Written by Payal Thaker
Essential oils are very potent, which is why dilution and contraindication rules are part of genuine use of essential oils in aromatherapy, as well as skin care formulations. Essential oils are not just for scent, they most certainly have active properties to heal the Body and Mind.
Any uneducated use, like not knowing safe dosage, application, condition, etc…can cause problems just like any other natural or synthetic ingredient.
Are Essential Oils needed in Skin Care products? Are Essential Oils bad for skin?
I have experienced these attacks and accusations before just like any other green beauty business owner must have in their careers…
Firstly, to understand this topic let’s realize one thing very clearly – Anything that is delicate, pure, and has value in this world eventually gets taken advantage of. When there is a demand for something, an adulterated version will always come along. Whether it’s honey, spices, nut and seed oils, or any essential oil.
I have seen a huge amount of misinformation regarding essential oils circulating on social media by bloggers/influencers. At first I wondered who is disseminating the “anti-essential oil message”? Which group of wealthy beauty brand investors are spreading this message via a persistent semi-hidden message that would sway customers away from small businesses by making them look dirty, unscientific, or not trustworthy?
In short, if you are a fan of those flour white, bleached, colorless, scentless skin care products, then good for you. But if you’re drawn towards plants, the gorgeous colors of flowers and leaves, the unique fragrance of each extract that comes from mother earth, then you must know essential oils play a huge part in curing and healing your skin. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. There are many people that need the therapeutic, medicinal, and beauty benefits of essential oils. These oils are powerful and medicinal, but can also be used wrong, or adulterated, and be harmful.
Many brands promote their products for marketing purposes by stating “formulated without essential oils”, or they say “we do not use essential oils because they are toxic”… this is 100% absolutely wrong and horribly misleading!
Essential oils contain a vast array of healing and skin-supporting benefits and are known for its amazing antioxidant properties. They must be used at specific concentrations, they must be 100% Pure, Organic, unadulterated and most importantly, must not be past their shelf life. This is exactly where many brands and products go wrong, and Essential oils are wrongly blamed.
When EO’s are used in a much higher concentration, they can cause skin sensitization. Or if they are impure, they can also be bad for your skin, because you have no idea what it has been diluted with! These kinds of adulterated Essential Oils are NOT Essential Oils in the first place.
Do some Essential Oils contain potential allergens?
But are they sensitizing to all of us? No, Absolutely Not! Most EO’s are not sensitizing to all people when used properly in the right proportion. In fact, most people have no issue with pure organic and unadulterated EO’s, they adapt really well to them and enjoy their anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and many other therapeutic properties for most skin concerns like acne, large pores and dull skin.
The allergen molecules of Essential oils that trigger some people are also the molecules that deliver extraordinary benefits to most people. Essential oils may not be for everyone, but tell me which ingredient in this world is for everyone? Water? But even that can be contaminated and harmful.
Many Americans are allergic to Gluten, but India on the other hand lives on Gluten. Every house in India, whether rich or poor, will have meals prepped with rotis or other forms of gluten foods. So does that make Rotis toxic for all? Think about it. 🙂
And for me personally, I’ve figured out that Animal fat, which I used to get from eating too much Dairy, especially Ghee, gives me CRAZY breakouts. So does that mean that everyone in the world should avoid Dairy? No!
And yes, there are TONS of essential oils, and there are many which can be dangerous when used during pregnancy, this mainly applies to the EO’s when consumed internally or used neat.
Essential Oils are the “Essential” part of the whole plant, they contain important essence, medicine, the gist and the synergy of the plant, which makes them beneficial and powerful, and remember the main difference between TOXIN and MEDICINE is….DOSAGE. 🙂
Everything at the end comes down to the Quality and the Formulation of the product. This is also why homemade skin care products should be avoided as most homemade skin care products are not tested for stability, not ph balanced, not precisely formulated, there’s no technical data to support the quality of ingredients…and so on.
In my opinion, it is important that any skin care formulated with EOs be done with formulators who are professionally trained. If the amounts used are too high, EOs can become harmful. But used in an appropriate concentration, at the right time, on the right person, can be the perfect fit. The tricky part is how much is the right amount for any given individual? The right amount for one person can be harmful to another. This requires professional training and experience to know. I have no problem with people who aren’t professionally trained in EO’s making products for themselves, family etc… But once you get into the world of making skin care for other people, you and your team of formulators need to know what you’re doing to make sure everyone using your products are safe and can benefit from them.
Thoughts on Essential Oils in Skin Care – here are a few highlights from Hope Gillerman:
“First, the more diluted an essential oil product is, the safer it is to use. Skin Care products use very small amounts of essential oils, so there’s much less likelihood of a reaction. Jasmine Absolute, for example, is a possible skin irritant at a level of more than 0.7%. While this amount may sound like nothing, Jasmine has such an intense strong scent, and high cost, that it’s unlikely to be used anywhere near that percentage in a skin care preparation. On the other hand, it might be used in a much higher concentration in a “natural perfume”.
Second, the closer essential oils get to your face, the more they will affect your health and well-being.
Essential oils evaporate into invisible vapors as soon as they are exposed to air. When you apply it to your face, you breathe in the essential oil vapors, and then your body absorbs these vapors very effectively and quickly into your brain and lungs. Not only can inhaling an essential oil change your mood and lower your anxiety level, it can also lower the cortisol in your bloodstream. If you think of how stress and hormonal changes have such a powerful effect on our skin, how perfect is it that we have built-in stress reducers (like neroli and sandalwood for sensitive skin) and calming anti-inflammatory ones (like geranium, blue-tansy and clary sage for breakouts and aging skin) in our skin care regime. My skin would still be covered in a rash every September if it weren’t for the essential oils in my face oil.
In addition to healing scar tissue, essential oils have also been proven to have sun-blocking and wrinkle-reducing effects. With all the positive research around the use of pure, unadulterated essential oils, it’s really unfortunate how brands that choose not to use EO’s are influencing people and the negativity in the market surrounding truly incredible, therapeutic botanicals. I urge everyone to do proper research on brands and products that claim to use essential oils because when they are pure, fresh, unadulterated and formulated professionally, they can be incredibly effective for so many skin issues and slowing skin aging and decline.”
Some helpful references that I always keep handy:
Aruoma O.I. Free radicals, oxidative stress, and antioxidants in human health and disease. J. Am. Oil Chem. Soc. 1998;75:199–212. doi: 10.1007/s11746-998-0032-9.