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.
I write a lot about the nuances and specifics of French Aromatherapy (or Aromatic Medicine) because not only is it a topic of interest, but it is also the subject of my final research paper for my French Aromatherapy certification. I completed the coursework almost a year ago and got sidetracked by business development and other certification programs so I ended up putting the final paper aside. It is still a work in progress, but I have done considerable research on the subject matter.
There is a lot of buzz and significantly misinterpreted information when in comes to the actual practice of French Aromatherapy, much of which comes from the MLM (Multi Level Marketing) side of the aromatherapy spectrum. The information passed down under the rubric of French Method/Model comes from Young Living and doTERRA and is a very loose interpretation of the actual practice of French Aromatherapy.
In this blog post, I am going to break down what the MLM companies are telling their reps and members about the "French method or French model" and counterbalance that with the actual practices of French Aromatherapy and general practices across the professional aromatherapy industry. They overlap in theory, but are extremely nuanced in approach.
The "Schools" of Aromatherapy: British, German, and French.
The Importance of Essential Oil Safety and the work of Robert Tisserand & Rodney Young within the practice of French Aromatherapy.
MLM companies use the French method/model which places a high emphasis on the quality of essential oils and encourages "aggressive" use of essential oils.
Ingestion of Essential Oils, Europeans widely practice this because they follow the French model, but everyone else follows the British model and is firmly against the practice.
Detoxing is a normal response to your body removing toxins from your body.... use more oils...
Negative effects of essential oils are extremely rare and no one has ever died from essential oils
In conclusion, and I say this a lot, the aromatherapy industry loves essential oils and we want everyone to experience their benefits and to do so safely. Do you need to be an aromatherapist to use them? Of course not, but knowledge is power. Safety precautions are not tantamount to rabid fear-mongering. The aromatherapy industry is not just a bunch of kill-joy gatekeepers, we are here to help and glad to do so. I answer countless questions on a regular basis from people who contact me personally with questions regarding safety, myths, and proper use of oils. Ask questions, learn something. This is how I became an aromatherapist.
Ever since I completed my French Aromatherapy Certification coursework last year, I have been curious about the trend of folks cooking with essential oils as a means of ingestion often touted under the tutelage of the "french method." Nowhere in the certification program was cooking with essential oils even once mentioned, nor have I seen it in any authentic French Aromatherapy articles, blog posts, or books. Cooking with essential oils seems to have come out of the MLM faction of the essential oils industry. Personally, I don't see the point of the practice as it is both expensive and wasteful, but lets delve a little deeper into the mythos surrounding the practice.
Setting aside the safety concerns about improper ingestion of essential oils, my gut feeling on cooking with essential oils is that it is nothing more than an expensive waste. I look at it the same way as cooking with alcohol -- my bourbon chicken is going to taste great, but I'm not going to get drunk on it because the heat required to cook or bake the dish burns off the alcohol content. The same would apply to essential oils, if you are using them for their therapeutic benefit, the heat is most likely taking that away and you will be left with expensive flavoring. So why not use fresh or dried herbs instead or even herbal infusions?
Essential oils do not contain any vitamins or minerals like herbs do. I have and am continuing to study herbalism extensively and one of the things I love about true French Aromatherapy is that it is a combination of herbalism and aromatherapy. They exist in harmony and balance and practitioners chose the best mode of application - would making an herbal poultice for a burn be a better application than putting an essential oil salve on it? Both are trusted methods of treatment and viable options.
Regarding the safety of ingesting essential oils in food, let us revisit the fact that essential oils are fat soluble meaning they are attracted the fats and not water. Once again, OIL AND WATER DO NOT MIX and that is just elementary science. With any mode of internal application of essential oils, the same safety principles apply, some essential oils are mucous membrane irritants meaning they could cause irritation in your mouth or digestive tract. Other essential oils can interact with certain medications when ingested. These are things to consider with the practice.
The potency of essential oils cannot be understated - you will often see the example comparing one drop of peppermint essential oil being the equivalent of twenty-six cups of peppermint tea. Would you drink that much peppermint tea a day? every day? GRAS (Generally regarded as safe) status does not necessarily indicate that there are zero safety concerns when it comes to ingestion. Things that were deemed GRAS by the FDA were done in parts per million not individual drops in a single beverage or dish. This article clearly outlines the particulars of essential oils and GRAS status.
