We've been fans of Vancouver-based Vitruvi since we discovered their fresh, modern line of aphrodisiac and energizing aromatherapy potions last year. In honor of their latest launch, a line of vastly useful, pure essential oils, we spoke with co-founder Sara Panton about her fascination with all things olfactory, founding the company with her brother Sean, and what's next up for these scientists of scent.
What’s your background, what were you up to before starting Vitruvi?
My brother and I grew up in a rural community on Vancouver Island. From a young age we were surrounded by farms, beautiful fresh organic foods and parents who were ahead of the curve in many ways including their passion for natural products for our home, for personal care and in what we ate. Growing up in a small town I had always been fascinated by different cultures and this curiosity paired with a love of wellness led me to complete an undergraduate degree in Global Health. With the vision to become a doctor I was accepted into school after university and began studying preventative medicine.
During the entire undergraduate degree I also worked with the Nobel Peace Prize nominated charity Free The Children. Working with Free The Children increased my knowledge and passion for other cultures and provided opportunities to work in rural communities in Kenya and Morocco and to travel and learn about plants indigenous to these regions as well as the rituals from these cultures and how they used them. It was really an exciting time in life as I explored passions and curiosities while giving back through work to communities around the world.
In your bio we read that during medical school you “started getting nerdy about how scent affects the brain” – we love that, elaborate…
Hah, yes very nerdy. In school the first thing you learn about are the 12 cranial nerves that are responsible for our major senses such as sight, hearing, balance and of course, our ability to smell. I quickly became fascinated with the concept of scent when I learned that it was the most powerful yet, underutilized of the senses. I started researching about how specific scents influenced different regions of the brain as well as the science of scent association which is the use of scent in memory and recall. I started mixing my oils to use for different moments of my day, a specific blend for studying, for smelling during tests, for helping me wake up, or to make me calm before bed.
We’re pretty interested in the many obscure uses for essential oils – what are your favorites?
Awesome question – In terms of obscure, I would say maybe not obscure but my mom comes up with the best uses of our oils.
A fun fact about lemon essential oil is that is can dissolve away substances such as wax, oil, chewing gum, or glue of surfaces.
She also uses our oils to make her own linen spray and taught me how to make vacuuming even better by adding cotton ball with your favorite essential oil into the vacuum bag or filter to create a custom vacuum scent. There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of uses for essential oils, that’s what makes our job so fun – we are always experimenting.
You’ve said that the inspiration behind Vitruvi comes from ancient botanical practices, can you share a few with us?
I was visiting Japan a few months ago and became absolutely fascinated by ancient tea ceremonies and the many aspects of these thousand year old traditions that still exist in matcha tea ceremonies today. Firstly, Japan is my favorite country I have ever visited – the people, the design and the culture is something I found very inspiring. Their emphasis on honour, ritual and tradition was interesting as well. The Matcha Tea ceremony is all about honour and tradition. The effort and quality of the leaves, the way they are ground, the perfect temperature of the water, the bowl it is served in and the process through which it is mixed and served all involve a tremendous amount of effort. Not to mention the health benefits and antioxidants that the tea brings. This is my latest favorite ancient botanical practice that I now recreate and make each morning even before I have coffee.
What are your daily rituals?
I start with a large glass of peppermint water, fresh water in a 1L jar that has been sitting overnight with fresh peppermint leaves. I know it sounds like everyone says this, but water really is your best friend and starting the day with it has changed my skin, energy, and digestion – it really is a game changer. After that I have a cup of warm matcha, my favorite is from CAP Beauty, usually avocado toast after that with lemon ginger olive oil my boyfriend and I got in France last year.
Rituals at the office are a lot of water and equally a lot of coffee. I have my puppy at the office with me so she goes to the park with me at lunch and I catch up on emails between playing with her. At the office we usually have a custom blend in the office diffuser, we like experimenting with our own scent.
My evening ritual involves a good quick face steam with VITRUVI Tea Tree, Lavender and Geranium oils added to the water. I moisturize and get to bed.
Vitruvi was founded by you and your brother, what is it like collaborating with family?
Sean (my brother and cofounder) and I have always been incredibly close. Vitruvi really wouldn’t be at all where is it now if Sean and I weren’t related. Because of the intrinsic trust, understanding, and shared values we have we can work through company problems, differing opinions and stressful times with a level of honesty and efficiency that I don’t think would be possible if we weren’t related and hadn’t been friends for decades.
How do you source your materials?
All our materials are sourced through a distributor which allows us to triple check the quality, purity, and potency of our oils. We are able to source many certified organic oils and it allows us to work literally around the world. Maintaining the highest level of quality and purity is critical to our company.
Do you have any goals when it comes to sustainability or introducing more environmental initiatives into your company?
Absolutely, as each stage of our growth we will be looking even more critically at how our scale can make a positive impact on the world. In future we will continue to source and use only recycled packaging and would love to implement a bottle recycling program as well as work even more closely with the phenomenal communities the oils are sourced. We have a lot planned in this areas of our business, it really is the most important to us beyond anything else.
What’s next for Vitruvi?
We have had an incredible response from our diffusers and our Essentials collection, a collection of 16 premium single origin essential oils. In terms of product development we will be designing kits that come with blending guides to help you design your own custom products with essential oils at home as well as experimenting with formations.