Hijau Philosophy: Oils That Make You Go Back to Basics
You’re lounging on your favorite sofa, getting cozy within the spaces of each pillow while reading Billion Dollar Whale on a Sunday morning (apparently that’s everybody’s read now). Enjoying the last bits of the weekend before the Monday blues start kicking in, feeling relaxed at the scent of soft lavender in the room thanks to the essential oil diffused.
It can’t get any better than this. No one can doubt the benefits of oil whether essential or others for it being in its most natural state that contains the most nutrients and ingredients. But do you really know your oils and the purpose behind each one? Lou Ann, founder of Hijau Philosophy have always felt that she belonged more to nature than the corporate world.
“I left corporate around 4 years ago because I just decided that it isn’t something that I wanted to continue doing. I worked in luxury retail and I love fashion and being a part of it made me happy.” She added, “Although the work I did fed my OCD-ness especially when it comes to the stitching and detailing process, at the same time it didn’t feel like the industry resonated well for me.”
Hijau Philosophy specializes in pure, therapeutic standards of essential oils and aromatherapy products whose mission is to share and make natural healing affordable and an essential way of modern living. After years of working in retail and skincare for a few, Lou Ann felt like she didn’t belong despite her passion being fashion. “Whenever I go for interviews or when I meet new people and they asked me about my passion, it’ll always be fashion. Because I still love it for what it was but because of the industry, it just wasn’t for me.”
“My first job was actually in MNG where I handled their operations. When i told my friends that I worked there they were like ‘oh no surprise there. We always knew you'd be in fashion because it’s very new,” tells the lady. When firstly talking about what essential oils are all about, she starts by talking about the logic and common sense behind it. Companies have had consumers believe that being “100% chemical-free” is the best choice amongst others but Lou Ann tells that science is there for a reason. “I get the whole chemical-free or SLS-free importance of it all but don’t be dumb about it. Science is there for a reason. Once you start selling it to people and their product gets moldy after a few times of using it and fall sick, that’s when practicality comes in. I still believe in being practical.”
She added, “There’s a reason why it exist and we shouldn’t disregard it. You need to use common sense.”
“Once I started diving into it I became a little paralyzed because I’m an overthinker. As the famous quote from Spiderman, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ is very true because whatever I put out there can affect a person’s health. I really need to equipped myself with great knowledge so I basically started from zero.”
She continued, “That is why I didn’t dare to come out or talk about it in the first year because it’s too much of a responsibility. Too much of a risk. If anything happens it could possibly be my fault.”
Then she struck me with a strong quote. “The more I put myself out there, the more I realized that safety is an issue. It’s not about the most expensive oils you can find or best oils out there, it’s about ‘do you know how to use your oils’?”
As someone whom have gone through various skin conditions throughout high school and college years, skincare was a heavy ritual one would usually commit to despite taking the most time out of their day. Many women get terrified at the thought of applying oil to their faces as the beauty industry and social media painted the notion that the more oil you apply to yourself, the more breakouts you’ll get.
Those already with oily skin dashes away from moisturizing and oily products, fearing how their skin might end up looking like grease on a cooking dish. Lou Ann was one of them. “A year ago I was so sceptical and overthinking about putting oil on my face because like many women I thought that this is going to break me out. The first time I did it I put small drops on the palm of my hands, rubbed them together then applied it on my face.” She added, “I remember telling myself ‘here goes nothing’ as I was rubbing my face thinking how weird it felt. After that I wiped it off with a tissue and i realized that my skintone got brighter. Then I wash it off with a soap and the first thing I felt was that my skin was so much softer.” “Then I knew that this actually works.” We look up to YouTube videos and tutorials for the best 7-step skincare routines in hopes for glass flawless skin but do we really know if it truly works for us? Lou Ann now turns to oil cleansing and after 4 years, she no longer owns a cleanser, makeup remover, masks or scrub. “When I was travelling recently, all I had with me was a bottle of carrier oil, toothbrush and a cube of soap. I use the same oil all over my face body as well as the soap. And guess what? It works!”
