Question from a client:
I don’t know if you’ve ever written anything about essential oils and the use of them in skin care products but I was wondering what you thought about this subject? Are they bad or not?
Answer from me:
I haven’t written about essential oils, and have a friend who is an expert on them, so I’ve been trying to get her to write a guest article for my blog….but she has not had the time yet…
Essential oils are often formulated in a base of oils or in alcohol. The alcohol based essential oils are absolutely never to be used on the skin because alcohol will break down the skin’s natural (and vitally important) lipid barrier. The oil based essential oils are better, but it depends on the type and quality of oil the manufacturer uses. As with everything, price and quality normally go together. Some thick oils with natural impurities can be exceptionally bad for many skin types and may even aid in clogging pores and producing pimples. It does not matter how ‘organic’ they say it is, the quality of the oil and the production process matters when you are considering putting it on the skin.
The quantity of the essential oil in the formula can vary from 1 manufacturer to another. Too much of anything is bad for the skin. Anyone can uniquely react to any quantity (but usually higher quantity) of essential oils. The most soothing EO’s will be chamomile and lavender type EO’s (some Sensitive Skin Clinic products contain a small amount of lavender), and the worst for all skin types (and absolutely never to be used on sensitive skin) are the menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus, citrus type EO’s. A stinging/active essential oil does not mean ‘it’s working’….it just means ‘it’s irritating the hell out of the skin’…. This all forms part of what I call the 12 Worst Things For Your Skin.
The premise is that EO molecules are small enough to penetrate the skin and therefore deliver important benefits and results….but that is not entirely true. To penetrate the skin, the molecule must be lipid soluble, must be able to pass through the natural lipid barrier of the skin, and must be in the form that is bio-available to the cells. For example, carrot extract may be high in Beta Carotene, and this may be able to be converted into Vit A in the skin, but it is quite a process it goes through to become a form of retinoid that is bio-available to the cell. As with all chemistry, and particularly organic chemistry as it relates to the human body, it is the size, shape, compatibility, and bio availability of a molecule that matters to each cell. The cell will not absorb anything it does not need nor is compatible with it. Your EO could deliver zero results.
There’s no end to the marketing hype about essential oils – and it is all designed to make money for someone rather than deliver results.