day almost always begins with a long, brisk walk, and there is no more effective product for shielding my skin from chill air and blustery winds. In tandem, I am using Seeking Silence Facial Hydrator – a formulation we created specifically to address the visible and non-visible manifestations of sensitive skin, and skin prone to sensitivities. This is a product to which I turn whenever my skin is irritated, assured that it will be swiftly calmed and balanced as well as thoroughly hydrated.
What would you recommend to warm the soul?
For the sense of wellbeing it confers in addition to its hydrating, decongesting and balancing properties, I would unreservedly recommend Fabulous Face Oil. The lightweight texture and smooth, near-matte finish make it a pleasure to experience on the skin; and the aromatic impression of this product is like no other – essential oils of Ylang Ylang and Jasmine, particularly, evoke a sense of warm, languid evenings and gardens in full bloom. Only a few drops are needed to effect an elevated mood while delivering multiple benefits to the skin. It’s a delightful precursor to sound sleep.
“Essential oils of Ylang Ylang and Jasmine, particularly, evoke a sense of warm, languid evenings and gardens in full bloom.”
… And to wake up in the morning?
In complement to gentle cleansing, I would suggest Lucent Facial Concentrate. It is light, barely there, but holds potent benefits. Almost all skin types will benefit greatly from the vitamins delivered by just one pipette of this exceptional serum; if your skin is normal, dry or dehydrated, it can function as a vitamin-rich preface to your chosen moisturiser, and significantly boost hydration. In hot and humid conditions, it offers excellent nourishment and hydration without encumbering the skin.