Our latest Wonderful Older Woman working in the wellbeing industry was largely responsible for popularising aromatherapy in the UK. She shares her beauty and business tips with Jo Fairley
Geraldine Howard (and her Aromatherapy Associates business partner Sue Beechey) truly popularised aromatherapy in the UK. She first qualified in massage, then studied with the legendary Micheline Arcier, one of the therapy’s pioneers.
“When Micheline trained me, she was in her early seventies,” says Geraldine. “I looked at her skin and thought: ‘I want my skin to be like that when I am her age’.”
Geraldine and Sue founded AA (the other AA, that is) in 1985. They were the ssshhh-don’t-tell, super-discreet aromatherapists who treated Diana, Princess of Wales (though Geraldine never would tell…).
I have personally known Geraldine and been slavishly devoted to her peerless oils for more than 20 years. Relax Deep Bath & Shower Oil is my number one desert island castaway product (notwithstanding the fact that a desert island might be pretty relaxing in itself).
“Essential oils make you feel better, mentally, physically and emotionally,” she says. “They are great for the skin, and offer all-round wellbeing.” I couldn’t put it better myself.
Her business is going from strength to strength. A recent innovation was the collaboration with Roland Mouret on the Final Finish Body Serum, just perfect for showing off sleek limbs.
She’s a true Wonderful Older Woman, and still jets between the many spas around the world that stock her range (more than 35 countries, and counting). She stays balanced through the use of the essential oils she so passionately believes in. So here, then, are her wondrous secrets.
As you grow older, what’s important for you, health and beauty wise?
Layering products (serum, oil, cream, mask) to keep my skin in top condition. It makes such a huge difference. Sleep and exercise are more impactful the older I get. I really believe both are vital for both my body and my mind. In terms of exercise, I do both swimming and walking. They’re crucial to help keep me in shape and give me that vital extra energy. Plus regular massage with essential oils.
What’s your skincare regime?
I tweak my regime depending on the environment and, being honest, just what I see when I look in the mirror! In summer months, I generally use lighter-weight products. But if I’m tired or have been working really hard, I may use a light enzyme peel followed by a good overnight mask.
I always cleanse well every night and follow with a serum, facial oil and moisturiser. I always exfoliate and use a mask at least once a week, and leave to absorb overnight. I also often double-layer masks, using a hydrating gel under the Overnight Repair Mask, or a really rich oil under the mask. I find that my skin needs a regular treat to give it a boost.
What are your ‘golden rules’?
Always use a facial oil.
How old are you now and how do you feel about that?
Just 60! Ageing has never bothered me before, but I think that your perspective changes a little at 60 and you realise you really do need to make the most of every day.
What would the Geraldine Howard of today tell her 20-year-old self?
Not to stress so much!
What are the five skincare or make-up products you can’t live without?
• Aromatherapy Associates Overnight Repair Mask, £48.50 for 50ml
• Aromatherapy Associates Fine Line Face Oil, £43.50 for 15ml
• AA Soothing Cleansing Balm, £34.50 for £100ml
• Chanel mascara
• Chanel lipsticks
How do you cope physically with jet-lag and what’s in your inflight kit?
My oils help hugely. I use our Revive Morning and Deep Relax, to either wake me up or help me sleep. And frankincense, to help focus my mind when I need to present at, or attend, a big meeting. I always go for a swim if I can as soon as I arrive in another country: it gets my body moving again and helps put my mind in a good place, too.
And I have a ritual on my first night in a hotel after a long-haul flight: I soak in Deep Relax Bath & Shower Oil and while I’m in it, I have the Rose Hydrating Mask on, over a layer of Intensive Skin Tissue Oil, which is rich in wheatgerm. It gets my skin back into condition quickly.
What wisdom have you gained over the years?
I think the wisdom I have gained is mainly from other people and my experiences growing my business. But I do also believe in meditation, and my personal spiritual beliefs have been essential to my way of life since my early twenties.
Did you have positive older role models when you were growing up and what did you learn from them?
My mother was the main one. She never said a harsh word about anyone, and everyone loved her. She was also a physical inspiration; she was still playing tennis way into her eighties and still swimming in her nineties.
What’s the one thing that would make your life better or easier now?