I often joke that I've been a witch since Halloween 1980. My grandmother made the costume for me sans those horrible plastic masks they had back then. This may have been because I loved the Wizard of Oz and always loved the duality of Good Witch and Bad Witch, though secretly still want an army of flying monkeys to this day. I still have the gown, but sadly the hat and cape did not make it through the remainder of the 1980s due to excessive wear. I was a weird kid and interested in weird things. I wasn't the pink dress princess, my little pony loving girl of the 1980s. I wore mostly black because I grew out of children's clothing by the time I was 9 years old and I loved horror movies and heavy metal music. My Barbie Dolls looked like rock stars instead of fancy debutantes. I probably drove my parents crazy cutting up all the ball gowns and making rock star outfits for them.
I wanted to write a little more in depth about my path into eclectic witchery and my experiences in life from early childhood that led me down this path. I draw from many practices and traditions that are part of my old ancestral history: European and specifically Slavic Witchcraft and Folk Magic, in addition to White Magic, Black Magic, Hoodoo, and other Occult traditions.
My heritage is Eastern European, predominantly Ukrainian with roots Slovakia, Poland, Hungry, and Romania. There is also Germanic, Irish, English, and Northern European ancestry as well. I was mostly raised within the Ukrainian tradition and Byzantine Catholic until my family converted to Roman Catholicism. Eastern European families tend to be matriarchal by nature. My Grammy and Grandma were both strong women, who while not the "breadwinners" of the family, wore the proverbial "pants" for the family. I inherited a lot of their strength, wit, and dominant personality from them and my flare for fashion and wearing all black from my paternal grandmother.
My father gave me my first crystals when I was about 4 years old, a rose quartz and a donkey carved out of polished quartz. I still remember exactly how that rose quartz felt in my hands as a child and can visualize every mark and ripple of the stone. I haven't seen them in decades at this point and my mother has been searching high and low to see if she can find them. She found many other things along the way including geodes, petrified wood, seashells, and other crystals and rocks. Some were my brothers as well and quite a few were from my grandfather. I remember the geode being from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, my brother has one half and I have the other now.
I've always been a dreamer and have excellent dream recall of details - even from dreams I had as a child from things like hiding inside my grandmother's sofa from the dinosaurs that were coming down the street (probably because I loved watching Land of the Lost), dreaming that I was a bat and flapping my arms with the sheets in bed, and stuff about nuclear power plants (I live in Pennsylvania, and was about 4 years old when Three Mile Island happened, also I used to build nuclear power plants with my blocks.) I've always been fascinated with dream worlds and dreams in general. As a side note, many years later my mother told me that I used to have dreams about animals biting my fingers and hands when I was very young and she said that she never told me that she used to have the same dreams when she was a child.
I was a creative and imaginative child and loved drawing and building things. My earliest artistic renderings were drawings of houses whose chimneys were struck by lightening. I think that was a common theme because the apartment complex we lived in was next to a bus depot with a tall chimney that may have been struck by lightening. I was also introduced to death at a very early age, my kindergarten teacher had a heart attack and died in front of us in class. We thought she was asleep. We tried to wake her up and eventually went to go find a grown up. I couldn't really communicate what happened to my parents, but kept saying something about her leg. Later they received a phone call informing them what happened.
In 1981, my family relocated from Pennsylvania to Rome, Georgia which is about an hour outside Atlanta because my father got a teaching job at a college there. Being a transplanted Northerner in Northwest Georgia was an eye opening experience, suddenly I was the "Dumb Yankee" because the Civil War nee "War of Northern Aggression" as they called it was still a sore spot in the early 1980s apparently. In retrospect, Civil Rights were somewhat nebulous because one day I came home and asked my mother "why the Black kids had to sit at the back of the bus?" A great question coming from a six year old. I'm not going to mince words, I grew up in a racist town where Black people were always referred to by the N-word. It wasn't even malicious, it was so commonplace that it was just normal. Might I add, in addition to being a "Dumb Yankee" because I was from the North, I was also a "N-word Lover" too, because calling a young child that is totally acceptable apparently. I guess us Northerners do things differently and that can cause quite a stir, my father was almost run off the road by the KKK for giving a Black colleague a ride home from work. Yah, that kind of different. Even though I was white, I was still "othered" because I was from the North and somehow that made me not quite white like the Southern born Whites. I still ruminate over my childhood experiences and never really come up with answers that make any sense.
