UNDERSTANDING ESSENTIAL OILS
With the rise in popularity of ‘natural’ skincare and haircare products, essential oils have entered the limelight. But with this new-found fame, there are a lot of doubts regarding their safety, their effectiveness, and whether they are useful at all.
So let us take a deep dive into the world of essential oils and see what is what.
WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS?
Essential oils capture the essence of a plant - in terms of its effects, flavour, and scent. Depending on the type of plant, an essential oil can be extracted from the stems, leaves, buds, and flowers. They are highly volatile substances and require special care. It is also important to remember that essential oils are highly concentrated substances.
Essential oils, today, are used in skincare, haircare, and bodycare products. They are also extensively used in Aromatherapy. We will discuss the latter in a bit more detail at some other time.
HOW EOS ARE EXTRACTED
Essential oils are extracted from plant parts using processes such as steam distillation, hydro distillation, and cold pressing among others. Given the essential oils’ delicate nature, the extraction processes ensure the finished product is stable and sterile and does not spoil easily.
At Juicy Chemistry, we use essential oils that have been extracted using steam distillation.
Steam distillation is a commonly used method for the extraction of essential oils. In this, water is boiled and turns to steam, which then passes through the plant parts and vaporises the volatile substances. This steam is then passed through a coil and is condensed. This condensed matter consists of water and the essential oil.
The manufacturing process and how it is performed plays a very vital role in the purity and sterility of the essential oil. You can read more about preservatives and our stance on them on our blog here.
With regard to essential oils, the quality is really important. As a consumer, you need to opt for pure unadulterated essential oils to extract the maximum benefit from them. To find high quality essential oils, be on the lookout for certifications and reach out the brand you are considering buying from. Communication is everything!
THEIR CORE COMPONENTS
Essential oils consist of numerous compounds such as phenols, terpenes, flavanols, tannins and more. Each of these compounds determine certain properties of the essential oil in question. Whether it is a certain scent, or any the oil’s anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, or soothing properties,
Phenols are a type of aromatic organic compounds found in essential oils. Compounds such as Tannins, Flavonoids, and Flavonols are types of polyphenols. Tannins are commonly found in certain herbs and plants and are known for their astringent properties while Flavonoids and Flavonols are known for their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. These also exhibit antioxidant properties and help neutralise the effects of free radicals.
Terpenes are a substantial component of essential oils in general. They, in a large part, contribute largely to the aromatic properties of the essential oil in question. Like Phenols, Terpenes also possess antifungal and antioxidant properties. There are different types of terpenes.
Citrus oils tend to have a majority of monoterpenes. This class of terpenes have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties. If you look at the ingredients list of certain perfumes and beauty products you may notice ingredients such as Linalool, Citral, Citronellal, and Limonene. These are all monoterpenes.
Sesquiterpenes are found in a majority of essential oils such as Lavender, Cedarwood, and Frankincense oils. They are also less volatile than monoterpenes. In contrast to their zingy and fresh-smelling monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes are known for their soothing and relaxing aroma.
THE CONFUSION AROUND EOS
Essential oils are often at the heart of controversy given their volatile nature and their complex composition. We rightly believe that their use should be highly regulated and should be done carefully and cautiously. It is true that certain ingredients can sometimes be sensitising and someone with sensitive skin may find that products containing essential oils are not the best fit for them. This can hold true for a vast variety of synthetic ingredients as well.
While we agree and recommend caution with essential oils, we strongly disagree with the school of thought that labels ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ ingredients to either be harmful or ineffective. With essential oils, there are a wide variety of safety rules, regulations, and guidelines available that we strictly adhere to, at Juicy Chemistry.
Many research articles back the fact that essential oils are actually beneficial for the skin, but it is the dosage of the oils used in a product formulation that is extremely important to understand.
So what is the right amount of essential oils that should be in your products? This brings us back to dermal limits. A dermal limit is the maximum permissible percentage of an essential oil that can be used in a product. This limit varies from oil to oil, product to product (it is different for leave-on and rinse-off products). As per the guidelines by the International Fragrance Association or IFRA, essential oils must be used in low dilutions in skincare and should not form more than 5% of the product. While this is the maximum limit, you will find that 0.1 to 3% is a common range of dilution.
Whenever you are purchasing a product that contains essential oils, be sure to always ask the brand about the percentage of essential oils or any other ingredient that you feel may react with your skin. Make informed purchasing decisions!
At Juicy Chemistry, all essential oils are used judiciously within their dermal limits. For instance, if a product has 4 essential oils then collectively they'll form the percentage of the dermal limit and not individually.
ARE ESSENTIAL OILS POTENTIAL IRRITANTS OR ALLERGENS?
Given the complex nature of essential oils, it is possible that certain components of an oil might irritate your skin, However, this all largely depends on the oil being used and its dosage.
