Vanessa Gray is the founder and director of her own luxury, organic and eco-friendly skincare company ‘Vanessa Megan’. Her philosophy is “you should never put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat” so naturally we were drawn to her to be our ‘delicious woman’ of October.
Starting out in her own kitchen in 2009, Vanessa made natural skin care products for friends and family. Word grew quickly and within 9 months, her range was being sold all over Australia. Read on to find out how she did it.
VANESSA’S GORGEOUS BUSINESS
Tell us about your journey. How did you go from being an actress and a model to creating your own business?
After modelling for a number of years I went through a bit of a crisis when I was 22. I was freaking out about what I was going to do with my life so I started acting and eventually got into NIDA. I absolutely loved acting but all through my time at NIDA I was always really into essential oils, herbs and herbal teas for people suffering from different ailments from pimples to migraines. I was kind of like the witch doctor.
Not long after I graduated from NIDA I was speaking to a friend who told me, “you should never put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat” and that just made so much sense to me, it was my light bulb moment.
The day after that I went out to find a skin care range with no chemicals in it and there was nothing. So, I started researching and developing this love for biochemistry. Then I began creating my own products for friends and family which they absolutely loved and it just evolved from there. That was in 2001.
When I began branding the products, I decided to call the business Vanessa Megan because when I was going through hard times my dad called me his “strong butterfly” because Vanessa means butterfly and my middle name, Megan, means strong and I really loved that concept and the whole metamorphous of the butterfly and doing that naturally with our skin.
Then in 2008 I started a stall at the Bondi Markets with nine products and two weeks later someone came up to my stall who was on their phone saying “yeah yeah i’m here what do you want” and it was like oh my god, I got a request! Then when word grew and I got into a couple shops and a couple more until eventually I couldn’t sustain it in my apartment so I got a warehouse in Marrickville where we still make everything onsite.
And now, over 10 years later, I get up every morning and I do what I love. That’s something my parents always said to me: do what you love and it won’t be a job, if you’re doing something that you love then money will follow.
In New South Wales alone our products are sold in About Life, Natural Progression Nutrition and Health, Dr Earth, Yoganic Pregnancy Yoga Studio, Body Mind Life, Go Vita, Iku, Mr Vitamin, Healthlands Leichardt, House of Yoga, Spell and Sydney Nourished Life Showroom.
[For Vanessa Megan’s full retail and online stocklists around Australia head to her website where you can find the perfect product for your skin ranging roughly from $10-$150]
You’re philosophy and inspiration continues to be “you should never put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat” tell us about that and how you apply it to your products?
First of all, we source the best quality ingredients and get everything tested and if it doesn’t pass we send it back. Plus, we now have our Australian Certified Organic [ACO] accreditation which has been three years in the making!
All ingredients are plant based and from a natural source because I really believe that we can get great skin from the earth, I mean, what person have you seen using a generic anti-wrinkle cream that has given them that ‘magical’ transformation that everyone wants?
We still make everything by hand and don’t use alcohol in any of our products, which is often used as an anti-fungal and anti-mould agent but it dries your skin out so we’ve found this fantastic preservative which is a radish root extract. We’ve also got this new anti-ageing ingredient from a flower bulb as well as many other amazing skin loving extracts from natural sources which no else is using.
What is a typical work day for you?
Every day is different- I get into work at about 7:30am, do a little work out with my neighbour every third day, meditate before my staff arrive to get me ready for the day and then start working at 9am, going through till about 6pm, sometimes later. During the day it’s a mish mash of everything which is hard but I have a beautiful team behind me that helps me.
I used to be work work work, working on weekends, nights, everything, because there was such an expansion in the business that I really needed to give my all. The business is my baby so I needed to give it all my attention but I’m much better now at having that work/life balance.
For others out there wanting to start their own business, what is your advice?
Starting a business; if you’re going to be taken seriously you need to get your foundations laid down straight. Take your business seriously and take yourself seriously and whatever your strength is, stay there and whatever your weakness is be honest with yourself and get others to do it for you.
Also, have a great relationship with your bank, your accountant and lawyer, it makes life so much easier if you have that trust in them.
What are the benefits of using organic, chemical-free products on your skin? Tell us about the differences you can see and feel?
From the feedback we get, the results are almost instant. The fact that you’re putting completely natural products on your skin makes such a difference to how it looks and feels. It’s like the difference between drinking a can of coke and a green smoothie, you can really feel it.
I think in 5 to 10 years time, we’ll look back on the products we used to use and say “can you believe we put these chemicals on our skin?!”
Also, when people use organic, chemical-free products they don’t wear as much make up as your skin has already got that glow. Our NEO face oil is our biggest seller, made up of argan oil, sea buck oil and pumpkin seed, because it instantly gives you this gorgeous, natural glow. Personally it’s all I wear in summer.
How important is it for your health and your skin to use products free from chemicals?
Its really important.
Parabens and Polyethylene Glycols [PEG] which are in nearly all skin products are being linked to breast cancer. When you think about the amount that’s in most deodorants that you put on every single day in an area that’s part of the lining of your breast tissue, it really rings true that these chemicals are being ingested by your skin.
Other harmful ingredients include mineral oils, which are the second biggest ageing agent, number one is the sun, and they’re in 90% of skin care. They’re actually a petrochemical and also come under the name of “liquid paraffin”. They don’t allow anything good to be absorbed into your skin and they block anything bad from getting out- they’re stopping your body’s major organ from breathing.
