Will lillypilly and wattleseeds be the new "it" ingredients in skincare?
Li'tya, an Australian body care line that's currently taking its first steps into the U.S. says yes. But these ingredients are anything but new: They've been used by the Aboriginal peoples of Australia as remedies for thousands of years.
Li'tya (pronounced li-dee-yah), which means "of the earth," aims to bring Aboriginal plant knowledge and healing traditions to the spa world. Gayle Heron, Li'tya's founder, started researching native plants in the 1980s, after a challenge from her father, a chemist for a cosmetics company. "The prominent Australian skin care houses were all using European or Asian plant extracts," she remembers. "I wondered why no one made products using the plants from our land. I asked my father to teach me [about formulating] and he said he would if I studied the Australian plants and their properties."
It took over 10 years of research before Heron could start creating products, since there were few scientific studies on native Australian flora. This prompted Heron to reach out to Aboriginal communities, both to involve them in her budding business and to learn more about their healing practices and overall philosophies.
Kakkib li'Dthia, a tribal elder and ondolta (healer), introduced Heron to traditional touch therapies that she then adapted for modern spa usage. Another tribal elder, Anne Warren, now trains spa technicians in Li'tya's massage rituals.
The names of Li'tya's Australian ingredients are often intriguing to an American ear. Lillypilly, for instance, is used in cleansers; the bright pink berries are naturally astringent and high in vitamin C. Oil-rich wattleseeds appear in scrubs while pepperberries heat up a foot cream.
The aromas are also a captivating mix of the familiar and the exotic, like the raspberry-ish scent of wild rosella or lemon myrtle's head-clearing citrus perfume.
Heron works with Indigenous Australian Foods Ltd., an Aboriginal-owned and -run company, to source organically grown ingredients. In keeping with the Aboriginal "tread lightly" spirit, Li'tya's products are not tested on animals and the packaging is as low-impact as possible.
Li'tya's products and treatments are now available through the new Surrey Hotel spa in New York City, which opened in November. Bodycare from the outback might seem like an odd choice for a sleek Madison Avenue spa but this unexpected quality was just what spa director Cheryl Jacobs was looking for.
"Part of our responsibility is to introduce people to new things," she explained. "The Surrey is a mix of old and new. I was looking for a line that was unique and had a focus on overall wellness."
Jacobs was first hooked on Li'tya when she tested the line's three massage oils and sniffed Rejuvenating, a blend with Tasmanian lavender, sandalwood, macadamia and sweet almond oils. During the Surrey's massages, clients likewise smell Li'tya's signature oils and choose among them.
Most of Li'tya's products are available for purchase through the Surrey's spa -- a much faster gratification than ordering from Australia! The Macadamia Facial Hydrating Cream ($58), Wild Rosella Mist ($48) and Lillypilly Facial Cream Cleanser ($48) are currently the most popular picks on both ends of the globe.