We rented the first house we lived in Georgia for about a year and then bought a house across town. I liked the first house better as it was on a wooded property with lots of trees and stuff. The house we moved to across town was in a small development that was built on swampland. I grew up with lots of tornado drills at school and occasional warnings. I never saw one though, but my mother did. I still get anxiety during severe storms. Part of me loves storm energy and my inner child is like "we're all gonna die!!" One of the things I loved was making "witches brew" after storms, collecting the debris, plant material, and putting it in murky water. When I made my first batch of Florida Water, it took me back to that place as a child. I spent a lot of time outdoors traipsing through wooded areas collecting arrowheads that we would find making forts out of tree branches and limbs.
The second house we lived in was previously owned by a family whose daughter died in a tragic car accident, she was in a car on a foggy night with friends and they stopped at the train tracks because a train was coming, but didn't know the car was partially on the tracks and they were struck by the train and killed. My bedroom was her bedroom and I felt her spirit or ghost. Children can be more aware of these things than adults. I don't know if I ever told my parents about it. One of my earliest spiritual beliefs was in past lives and reincarnation. I don't know where I would have stumbled upon the concept as a child especially in the Catholic church, but it always made sense to me. I used to have waking visions and dreams of past lives throughout my childhood of a young girl named Camille Christiana Peacock and flashes of her life and death. I think she may have drowned. I have the details all written down somewhere in my vast archives of writing. I don't think I told my parents about that either though I remember telling some friends about them in grade school or junior high.
At some point in time, given the lack of Northerners of Eastern European descent, my family converted from Byzantine Catholicism to Roman Catholicism and I started going to Catholic school in the third grade. Given the lack of cultural diversity, there was a Jewish family in our parish because they probably were the only Jewish family in that part of Georgia. I was interested in the stories, but I was one of those kids with a lot of questions and I wanted concrete answers to them.
I always felt like I was a child that was born as an adult. I wasn't overly interested in childhood things and hated being a child. My favorite movies were Grease 2 and Rock N' Roll High School. I still stand by my stance on Grease 2 being vastly superior to the original. I watched MTV from its inception and that for me was when my whole world changed. We ended up moving back to Pennsylvania in the Summer of 1984 and that's where the story will pick up in the next installment.
I pride myself in being open about my struggles with mental health issues because suffering in silence benefits no one and further emboldens the stigma around mental illness. While my depression and anxiety issues are under control outside of occasional situational reactions, I do struggle with ADHD on a regular basis. I was twice misdiagnosed as bipolar because the ADHD symptoms mimic those of mania without the psychosis, mood swings, or delusions. I was on Adderall for seven years, but switched to a non stimulant medication called Straterra in June when I was dealing with chronic insomnia due to a circadian rhythm sleep disorder. Sadly, it seems that the Straterra is no longer working effectively because I have become more erratic, bouncing between hyperfocus and inertia, having several conversations at the same time, forgetting things, and having lapses in short and medium term memories. Oddly enough, my long term memory is pretty detailed and epic.
I've always been a creative person as a result I went to art school and pretty much took classes in every major (except interior design) over the years. Eventually, I graduated with a BFA in Studio Art (mostly photography) and Art History. I also did a year in grad school for photography as well. My adult life is pretty much a stream of endless ideas, to do lists, half finished things, random explorations into new shiny things, revisiting said half finished things, more new ideas, expanded to do lists and so on and so forth. I'm surprised that I get as much done as I do all things considered.
At the beginning of 2019 (or maybe later 2018) one of my said to-do lists was to great a pagan product line. I'm working on other blog posts chronically my own personal journey and how witchcraft fits into who I am and what I do. This may take months to do or I will write them all one afternoon. My focus and creativity spurts are hard to predict. I honestly can't make something or won't write if I am not in the mood to do it. This is also why my product releases are all over the place, one week its all ritual oils, the next its soaps, ritual powders, more oils, and random things that came about at the spur of the moment after that who knows? It really depends on the week. I spent most of April and May making shampoo bars and outside of the new ones I created for Halloween and the Winter Holidays. I haven't made any since then. Making soaps and shampoo bars are one of those things I have to be in the mood to do, so I tend to work on them for a few weeks and then don't make any for months. Again, I am hard to predict that way.