The top 4 ingredients we say to watch out for that are mineral oils, Sodium laurel sulphates [SLS’s], parabens and PEGs.
What is your daily ‘skin routine’?
I always cleanse and wash my face at the end of the day. In Summer I only use our Petitgrain Cleanser and the NEO oil and then in Winter when the atmosphere is much dryer, I use our rose and chamomile cream or the marine collagen anti-ageing cream . I’ve also just begun using our new serum ‘Resurrect’ for extra hydration and anti-ageing benefits but that’s it – I’m a simple girl.
What is your best kept beauty secret?
There are a few beauty tips straight from your fridge which I would never even try to replicate.
One of my favourites is a face mask I make out of Greek yoghurt and turmeric. Just mix the two together, apply to dry skin, wash it off after 10-20 minutes and all the redness in the skin is gone. It’s especially great for thread veins, redness and spots, even my pigmentation goes down when I use it, it’s unbelievable! Whenever I do one every asks me what I have done to my skin!
[See this month’s DIY beauty mask recipe we were inspired to create for you]
How do you nourish your body from the inside to keep yourself looking gorgeous on the outside? Can you see the difference that eating organic, nourishing, wholefoods has on your skin, eyes, hair and nails?
I have always been a really healthy eater, in portion size and as well as with what I eat. Luckily I’m much more of a savoury person because I do notice if I do have chocolate i’ll get a pimple, it sounds silly but what I eat really effects my skin.
I eat a lot of “skin loving” quinoa salad…I have a quinoa salad recipe and it has become very famous in my circle of friends. Everywhere we go they ask if I can make some quinoa salad and even though I have shown my friends how to make it three times they say theirs never tastes the same as mine!
Vanessa’s ‘famous’ quinoa salad|
What you need
1 ½ metric cups of quinoa
3 metric cups water
1 bunch Gai-lan
3 spring onions
2 cloves purple garlic
salt & pepper
For the dressing:
- Juice the lemons, removing pips and pour into an empty jar.
- Add equal portions of olive oil.
- Crush garlic cloves into the dressing.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the quinoa & water into a saucepan, bring to the boil.
- Turn down to low heat and put the lid on the saucepan. Cover until water has evaporated and the germ has popped out of the quinoa.
- Take off heat. Cool. [Alternatively you can soak the quinoa grain overnight, instead of cooking it]
- Chop Gai-lan, like you would cabbage for a coleslaw and put in a large bowl.
- Peel and slice carrots thinly, add to bowl.
- Chop spring onion using white & green parts, add to bowl.
- Fluff the quinoa with a fork.
- Add quinoa to the other ingredients and pour dressing over the top.
Describe your day on a plate for us:
Im not a big morning eater. I’ll get up, do my meditation, have a cup of black tea with honey and milk and then i’ll have yoghurt with a piece of fruit, rice bran and some nuts and dates.
For lunch, I’ll generally have some sort of ham and salad roll or sandwich and an apple.
For snacks, we have little healthy nibbles at the office like pepita slice.
At night, dinner is a super rich green leafy meal with some kind of organic meat like a slow roast chook. I’m big on organic meat and eggs. Some nights if i’m on my own i’ll just have scrambled eggs with some quinoa! Easy, nourishing and tastes delicious.
I grew up on a farm so when I cook it’s very rustic. There’s nothing cavier about my cooking.
What are your top three ‘cant’ live without’ ingredients when you cook?
- Miso paste- this is my new ‘stock’. I’ve just started making slow roast lamb shoulder using brown rice miso paste instead of stock, mixed with balsamic, vinegar, coconut sugar which I pour over the lamb with some lemon and rosemary. It’s AMAZING.
What is happiness to you?
Happiness to me keeps evolving. Being a new learner of meditation, happiness to me at the moment is being in a space of ‘no thought’ and having space around you to breath.
In meditation there’s a place I go to where I’m just in pure joy and that’s happiness. When there’s no thought, I’m in bliss.
What is the best advice you have ever been given and how do you live it?
Mum and dad have always said “follow you heart” which has really stuck with me. “Follow your heart and everything else with follow, follow your dreams, trust your intuition.” I feel really blessed I have such a supportive family.
What is your personal Monday morning mantra? What gets you out of bed?
I’m more visual. I use visualisation to project where I want to be. The power of the mind is so great; if you visualise what you want from the day ahead and put it out there into the universe, it will come to you. I do this in all areas of my life. I see myself as happy and I don’t know quite how I’ll get there but I know I will happen somehow.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future personally and for Vanessa Megan?
For the business, it’s on the cusp of turning into a new era. It’s really exciting what we’ve done with our certified organic facelift!
And personally, I would love a family. I’d also love my own hobby farm with a big house and a veranda that goes all the way around and big veggie patch!
If you’re not already a fan of Vanessa’s products, then unlock the beauty for your self at Vanessa Megan website like her on facebook at or you can book tickets to one of ‘about life’s’ healthy skin evenings where Vanessa will take you through a DIY facial, advise on which products will suit your specific skin needs and talk about skin healthy foods [or as we call them, beautifoods], with tips on how to include them in your diet. For more details and to book tickets, head to About Life.