She explained, “Oil cleansing removes dead skin cells, makeup, softens your skin and brightens skin tone which also helps with your pores. Previously I was on this 7-step Korean skincare routine and that was tiring enough. I’ve had friends who were like ‘oh don’t be lazy, look at the Japanese girls, they have 10 steps’ - I was like no way, this is not it.”
She ended the topic with, “I feel like the quality of life is not just about what’s on your face - but it’s everything. If your insides is screwed up, who cares about how you look on the outside. Let’s get real.”
If your insides is screwed up, who cares about how you look on the outside. Let’s get real.”
While Lou Ann talks about going back to basics with skincare, there are still numerous people who are under the impression that essential oils can only be used to make a room smell better. Is that the only purpose behind it ? If it is why are consumers paying a hefty price for a bottle less than 30ml that doesn’t necessarily last long. I had Lou Ann ‘clear the air’ surrounding this belief.
“One thing to straighten about essential oils is that it is not a product of room fragrance. I need to constantly remind people about it. If you buy oils with therapeutic properties, diffusing it for 20 to 30 minutes a day is already good enough as whoever in the room will absorb the benefits as well.”
She continued, “When producing essential oils I learned about the doses. People tend to put too many drops that overdose which creates abbreviations and anaphylactic shocks because you can’t breathe. As a trained aromatherapist, we understand how these things happen but we don’t understand how it really goes in your body internally. We can give you theories but you still need someone trained to understand your consumption as well as a nutritionist and pharmacist who has understanding in aromatherapy as well.”
Given the understanding that essential oils are more than just aroma-infused scents, Lou Ann also wants to educate people on the benefits and usage of carrier oils. No doubt skincare can be expensive with more than one product for a single purpose, hence she strive to make Hijau Philosophy available for everyone. “I have always been a lazy person when it comes to skincare because we are always so busy. Not only that, it also burns a hole in your pocket. Before this I was spending over RM300 for a moisturizer and that’s with staff purchase which made me think how could regular people afford this so-called moisturizer that ‘works”.
She then added, “I believe that good things shouldn’t be just for people who can afford it, it should be for everyone. Because if it’s just meant for the people who can afford it or the rich, I don’t like it.”When you head to your nearest grocery store, it is more often than not to buy from the normal range of vegetables from the other isle instead of the organic ones. Companies and restaurants have us believe that organic is the healthier choice and it’s worth spending the RM20 difference in order to be healthy.
This applies in the selling of oils much like Hijau Philosophy. Lou Ann expressed how countless customers have come up to her booth asking on the ‘organic-ness’ of her products. She scoffs at the thought but also wanted to clearly explain what organic really is. “I’m not against organic. What people need to know is that organic is simply a method of farming. It starts off well and with the best of values behind it but the problem is once you get the certification done and go through the whole process, it becomes something that only rich people can buy.”
“This got me thinking, how does this gel well with what I believe in and what I do? Because I’m running a brand here I wanted it to be good, that it works and is affordable.” Lou Ann then simplified the true meaning behind the word ‘organic’.“Organic is still farming. It’s still pesticides but a different kind. So until the day it becomes fair priced for everyone to have, it’s not going to be my priority in terms of sourcing. These are the truths I want everybody to know and understand when it comes to why you buy a product.”Before purchasing a product such as oils in skincare, medical certification and doctors’ recommendation helps boost customer’s buying experience as it grants reassurance that the product is safe to use and it works.
When starting Hijau Philosophy Lou Ann knew she had to find out more about these plants can do hence she decided to take up a course to back it up. “I’m currently doing a clinical masters in aromatherapy. It’s learning more into the chemical compositions of the plants which is more within my interest and important. I’m learning about how each part of a plant contributes into an oil. We constantly have to read reports and study carefully what benefit each plant has.” She stressed on the importance of differentiation between professions to customers constantly.
“People need to realize that I’m not a doctor by profession. I always tell people please do not come to me and tell me your problems expecting me to diagnose you.” She added, “People are so trustworthy. This is one of the reasons why I did not dare to come out for the past three years. I’ve turned away so many people away from my table who wants to buy my oil because they don’t really know how to use it or are using it for a different purpose.” Losing customers is a brand’s worst nightmare and could be the end but for Lou Ann, it’s more than just about the money and sale she’s making. She realizes the importance of people’s life at risk.