I realized that while I have extensive documentation that it is pure chaos. Most of it is in my Google Drive in various documents of ideas and formulations, some is in my book of shadows, and the rest is in multiple notebooks, scrap paper, and post it notes. It can sometimes take me months to do something after I have formulated it. I am always working on numerous products at the same time and often have a backlog to work through I currently have formulated over 20 new botanical blends (including an Imbolc and New Years Intention one I did today), 10+ ritual herb blends, a few more bath salts and bubble baths, more ritual oils, a years worth of monthly subscription box themes and corresponding products, 10+ new kits and collections, several more incense blends, a couple more soaps, flying ointments, candles, spell bottles (which I just decided to reclassify as witchy decor), perfumes, botanical perfume hair mists, two new herbal hair rinses, and a bunch of other stuff that I am forgetting.
I am inspired by my experiences, things I see, and people because that is the nature of creativity, but everything I do is based upon my own research, my own creativity, and extensive education and training in my field, which includes numerous Aromatherapy certifications and courses, Herbalism, Perfuming, Incense Crafting, Soap Making, and skin care formulation. These are the building blocks of my products. I have an extensive home apothecary of herbs, flowers, dried fruit, oddities, essential oils, perfuming aroma chemicals and fragrance oils, carrier oils, colorants, salts, soap making supplies, candle making supplies, jewelry supplies, and random things I buy for projects as I go. For instance, I have bags of those wooden coffin boxes they sell at craft stores around Halloween. I stocked up because I know that I will use them for something at some point.
I'm doing my best to function and get through each day without forgetting basic things like eating or brushing my teeth. I'm literally at the point of decorating my house with post it notes until my medications get adjusted again. It can take me up to two weeks after I've made something to design the product labels, label & package them, photograph new products, figure out the wholesale/retail pricing, and finally list them on my website, Etsy, and Amazon Handmade. I recently started using a social media scheduler to post new products to my social media because I kept forgetting to do it. Though, I occasionally post progress shots to my personal Facebook and Instagram.
As my best friend said to me 20 years ago with regards to my online writing: "a sentence ought not read like a car chase," but, that is how my brain works. At least, I have gotten better at writing and editing and often have to read what I wrote several times to make sure that it makes sense or that I am elucidating myself clearly and also I realize that I've missed crucial details or remembered something after the fact that I now have to work into what I wrote. That pretty much sums up my current state of being - its messy, erratic, forgetful, and there is candle wax everywhere.
Halloween is a tradition passed down from the Celtic pagan celebration of Samhain (pronounced Sowen) which marked the end of the harvest and transition into winter, which was often associated with death. It is said that on Halloween that the veil between the worlds thins allowing the dead to communicate with the living realm. This became a time of great celebration with ornate costumes and divination or fortune-telling. The traditions were mostly predominant in European countries (or those colonized by Europeans.) In the United States, Halloween didn't take foothold until the mid-to-late 1800s with the influx of Irish immigrants during the Potato Famine. Also, at this time trick or treating was incorporated into Halloween celebrations.
5 Fun Ways to Celebrate Halloween/Samhain:
Halloween is a magical time for all who celebrate, whether it is a sacred day of group or solitary rituals and spellcasting, trick or treating with the kids, or going to a lavish party. Find the magic in the little things and celebrate!
I've been steeped in research on how plants, flowers, earth, resins, oils, and other materials are used in magickal practices throughout different traditions. Its a lot more esoteric than the standard therapeutic approach, but it has been a wonderful exploration into plant lore and folk magic.
