Expert Take

Aromatherapy Associates CEO on inspiring change through the olfactory process.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Tracey Woodward

Aromatherapy Associates CEO on inspiring change through the olfactory process.

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Sense of smell is a powerful thing. The way perfume conjures nostalgia for a person or memory, or the uplifting effect that zest emanating from a peeled orange can have is what Tracey Woodward, Aromatherapy Associates CEO finds most therapeutic. She says, “To have a biomolecular structure that changes condition, tone, and elasticity is amazing and proven to work.

I love the fact that it’s true beauty.” With more than 30 years in the spa, retail and beauty business, and responsible for developing the Aveda brand in the UK, Woodward was a natural choice to ensure that Aromatherapy Associates retains its heritage built by founder Geraldine Howard, who passed away in January 2016, and continue to develop the brand’s offerings and services.

Woodward believes that aromatherapy has the capacity to change how you feel in six to eight hours. But most importantly, it encourages setting an intention of doing something for yourself. That alone can be a catalyst for finding balance in life, and she finds that buying essential oils for friends almost gives one permission to treat themselves to the same products.

This can lead to a shift in perception over time. Woodard says, “You start to think ‘How am I exercising? How am I eating? How am I looking after myself?’ You begin to realise ‘I am the most important person in my life. If I don’t look after me, I can’t look after anybody else.’ Aromatherapy is about changing a mood or emotion.”

The foundation of the brand has always been its unique blended essences, which are mixed in a London lab, according to the founders’ top-secret recipes from as far back as 1985, before being shipped to all corners of the globe. Each created for a specific purpose, it allows for complete customisation where the consumer can pick their blend according to how they feel that day.

Rather than trying to push Aromatherapy Associates as a brand in its entirety, Woodward recognises that today’s user edits their beauty collection to fit their needs. While brands in the 1990s may have tried to sell a three-step skincare approach, the focus today is more about letting people curate themselves. She says, “Brands think consumers purchase everything from them, but they don’t.

Our process of selecting things out of need, through education and awareness, is probably more powerful than someone trying to sell you a cleanser, toner, moisturiser and night cream.” While aromatherapy has existed for “as long as people have had noses”, Woodward anticipates potential for continued growth, due to its capacity to help people find balance and natural well-being.

She says, “There’s only so many drugs you can take. I see adults taking up to 16 types of medicine when actually a good walk, a great massage and a bit of healthy eating may have had the same impact.” The collection of oil blends provides a tool to relax or revive, or offer strength or support depending on your current frame of mind.

Woodward says, “We are a brand with a conscience that people reach out to in their hour of need. We want to not only change how you feel emotionally through sense of smell, but how you think. We can take you through every single mood, and bring balance into busy lives.” A savvy shopper herself, Woodward is always on the lookout for buys that provide a sense of reward.

To an extent, she finds food can make you feel “happy or sad, balance you out, and allow you to celebrate life”. And handbags are a favourite, after calculating how much wear she will get out of them, but when it comes to choosing a meaningful present, aromatherapy remains her go-to. “It’s a powerful gift and unique from a beauty perspective, globally there aren’t many things that can do that for you. That’s the great thing – there’s an instant return on investment when you use it.”

“We want to not only change how you feel emotionally through sense of smell, but how you think”