The sound of a flute fills the royal suite of the Four Seasons resort in Dubai, forming a traditional earthy, Indian tune that permeates through the expansive space. "These are rain melodies," Megan Larsen explains. "They help strengthen coherence."
After studying aroma-therapy, natural health care, biochemistry and Ayurveda for six years in both Australia and France, Larsen launched a skincare and wellness brand in Australia in 1999, and called it Sodashi. "I felt a strong connection to the Sanskrit language, and found the perfect name – Sodashi – which means wholeness, purity and radiance – the pillars of our brand philosophy," she tells me during a recent visit to Dubai.
Dressed in a navy blue dress with a blue block-printed floral shawl tied loosely over her shoulders, she outlines the benefits of using essential oils, which are best defined as concentrated liquid aromas sourced directly from plants. "Essential oils are the pure distillation or expression from plants, and are around 70 times more potent than the source, so it's important to use them with great respect," Larsen tells me. "They have many properties, such as balancing, harmonising and uplifting the mind, mood and emotions, so when they are applied to the body, they help to improve our well-being."
She puts on her reading glasses, and starts outlining the healing properties of some of the 96 essential oils that are used in Sodashi products. Sandalwood, for instance, helps to soothe nerves and anxiety, and is more sedating than uplifting. Vetiver helps relieve emotional burnout and exhaustion, patchouli has a grounding and balancing effect, and jasmine can help boost self-confidence.
Blending, she explains, is an art, as essential oils can't all be haphazardly mixed with one another. She has a list describing the properties of each oil, which also details which other oils it will blend well with. To demonstrate how a concoction is made, she starts with a small vial containing one millilitre of pure plant oil as a base. "You can use sweet almond, macadamia or jojoba oil," she says, before adding one to three drops of each chosen essential oil (three in total) to the vial. To blend the mixture, she rolls it between her palms, creating a maraca-like sound as the small bottle hits her silver rings.
Larsen advises that the oil be applied to a person's chest every morning and night. "Some smell quite delicious, and others are more medicinal," she explains, before emphasising that the purpose of essential oils is not to provide an alluring fragrance but, rather, to bring balance and contentment to its wearer in a deeper, more meaningful manner.
Though plant-based oils and serums have experienced a boom in recent years, Larsen warns that the side-effects of this move towards mass-market appeal include the infiltration of synthetic ingredients and chemicals into formulas. "What sets Sodashi apart is that we create natural, anti-ageing and highly effective products. When high-quality plant oils are formulated with pure, natural, high-quality essential oils, they will balance the skin and provide essential nourishment," she says.
One of the brand's best-selling skincare ranges is called Samadara, which is influenced by the principles of Ayurveda. This collection of age-defying treatments includes an eye cream, face cream and elixir. The eye cream comes with two small rose quartz crystals, and Larsen recommends that the cream be applied and massaged into the skin using the crystals, to stimulate the skin's energy. Products from the Samadara range, and other Sodashi lines, are the formulas of choice for luxurious spas around the world – and in the UAE, the brand is used at the spas at Four Seasons and St Regis hotels, as well as the Burj Al Arab.
From studying aromatherapy in the early 1990s, to supplying world-famous spas with her brand's products, Larsen is a success story in the world of natural skincare. And while she may have evolved into a businesswoman over the years, she is still deeply inspired by holistic wellness and spirituality. When I express my personal skincare concerns to her, she writes up a prescription on a piece of paper, in the style of a doctor's note. In addition to recommending oils and Sodashi products to help aid my rosacea, she tells me I should stop eating chilli and garlic, too.
It is clear, by the end of my meeting with her, that the meditation session that Larsen opened with wasn't just a gimmick – it's all part of her genuine beauty-from-within mentality. She explains that she believes strongly in the benefits of Transcendental Meditation, which she practises routinely twice a day. "It is a highly researched meditation technique that has been proven to remove stress from the physiology and improve brain function, and I think it gives you an inner calm," she says. "It's very important for our well-being to have a technique or be disciplined to take the time to switch off and tune out."