Smudging has become a popular practice in recent years used to remove negative energies from the home and other personal spaces, but its origins come from the Indigenous people of North America. It is important to remember that smudging ceremonies were sacred rituals to the Indigenous people and furthermore that until 1978, they could be jailed or even killed because it was illegal for them to practice their religion. There are also issues of sustainability due to the over-harvesting of White Sage in particular due to the uptick in popularity. Is Burning Sage Cultural Appropriation? Here’s How To Smoke Cleanse In Sensitive Ways is an eye opening look at the practice of smudging and its origins and implications.
Many other plants and herbs have protective and purifying properties that can be used to spiritually cleanse the home and other personal spaces. These herbs can be burned as incense, carried in sachets or charms, their essential oils could be diffused or used to create an energy cleansing spray, or they could be placed in offering bowls.
Here are my Top 10 Choices for alternatives to sage for energy cleansing.
Other materials that are excellent for their protective and cleansing properties: activated charcoal, baking soda, sea salt, coconut milk, egg shell powder, and vinegar.
I use a fair amount of sage in my aromatic creations including incense, sachets, charms, and infused oils, but I am cognizant of its meaning, place, and origin in spiritual practices. There are numerous other plants, flowers, herbs, resins, and natural materials that provide the same level of protection as sage. As always be mindful of practices and traditions especially as they become more mainstream, as many have been impacted by the legacy of colonialism and oppression.
I starting writing this blog post back in May when I saw articles and blog posts referencing a new class action lawsuit against Young Living accusing them of operating an illegal pyramid scheme. I read through the entire class action lawsuit and wanted to write about my experience having attempted to sell essential oils through Young Living casually for a year before I moved on to become a certified aromatherapist and started my own independent aromatherapy business, which has been a far more lucrative endeavor.
What experience do you need to sell essential oils for Young Living or doTERRA? ZERO. Buying a starter kit is pretty much it and then you rely on the companies marketing to provide "education" on how to use the oils and how to get other people to buy them too. I cannot emphasize enough the danger of millions of uneducated people using essential oils unsafely. Wintergreen (99% methyl salicyate) is great for pain relief, but did you know if a small child ingests a teaspoon of Wintergreen essential oil, they could in fact die and that is not some aromatherapist scare tactic, there are reported cases of deaths due to methyl salicylate poisoning. This is why professional aromatherapists educate themselves through certification programs and continue to investigate new information as it becomes available.
Young Living and doTERRA are both cult-like organizations. I’m not going to lie, there are definite cult-like aspects to Young Living and doTERRA. It's not a 100% across the board blanket statement and varies dramatically depending on your upline groups. I’ve met many wonderful people through my former Young Living upline and crosslines. However, I find that their marketing is treated like doctrine ignoring actual scientific facts and claiming to be beyond reproach. They espouse many unsafe practices that are practiced without question even when evidence proving the contrary is provided, which I have written about on this blog previously.
It starts out as a fun community of essential oil enthusiasts espousing empowerment and the business opportunity of abundance and prosperity.... and then it just gets weird and icky. If you question anything or offer scientific perspectives on safety you get shunned or chided because the company is above the law, no questions asked. Just to clarify, doTERRA was formed out of Young Living so they espouse many of the same things. The founder of Young Living, Gary Young was a fraudulent scam artist with a dubious past, but he was also genius for creating a billion dollar MLM company. I get the feeling that Gary Young is the L. Ron Hubbard of essential oils.
How do essential oil distributors and wellness advocates make money? In my experience, selling premium starter kits is really the only way that you can make consistent commissions with a new member bonus plus 25% of their sales for the first three months. It then drops to like 3%. So 3% of a $100 order is $3.00. You need a hefty downline that also sells oils in addition to their monthly orders to make any money off that. My best month selling oils, I made $150.00. Which was a drop in the bucket compared to my essential rewards order that month. Personally, I found the starter kit oils to be a little underwhelming you get a few single oils and then a bunch of their proprietary blends. The vast majority of education comes from uplines educating their members on the starter kit oils.
In order to receive compensation, you have to be a member of the Essential Rewards program and order a minimum of $100 or 100PV of products every month. Now, if you are actively using the oils, this really isn’t a big deal especially given their cost. $100 could buy you a 15ml bottle of Frankincense and Lavender, not dozens of products or oils that would sit on a shelf. If you use the oils, then it's really not a waste of money outside of them being overpriced. I don’t fault anyone in my upline because all of this was made clear to me and I loved experimenting with new oils every month. I still do that on a regular basis with other essential oil companies, I buy new oils that I have never used to experiment with for my own personal enjoyment.
