Essential Oils and Botanicals
What are Essential Oils? You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz lately about essential oils. After all, products with botanical and natural ingredients are increasing astronomically. In fact, studies indicate that, “nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States report taking an herbal product.” But what exactly are essential oils? They are made by distilling plant materials so that the oil components are separated from the water components. And each essential oil is made of over 100 different constituents. Essential oils and botanical ingredients have been used since ancient times around the world. Some of the earliest recorded use of essential oils comes from China and Egypt where they were used to treat maladies or in healing rituals. In the early 19th century, chemists started evaluating the chemical components of essential oils and other botanical remedies and modified them to create medical treatments. Today, they are primarily known for use in aromatherapy, but you can find these oils in lotions, cleansers, shampoos, detergents, perfumes, deodorants, lip balms, and more. You’ll even see them in products used to treat ailments in the anogenital region, where skin is highly sensitive. The popularity of essential oils is rising because consumers are starting to realize the positive effects they can have on their health. In fact, reporting from the National Cancer Institute indicates that, “laboratory studies and animal studies have shown that certain essential oils have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, calming, or energizing effects.”
Do Essential Oils Work?This is the big question. Historical claims are strong, but western scientific proof is just starting to trickle in. Some claims are backed up by modern scientific evidence, but others are not. Concentrations, ingredients and preparation all come into play. Often times, it’s tricky to make any scientifically-based conclusions. The historical benefits cited for most botanical ingredients include:
- Relief for strained muscles;
- Gas relief;
- Headaches; and
- Other maladies.
- Skin Irritation
- Allergic Contact Dermatitis
- Systemic Allergic Reaction
- Phototoxic Dermatitis
What Botanical Ingredients Are Most Likely to Cause a Skin Allergy?
As you can see, there are numerous reactions to be aware of when using essential and botanical oils. When conducting your research on various products, here are a few ingredients to note as they are more likely to cause skin allergies:
- Tea Tree Oil
- Peppermint Oil
- Lemongrass Oil
- Rosemary Oil
Do You Have an Allergy to Botanical Ingredients?Your personal care products contain many other potential allergens such as preservatives, dyes, fragrance, sunscreens, and other botanical extracts. When you suspect you might be allergic to a product, do a repeat open-application test (ROAT). Here, you rub the product on your forearm twice a day for a week to see if a rash occurs. I don’t recommend doing this with pure essential oil as it is too strong and you may actually cause a rash! Also note that you cannot trust a label on essential oils if it reads “natural.” After all, regulation and standardization of how the essential oils are made is difficult. Research indicates that, “essential oils are challenging to standardize because of the variable growing conditions, genetics, and harvesting of botanicals.” Marketers are also clever and can label a product as “natural” or “organic” to trick you into thinking the product is safe and natural. Green washing is common.
The Bottom Line on Botanical Ingredients and Essential OilsWhen it comes to using these products:
- Choose wisely, limit overall exposure and use them at your own risk.
- Apply low concentrations and apply only to areas that you desire to treat.
- For aromatherapy or fragrance, don’t apply directly to your skin. Apply to fabric or hair.
- Don’t use essential oils alone unless you are treating something like a bug bite with tea tree oil.
- Dilute essential oils with water or with carrier oils (olive or jojoba). Otherwise, there is a higher risk of allergy or irritation.
- Naturally Best Bar Soap. I keep all my sinks and showers stocked with this.
- 100% Natural Shower Gel. There’s an option with peppermint for those who desire fragrance in their skin care. Peppermint oil is added in low concentration to minimize allergy.
- Natural Foaming Hand Soap, with or without lavender essence.
- Naturally Hydrating Pore Minimizing Toner. This is for people with oily skin, clogged pores, or who wear products that are extra hard to remove.
- Green Tea Antioxidant Therapy.
- Vitamin C Anti-Wrinkle Cream.
- Instantly Luminous Serum.
- Retinol Night Cream (benefits both acne and anti-aging skin issues).
- Suntegrity 5 in 1 BB Cream
- Suntegrity Baby SPF (for sensitive skin and the entire family)
- Raw Elements Untinted Tin
- Raw Elements Lip Sunscreen
- Suntegrity SPF Lip Stick