“There was a couple who came up to my table asking whether essential oils can be used on babies. I asked why and they said it’s because a certain brand said that if you put it at this part of a baby’s face it will help with teething problems. I looked at the child in it’s little carrier who’s probably about a year and a half years old and went ‘just get Bonjela”. She told how the parents looked at her in full confusion and shocked as she tells them truth behind the usage of essential oils on infants. The media or brand advertisements are not the only ones to be blamed as consumers these days are getting more easily influenced especially through social media.
“You can see how scary it is because people these days are so trusting. They’re so gullible especially when they’re sick and in this very desperate state so its easy to sell into their fears. It’s not how I wanna do business.” She continued, “I try my best to do what’s consciously right. I always tell my customers if you’re not happy with the products and that if it doesn’t work for you I’ll be glad to take it back and return your money. I just wanna tell you that we are open and we are not hiding anything.”
In cases of skincare, it’s not uncommon for it to not instantly work the first time you apply. Every healing process takes time to develop much like essential and carrier oils. Hijau Philosophy provides different oils with different purposes that suits customer’s needs. “1ml equals to 20 drops. So by 4th or 5th drop you would know if it works for you or not. It could be too strong or not strong enough. What we do is give people the average amount of dosage in the mix because it’s safer. So when people come back it’s either we increase or decrease the dosage.” She then went on to explain on the purposes Hijau Philosophy serves.
“Peppermint oil is great for migraines and headaches. I also have a blend of sinus, for people who has difficulty in breathing as well as for muscle aches. Previously a colleague of mine went on a holiday with his wife when she was suddenly struck with a migraine. He took my advice, put few drops of peppermint oil into a tissue and asked his wife to inhale it slowly a few times. 15 minutes after he told me that the migraine lifted and it was gone.”
Although these oils help one feel better, Lou Ann stresses on sole dependency of people towards one item that works. Like how they say prevention is better than cure, applies the same way in how she educates her consumers to use her oils. They say too much of anything is never good. “I tell people I can provide you with the help through these oils but you also need to be disciplined as well. This is where dependency comes in. They help but don’t just depend on this one thing to feel better. I always tell people to do breathing, practice mindfulness, be self-aware and disciplined. Like how you can’t purely rely on medications or in this case, oils. You need to also practice healthy eating habits.” She shares her experience by applying some techniques on her own.
“You can download these breathing apps for free of which i use as well to help with the essential oils i have. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and can’t reach my oils cause I don’t usually have them with me so what I do is that I open the app and breathe to the techniques. Next thing I know I woke up with my phone still in my hands.” Lou Ann further explains on how therapeutic oils actually work as previously mentioned that it flows differently when it enters one’s body. “The therapeutic side of essential oils work whereby when you diffuse and inhale it, it goes into your body’s defense mechanism and activates it. Modern medicine in a way makes your body system lazy because it does the work for you without doing much. So inhaling the essential oil is telling your body defense mechanism to wake up because you need it as it sends signal to your problematic area for it to heal itself.”
Although Hijau Philosophy have just started a few years, the founder’s principles and beliefs has helped changed the minds of consumers towards a more holistic, greener and healthier lifestyle. It’s not often to come across founders who put forth ethically right principles over profit. Lou Ann had this to say about her entire journey: “I found different ways of healing myself, my body and my mind. If you don’t feel physically better then whatever you put on your face or breathe in is not going to help you as well. Natural living is holistic. It is 360, it’s everything. I know it sounds impossible but embrace it when you can. Start small because once you keep doing it you’ll realize that it can be done and it’s worth it.” “This is the irony behind all of this. The longer you use these oils in the long run, the lesser you’ll be needing it. When you learn to use it correctly, your body will learn how to rejuvenate and heal itself with lesser help. That’s how it’s supposed to be. I’m on the opposite spectrum of what’s being propaganda out there. I always felt like this is how it should be, going back to basics. It should never be as complicated as it seem.” Before we ended, I had to ask for the inspiration behind the brand’s name. “I didn’t want something to sound so fancy and I wanted to embrace our national language. ‘Hijau’ was the best choice and we should be proud to be Malaysians for our local products.”