In addition to having people in your downline, you will also need to have a portion of them selling essential oils as well. Organizational Group Volume is the total value assigned to the products bought by your downline group that determines your rank. So for the first rank of Star, you need to have 500 OGV, so all the people under you need to order about $500 a month combined EVERY MONTH to hold that rank. If you miss it a month, you lose the rank. The OGV goes up exponentially with each additional rank. In order to reach the highest rank, you would need a downline of 15,000 people ordering a minimum of $100 every month. According to the class action lawsuit, there are 46 people who have made it to this rank. It is not to say that reaching the higher level ranks is impossible, I know quite a few people who have done so successfully.
By the way, If you make less than $25 in commission you do not get a check or direct deposit, you get an account credit to spend on more products.
Use more, sell more, make more money.... Young Living and doTERRA's oils and products are some of the most expensive on the market, mostly due to having to compensate upline and downline commissions combined with the cost of owning some of their own farms. I spent a lot of money on their oils and they do push overusing them. I used to go through a 15ml bottle of Lavender every month and now I have not purchased a single bottle of Lavender in over a year. I always wondered, if their oils were so pure, why you would have to use so much of them to get any benefits? Something doesn’t add up there. One would think if you made a Rum and Coke with 90% rum and 10% coke that you would not need to drink as many as if you had a 50/50 mix, but I digress. I don't feel like I lost money per se, but their oils are vastly overpriced and there is no governing body determining whether or not they are "the most pure", " the only this or that", or "therapeutic grade." Those claims are nothing more than clever marketing language.
The Allure of Abundance I had difficulty recruiting members because the vast majority of people I know are anti-MLM. These companies will tell you they are different and in some ways they are, but you really need to know what you are getting in to so you don't get in over your head. You might think, okay I’ll invest X amount of money into the business because once I reach Silver I’ll be making $3,000 a month, which is the high end of the Silver compensation plan estimated income. The allure of all the higher ranking perks like being flown to Ecuador or go on a cruise or visit their Lavender farm in Utah makes the pursuit of selling the oils seem highly appealing. If you never reach that rank, you may have spent thousands of dollars in the process without making that money back. But, if you are actively using the oils and products that would lessen the blow. They use the promise of abundance and prosperity to lure in more members.
Since I started writing this post back in May, I am in the process of canceling my Young Living membership and have completely extracted myself from all Young Living Facebook groups. The final nail in the coffin for me was the highest ranking leader in my direct upline started espousing a lot of radical anti-vaxxer opinions and countless other members lauded their courage and lock stepped right into that dangerous mode of thinking that essential oils are a cure all for everything. This here folks, is what a cult looks like... unquestioning mindless devotion that is beyond reproach and anyone who questions or offers alternatives is the enemy. Be informed, do your research, and get out before you get in over your head.
It's that time of year when faculty, administrative staff, and students of all ages from grade school to PhD candidates come back from summer break. I work at an Ivy League university by day and have relished the quiet days over the summer when most of the students and faculty are not around. I've worked in higher education since 2005 so I am keenly aware of the academic cycle and the challenges and stresses it brings each year. No matter where you are in your academic studies or carrier, you will surely encounter varying levels of stress.
Stress is one of the most popular reasons people turn to aromatherapy -- that's how I started using essential oils in 2011. Aromatherapy and stress management systems can help people identify their sources of stress and responses so that they can begin to peel back the layers in order to understand the physical manifestations of stress. Everyone reacts and responds to stress differently and it can be triggered by anything, but one you get to know your stress responses then you can learn how to navigate them.
Incorporating aromatic products as a basis of support helps to "click the reset button" on stress triggers and responses. It may be helpful for some to mindmap their stress to visually map out stress triggers, responses, and physical manifestations. When you creating a visual map to help you connect the dots between the stressors in your life, you will peel back the layers and decode your triggers, allowing you to redesign your body and mind’s responses to stress. This is an interactive approach to visualizing all of the stressors in your life and how they relate to each other. This can serve as a visual reminder to help you identify and become more self-aware of the stress in your life.
