Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Essential oils aren't magical!

I know it seems like they may be magical with all their wonderful qualities, but you can treat them as you would other ingredients. For instance, don't measure them in drops. How do you know how much you're using? Measure them by weight like you would any other ingredient. Check the suggested usage rate and use it at that rate. If it says 0.5%, then measure 0.5 grams on the scale, not some number of drops!

You don't want to heat them as they are volatile, meaning they will evaporate in the heat, but you can add them to the cool down phase at 45˚C easily.

They can be irritating and you can have reactions to them. I've had people write to me in complete shock that they would have some kind of reaction to an essential oil. They aren't inert. You can have reactions to the components in essential oils as much as you can have reactions to fragrances and other ingredients. For instance, citrus essential oils can be phototoxic. And the "...the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety identified a total of 54 individual fragrance substances and 28 natural extracts (essential oils) as ‘established contact allergens in humans’" (From this paper...) I'm not saying essential oils aren't lovely and nice and wonderful, but be aware that they can be potential causes of problems, too.

I can't stand earthy essential oils, like patchouli. I can't have them in the workshop, even in bags, and if your soap stand has a strong waft of an earthy EO like sandalwood, I have to go the other way! I really can't stand those fragrances! 

I get asked all the time why I don't use essential oils in my facial products. The long answer is that essential oils can have strong fragrances and I don't like to have the smell of something - anything! even chocolate! - under my nose all day long. There are loads of lovely reasons to use an essential oil in a facial product, but the idea of smelling tea tree all day long keeps me from using it in my face cleanser.

Just a few thoughts for a slightly sunny Tuesday!

Related posts:
Essential oils section of the blog


eva smith said...

Off topic a bit, but why do people think that simply applying oil to the face will stop their skin from over-producing oil? It seems to me if the skin had that ability then no one would have oily skin in the first place. Am I wrong in thinking this way?

Robyn M

Aine said...

Eva, believe it or not, it works. I thought I needed a little extra on my ageing skin so I started applying oil over my moisturiser and my skin became matt. I don't know if my face IS less oily, but it LOOKS less oily.

p said...

To each their own! I have really strong sensitivities to synthetic fragrances -- they make me feel crappy in a general way -- but essential oils are generally fine for me. I even have trouble using containers that come from suppliers who carry fragrance oils, because the plastic lids absorbed the perfumey odors in their warehouse. You'd see me running away from a soaper's booth that smells of fragrance oils!

I also find that most essential oils one would naturally use in skincare are top notes, i.e. they don't stick around scent-wise for very long. Of course there are notable exceptions -- patchouli and sandalwood among them.

I think part of the reason people measure essential oils in drops is that 0.5% of an essential oil can be a TON. 0.5% of patchouli in a lotion? Wow. The scent intensity of essential oils can vary wildly. 0.5% of rose geranium would be really strong, as would ylang ylang, but 0.5% of lavender or sweet orange is totally appropriate. It's easier to titrate the correct amount when you use drops, because the increment is small.

Anna said...

Ooh, I love earthy fragrances! A good thing we´re not all the same I guess :)

Anonymous said...

EOs may not be magical, but they have myriad beneficial qualities. I like to use different combinations, up to 1% total. However, I agree that you do need to measure them out like all your other ingredients. Check usage guidelines and make sure your EOs are compatible with the other ingredients. I'd also recommend the book "Essential Oil Safety - A Guide For Healthcare Professionals" if you want a more definitive guide.

On the topic of scent: Yep, 0.5% is a lot of EOs, and can be overpowering depending on which ones you're using. I wonder how much of an EO do you need to use in order to gain its purported theraputic benefit? Any idea, Susan? Since I'm often shooting for 1% EOs, the scent is usually very strong, but it doesn't last long. Nevertheless, I've dropped it down to 0.5% so I don't choke any of my product testers :P


Me said...

Maybe not magical, but, if used correctly, they can do some amazing things. I have a blend that, so far, has not let me down when I feel a zit coming on ;)
As for scenting, it is completely dependant on safe usage rates, which oils you're using and what product you're using it in. Sometimes I find that even 1% won't cover the soapy smell of foaming bath butter. I think I have finally found a blend that works though.


Tania said...

Hello, just found your blog. Thanks for all the information I've yet to explore! I've started learning how to formulate products. Could you tell me how you measure essential oils as you suggested? How can you measure grams, as they come out in drops from the droppers? If you put them on any other surface you would lose them before you could transfer them - I'm guessing I'm missing something! Also, could you point me to any blog posts you might have in formulating ingredients in percentages? or any posts about costing up products to sell? Thanks, I'm planning to explore your blog much more, and thanks so much for all the information you have put up here!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tania. Please look at the FAQ to see the posts you seek. I don't sell products so I don't have any posts on how to sell or cost your products. How to measure EOs? With a scale? You can get scales that measure smaller amounts. Take off that orifice cap and just pour the oils into the product you're making. It's easy to measure small amounts of something if you have a good scale and a steady hand!

Anonymous said...

Susan, since i read this post on synthetic fragrances sensitivities it might be what i am experiencing on my scalp, what to do change fragrances until find one that does cause sensitivity. My scalp is itchy all the time.

green said...

Hello, I am happy that I found your blog, Susan, so many information to absorb!
I make a body cream which i scent with vanilla, sweet orange and tangerine essential oils. It smells great for the first 3 weeks and then smell changes to not that pleasant. It happens even when I use a natural preservative, so i am wondering what is going on. I though essential oils are stable.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi green. Essential oils are sensitive to heat and light, much like our other ingredients, so they will degrade over time.

Green said...

Thank you Susan,
I think this will not happen if I use synthetic preservative.I am afraid I will have to give up and do it. Which do you think is the safest, I try to keep my creams as natural as possible, but after trying Herbal-Active,supposedly legit.and working well I am disappointed.
I am afraid discussing the use of preservative is off topic but I have been on this quest for almost a year and now I find myself back to the beginning.
Thanks, Green

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Green! Take a look at the preservative section and see what interests you. You will have to make the decision about what fits into your lifestyle and philosophy.