The level of allergens and sensitizers vary from oil to oil and have a dermal limit of their own. This helps ensure that the product formulation does not become too concentrated. For instance, Geraniol found in oils such as that of Geranium has a dermal limit of 2.8% for the face and 5.3% for the body. (this percentage is given with respect to the compound, and not the final percentage of the essential oil in the product). For example, in our Saffron & Red Raspberry day oil the percentage is 0.068 which is well under the allowed dermal limit.
There are a total 26 different allergens and sensitizers that have been identified by IFRA and 16 of which are found in essential oils and the dermal limits of each allergen is also well laid out with clear calculation techniques which need to be adhered to to remain under IFRA’s permissible limits, depending on the products end of being a leave on or a rinse off product.
So how do we ensure that the allergens are well within their limits?
We follow IFRA standards to calculate the % of allergens in our final products and compare it with their permissible limit. We follow a series of calculations to determine the same.
Are essential oils beneficial for the skin when used with care and caution? Yes! Essential oils are proven to lend many therapeutic and skincare benefits when used topically. There are many researches and studies that prove the benefits of essential oils in topical skincare products.
With regard to essential oils - particularly citrus ones such as Lime, Lemon, and Grapefruit essential oils - there is concern regarding their phototoxicity. What happens is that certain compounds - called furanocoumarins - in these oils absorb UV light more effectively than the skin and then cause a reaction. The phototoxicity of an oil depends on the method of its extraction. Essential oils extracted using steam distillation are not phototoxic while cold-pressed ones are.
USING ESSENTIAL OILS
Essential oils are highly versatile and can be used in a wide variety of products and formulations. You can also mix essential oils with carrier oils by yourself and create your own oil blend.
HOW TO USE EOS ON YOUR OWN
One thing you need to be very mindful of with essential oils is that you should never use them on their own! Never apply an essential oil directly to your skin, it could cause irritation, burns, and inflammation. Instead, what you should do is that you should mix a plant oil - also known as a carrier oil (it carries the essential oil) and then use it. Examples of carrier oils are:
2. Jojoba oil
3. Avocado oil
4. Olive oil
5. Apricot oil
6. Almond oil
When mixing oils on your own, we would advise you to follow IFRA guidelines and standards as well. Do not add to much of an essential oil.
We would also not recommend ingesting essential oils and advise you to store them in a cool, dark, and dry place. Given their volatile nature, we store our oils in dark amber glass bottles and would advise you to take similar precautions.
Before applying a product containing essential oils or a mixture you have created yourself on your face or scalp, always do a patch test. One never knows what they might be sensitive to so it is always best to be safe than sorry. It might happen that you might be allergic to certain plant oils or essential oils.
Here is how you should do a patch test:
1. Add a small amount of carrier oil/product/mixture to the inside of your wrist or just below your ear.
2. Cover this with a bandage.
3. Check back on the area after 24 hours.
4. If irritation occurs, rinse thoroughly, and avoid future use.
At Juicy Chemistry we are extremely particular about our formulations, percentages, and follow safety guidelines and standards to the tee. Our essential oils are sourced from certified organic farms and are in their purest and most unadulterated form. We recommend using essential oils (and any other JC product) you have well within its shelf life. Once the product has been opened, we advise using the product within 6 months of opening.
We do extensive research to make sure our products are effective and safe for use.
Our products are dermatologically tested for safety and irritation as well.
While our formulations and ingredients are non-toxic and safe, we do advise expecting and breast-feeding mothers to consult their dermatologist before using any product that contains essential oils. If you have sensitive skin, it is recommended to avoid using products that contain essential oils as well. Keeping in mind how some people may be unable to use products that contain essential oils or are unwilling to do so, we are happy to announce that we are coming out with a line that is essential oils-free as well!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR EOS
Here are a few doubts a lot many people have about our products and these are inextricably linked to the presence of essential oils.
The smell of my product changes over time
With products such as soaps, you may find that the smell of the product changes over time. This does not mean that the product has gone bad. Since we do not use any artificial fragrances in our products, their smell is a result of their ingredients - butters, plant oils, herb extracts, and essential oils. Given the volatile nature of essential oils, their smell tends to change or reduce over time. This is completely normal.
How do you know if an essential oil has gone bad
Essential oils break down on exposure to oxygen or UV rays. That is why we keep them in amber glass bottles. When an essential oil spoils, you will notice a change in its smell, consistency and colour. If you notice any radical changes, dispose of the oil immediately.
At Juicy Chemistry, we feel it is our responsibility to educate and sensitise our JC family as to the importance of the ingredients we use. While essential oils have become a subject of controversy, we are of the opinion that essential oils are highly effective yet delicate compounds and need to be treated with care and caution. If you have any doubts regarding our products, formulations, and ingredients, do write to us or reach out to us on social media!