The goal of incorporating aromatherapy along with mindmapping your stress will help you to redesign your overall reactions and responses by rewiring our brains through the incorporation of aromatic products into as a mechanism to stave off stress and to overwrite responses and physical manifestations.
Aromatherapy Inhalers are a great way to target acute stress responses. They are discrete and easy to use, remove the cap and gently inhale into each nostril when feeling stressed, anxious, nervous or to feel more grounded and present throughout the day. Aromatherapy Inhalers work best when used regularly. Visit our Aromatherapy Inhalers shop.
Stress can manifest in different ways trouble sleeping, nervousness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, digestive issues, excessive thinking, comfort eating, and retail therapy. Using aromatherapy inhalers gives you a direct inhalation experience as opposed to passive diffusion through typical aromatherapy diffusers. We don't have to be held prisoner to stress anymore.
I started making shampoo bars a year ago and quickly fell in love. I have temperamental hair and have a hard time finding liquid shampoo that is suitable for oily hair, dry scalp, and doesn't trigger psoriasis flare ups. At any given time, I had to have 4-5 different shampoos and conditioners on hand because after a few weeks my hair would grow immune to them and look extremely oily. I tried all types of specialty shampoos from high end boutiques to drugstore brands and always had the same thing happen.
I happened to see the video below from Lush on their shampoo bars and was inspired to start researching and experimenting making my own. At the time, I was living in a small apartment in a historic Victorian building with a tiny kitchen, so I had to use melt and pour soap bases since I did not have the proper space or ventilation to do cold-process soap on my own.
A dear friend of mine passed away almost two years ago and her husband, who is a long time friend gave me some of her soap making supplies since he knew I was into that sort of thing. I honor her memory every time I make soap and shampoo bars, which have vastly become my top sellers. She gave me that gift and the inspiration.
The first batch I made turned out pretty well and I noticed that I no longer needed to wash my hair every day, that I also no longer needed conditioner, and my hair was no longer visibly oily.
With the recent move away from the overuse of plastic packaging, shampoo bars have become increasingly popular. We use recyclable and reusable packaging for our products because sustainability is one of our core values. We only use plastic when it can not be avoided, and do not include extra packaging with our products.
Our shampoo bars are made with different soap bases (Hemp, Aloe Vera, African Black Soap, Goat's Milk, Oatmeal Shea, and Honey) with additional hair nourishing carrier oils and butters, some fragrance for flair, and essential oils that benefit hair and scalp health. We current have over 20 variations of shampoo bars, some are vegan by nature, but all can be fully customized to be vegan through our Amazon Handmade and Etsy stores.
Aromatherapy, among other complementary alternative medicine practices are just that - complementary. These practices are not meant to replace traditional medical practices and treatments entirely. Body autonomy is crucial and we will all have different needs and course of treatment. I was diagnosed with a Circadian Rhythm Disorder - Delayed Sleep Phase Type a few months ago. While there are numerous essential oils used for sleep and relaxation, in my case, there is no combination of essential oils that can and will help me sleep. I've tried diffusing them, using rollers, and balms with no luck. Now this does not mean that essential oils do not work for sleep - they just don't work for me. My course of action was to work with my sleep doctor, sleep therapist, and sleep psychiatrist to incorporate prescription sleeping pills with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia and Sleep Phase Therapy. This is perfectly okay and I am now sleeping a full eight hours a night for probably the first time in over 20 years. This is a chronic disorder and one that I will always struggle with. Most likely, I will need to take prescription sleeping pills long term.
If you are committed to natural holistic living and practices, common sense and risk assessments are crucial because in some cases, you can end up doing more harm than good. I have to take prescription medication for my sleep disorder, ADD/ADHD, high blood pressure, and because of my history of depression. There are plenty of essential oils that I can use to complement those traditional treatments, but I cannot rely on them 100% and remain healthy and functional at the same time. Essential oils can be uplifting and psychoactive, but for those with chronic and severe depression, anxiety, panic disorders, mood disorders, and personality disorders they cannot be used as a stand alone treatment. I can use all the essential oils in my house (and there are over 200 of them) and it is not going to treat suicidal depression. I will leave that to the medical professionals.
