Fragrance is a standard ingredient in most skin care and, with the ever growing popularity of natural, organic products, it is likely that natural fragrance from pure essential (aromatherapy) oils is the fragrance of choice. Most natural product producers avoid synthetic fragrances, however even though they are natural, one must be careful about which aromatherapy oils are going to be applied to the skin.
Aromatherapy oils, especially organic, can be very beneficial in terms of their positive action on the skin and their ability to promote a sense of psychological well-being. However most aromatherapy oils can be irritating, even chamomile or lavender, especially to sensitive skin types. That being said, we should not expect that every essential oil is going to be a skin irritant just because it is an essential oil – but we should have a healthy awareness.
Even in today’s natural product market we need to be aware that there are many ‘natural’ products containing highly irritating essential oils and the potential for such irritation is hardly likely to be advertised, particularly if the irritation is not physically apparent. Peppermint is an example of this.
This aromatherapy oil actually triggers an immune system response in the form of a deep inflammation reaction. Even though it feels like peppermint is soothing, it is not. One obvious side effect of peppermint in lip balms is that the user feels they need to continually re-apply in order to get relief from the ‘dryness’. It is a dependency cycle of which most consumers of peppermint flavored lip balms are not aware. Another example is with an aromatherapy oil that smells so wonderful, the very thought that it could be irritating is hard to believe. Yet one such oil comes to mind – Peru Balsam. With its alluring vanilla-like aroma, it is in fact a known strong skin irritant and should be avoided, especially for those with sensitive skin.
How does one know which essential oils are okay and which should never be applied to the body? Surely one shouldn’t have to be an actual aromatherapist to enjoy the wonderful benefits of aromatherapy! Thankfully, in the majority of cases, appropriate aromatherapy oils are used in the right quantity so that the aromatic benefits far outweigh the risk of irritation.
For those who are very unfamiliar about aromatherapy however, the following is a list of some of the most irritating aromatherapy oils for the skin. (The list is by no means complete. There are literally thousands of aromatherapy oils and many that are potential irritants):
– Lemon Balm (Balm Mint),
– Tolu Balsam (Peru Balsam),
The irritation risk from just these few essential oils is extremely high, so they shouldn’t be applied to the skin.
Something else to watch out for is if a natural product carton fails to list the actual aromatherapy oils included in the product (often times they have ‘fragrance’ and ‘essential oils’ but do not list the actual oils used in the fragrance component). If you don’t know which aromatherapy oils are in the product, how are you going to know if you are exposing your skin to irritants?
If, after trial and error, you do find that aromatherapy oils are irritating, resist the temptation to use them and opt for unscented products. You can still enjoy aromatherapy oils in vapor steamers or for scenting your home!
Jill Jones – For more information, visit Alchemilla online here: organic aromatherapy. The website’s blog about organic skin care products also outlines information about essential oils, as well as their use in green cleaning.