Now to address the elephant in the room, essential oils and herbal remedies are NOT a substitute for vaccines, they do not function in the same physiological way. Yes, many essential oils and herbs have antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties, but they are not going to provide the same level of protection as vaccines or other traditional medical treatments. Essential oils are chemicals, yes they are derived from natural plant material, but it is their chemical properties that give them their therapeutic benefits.
Again this comes down to risk assessment, while you might feel that your family is doing just fine without vaccines because you have your essential oils and herbal remedies, you absolutely have to consider the risk you pose to others, especially those who are chronically ill or immunocompromised - like cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, children or adults who have had organ transplants who will be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives, anyone with immune disorders like HIV/AIDS, and of course infants who are too young to be vaccinated. When my nephew became critically ill at 6 weeks old, if he was exposed to measles or other preventable diseases it would have caused even more critical health issues or killed him. That is a viable risk and one that needs to be taken into consideration.
The point I am trying to make as an aromatherapist and herbalist is that they are not a 100% cure all meant to replace traditional medical practices. I would love for that to be true and to not have to take prescription medications or to see my doctors all the time, but that is not my reality and never will be. Use common sense and assess the risk, not only for yourself, but for your family, and for those you come into contact on a daily basis. Peoples lives may depend on it.
As the recent news regarding the safety of commercial sunscreen hit the global news outlets yesterday, I did some research into it and as a skin care formulator and product safety advocate I found that there are numerous risks in making your own DIY sunscreens. I experimented with it last summer. It seems simple enough to do, but there are other risks involved in the process. I spoke with my peers at the School of Natural Skincare and The Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild and they all unilaterally stated do not make DIY sunscreens. There are tons of recipes on the web, but here is what you need to know about the risks of DIY sunscreens and how to buy commercial mineral-based sunscreens.
The study in question Effect of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal Use Conditions on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active Ingredients A Randomized Clinical Trial shows that many chemicals contained in sunscreens penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream very quickly. You might wonder how the FDA could approve such chemicals. Initially, sunscreens were developed to be used for short periods of time on vacation or at the beach and not meant for daily use. The problem is that many of the chemicals even when used short term enter the blood stream and can be hormonal disrupters and can cause other health issues
These are the ingredients to avoid in commercial sunscreens:
It is not all bad news though, there are plenty of commercial mineral-based sunscreens that are safe for your whole family. I reviewed the ingredients for the sunscreens listed below and they do not contain the aforementioned dangerous chemicals. They can be bought on Amazon, Whole Foods or any type of organic market.
But What About DIY Sunscreen?
Now you may be tempted to make your own DIY sunscreen. There are some natural ingredients that have are purported to have a natural SPF. DIY sunscreens might help to prevent sunburn, but they do not have the ingredients that block UV rays and reduce skin cancer risks and they are not waterproof.
Sunscreens have physical and chemical UV filters, unfortunately, many of those chemical UV filters are on the list above. Those can be avoided by using sunscreen with natural mineral UV filters like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. To simplify, chemical UV filters penetrate the skin to protect it from UV rays, while mineral UV filters sit on top of the skin and reflect UV rays away from it.
While Zinc Oxide is commercially available, it is hard to work with and clumps together making its coverage uneven so UV rays can still penetrate the skin leading to skin cancer risks. To properly blend, a sunscreen formulation with zinc oxide you would need professional cosmetic equipment like a homogenizer, which can cost upwards of $1,000 or more because a normal stick blender won't suffice. That said, the information that is passed around about the SPF of carrier oils is not conclusive enough to warrant them to be effective sunscreens.
Read DIY sunscreen: why you should NOT make your own sunscreen by the School of Natural Skincare for a more in depth analysis on how sunscreens work and why they do not recommend making your own DIY sunscreen.
All sunscreens have to be rigorously lab tested due to FDA regulations in order to determine SPF. This is quite cost prohibitive costing upwards of $5,000 or more.
My advice is to avoid products with the list of dangerous chemicals above and to use natural mineral based sunscreen instead of attempting to make you own DIY sunscreen.
A few things to look for when choosing a brand or brands of essential oils: GC/MS reports, ethical harvesting practices, information provided on the website, and pricing.
GC/MS is short for Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry. Gas chromatography tests the volatility of the sample, meaning how fast or slow it is to evaporate, and Mass Spectrometry identities the type and amounts of chemicals present in the sample. GC/MS reports will vary from batch to batch of essential oil as the chemical makeup can have variations due to weather conditions, insect activity, soil, and a variety of other factors. This does not mean that the oil is bad, per se, but there is a therapeutic range for each chemical in an essential oil. For example, if the linalool present in Lavender is supposed to be between 25-50% and it comes back at 18% then the GC/MS indicates an issue with the amount of the chemical present and its potency may be affected. If it comes back too high at 60%, it might indicate that the oil has been adulterated. Linalool can be isolated naturally or produced synthetically and added to the batch. These reports will list the chemical components of each batch of an essential oil and their percentage specific to that batch. GC/MS reports do not produce proprietary or trademarked information.
The video below by Scott A. Johnson explains in depth using Lemon, Lavender, and Peppermint essential oils from six different companies and compares the results of each GC/MS test result.
The image below is a sample GC/MS report from StillPoint Aromatics. I like the organization of their reports better than some other websites because they list the type of chemical component i.e. Monoterpenes and then the individual chemicals by amount present. It is fascinating to research the chemical components because they are directly responsible for the therapeutic actions of the essential oil beyond the aroma.
Side note: I am a professional web content creator and manager by day, so I am a stickler for accurate and compelling website content across the board.
When I am researching essential oils, the company websites and the information they provide are one of my top priorities, even if they don't include GC/MS reports, the information they provide needs to be accurate and specific. They should be able to tell you the scientific name of the oil as to prevent confusion because common names have numerous variations in some cases or their are different species of the same oil like Lavender and Frankincense.
Here are four different company product profiles on Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) that give an excellent amount of information on Frankincense.
Now lets compare them to other companies lacking in complete or accurate information.
This is one of the ways I ascertain which companies where I will purchase my essential oils. Occasionally, I have to deviate off the beaten path if I want to purchase something that is not widely available at multiple companies.
In the case of critically endangered oils like Agarwood, Palo Santo, Rosewood, Spikenard, Sandalwood, and Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood and others, the importance of ethical and sustainable harvesting cannot be under-emphasized. If a company sells them without noting that they are ethically and sustainably harvested then it is best to avoid them. When critically endangered plants or ones that are teetering on the edge of being over-harvested without regard for ethics and sustainability, the supplies will either run low or cease to exist. Additionally, governmental regulations may be mandated to protect these plant species from extinction. This will also drive market prices through the roof. Today, a 5 ml bottle of Sandalwood can run upwards of $100 and Agarwood runs closer to $200 for a 5 ml bottle. The others remain reasonably priced considering their scarcity. Read more about this issue here.
Compare the price of the oil with the same oil on multiple websites to see what the average cost should be. If you are buying a bottle of rose oil for $20, it probably is not a pure rose oil because it takes 22 pounds of rose petals to make one 5 ml bottle of oil, which is why it is one of the most expensive oils on the market. The average costs for a 5 ml bottle of Rose Essential Oil will run anywhere between $150-$200, with the exception of Rose Absolute, which is solvent extracted, and usually costs $50-$75 for a 5 ml bottle. Higher price does not equate to higher quality as some things are just really expensive to produce.
The lesson in all of this is that it is nearly impossible to determine quality and purity of essential oils and much of what you see is nothing more than clever marketing language. It is best to avoid superlatives and definitives i.e. "the best", "the only", "the most", etc. These tips will help you out when researching where to buy your essential oils.
an eclectic witch, certified aromatherapist, herbalist, perfumer, skincare formulator, and incense crafter who specializes in unique creating handcrafted perfumes, bath products, skincare products, soaps, shampoo bars, aromatherapy products, incense blends, ritual oils, botanical charms, candles, and ritual and spell supplies.