As an experiment, I wanted to make Rose infused brownies, and I was not going to use a single drop of my precious and expensive Rose essential oil in it. However, I used a rose petal infused olive oil in addition to some powdered rose petals in the brownie mix and it was delicious. In my herbalism studies, there are so many amazing food and beverage preparations with natural materials that do not contain a single drop of essential oils. I prefer herbal infusions for flavoring. I've made infused honey, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar and am eager to experiment further.
If you want to cook with essential oils, no one is stopping you, but consider that there are much better alternatives to doing so that are safer, less expensive, and more sustainable in the long run.
I've been thinking about my why when it comes to aromatherapy especially pertaining to essential oil safety. I am a knowledge seeker and want to know as much as I possibly can about my field of study. Its not enough to look at the science of essential oil chemistry and throw caution to the wind as if they are unfounded or will never happen to me. I cannot do that for personal reasons based on a horrible medical experience I had several years ago. I will share that story now.
In 2011, I was suffering from major depression and constant anxiety so I began seeing a new psychiatrist who within a 15 minute session diagnosed me as Bipolar II. I had already tried Lithium and Depakote, neither of which worked for me, so he prescribed Lamictal. He warned that there is a potentially fatal rash that can occur and to check my skin daily for any signs. Thankfully, I did not get the rash. Lamictal is a psychiatric medication that is also used to treat epilepsy and you have to slowly increase the dosage over time to get to the therapeutic level. Almost immediately, I started having significant neurological issues, any stimuli like lights, noise, motion, sound, and smell would make me feel like I was about to have a seizure. I was assured this was normal and to continue with the medication increases every two weeks. Over that time more and more neurological symptoms arose; I was forgetting things, using similar, but incorrect words, repeating myself without knowing it in a short period of time, and talking in what can only be described as "word salad." I thought I was losing my mind. I was still having stimuli triggered feelings like I was going to have a seizure. My gait was affected too, for some reason, if I was walking in a straight line, I would always end up veering to the right. I felt unhinged, like I was coming apart at the seams.
One evening I was in crisis mode, wandering around the city before my therapist appointment at the same office and asked if I could see the psychiatrist that evening. I was given an emergency appointment and then scolded that this was not a walk-in clinic and that I had to make an appointment in advance. So in addition to feeling like I was about to have a mental breakdown, I was being guilt tripped for being an inconvenience. I talked with the doctor and I don't recall if anything changed at that time. The neurological symptoms did not go away. So, I decided to research the medication more and there it was, ALL of the neurological side effects, that my doctor 1) never warned me about and 2) failed to recognize as a serious problem directly resulting from the medication. Soon thereafter, I made another appointment and demanded to be switched to another medication, which he did. But, I had to slowly decrease the Lamictal and remain on it for another few weeks. Even once, I had stopped taking it. It took another 10 months for it fully to be out of my system. Most of the neurological effects subsided during that time though I had lingering anxiety and panic attacks if I had to be in a car, so I could no longer drive and would be a nervous wreck in the passenger seat because I still could not process all of the visual information of speed, movement, lights, other cars, etc. Luckily, after such a horrible experience, I started seeing a new psychiatrist, whom I adore and still see to this day.
Even though I recovered, I truly believe that if I stayed on that medication it would have killed me and that is not an exaggeration. Years later, I would also discover that his initial diagnosis of Bipolar II was incorrect, so I was in effect being treated for an illness that I did not have in the first place.
This is my why. This is why I am 100% committed to knowing the power of the essential oils and proper application methodologies. I prefer to know all of the contraindications no matter how slim of a chance they are to occur. Looking at my situation, if I was using an essential oil that affected the enzyme(s) used to metabolize that medication, either dulling or increasing the effects, it would have made the situation even worse. My purpose in aromatherapy is to ensure the safety of everyone that uses essential oils in their daily lives. I choose to be an informed patient and understand that not everyone has the impetus to do the same thing, so I do my best to disseminate the correct information based upon my research and studies. If I knew what to look for regarding the side effects from Lamictal, I would have saved myself months and months of trauma.
If you read my blog or follow me on social media, you know that I am keenly aware of essential oil safety issues and misinformation and love to research and write about the topic. When safety concerns come up pertaining to essential oils and aromatherapy practices, it goes beyond "listen to your body." Self-awareness is a crucial component, but not the be all end all good advice. No one will be able to tell if they are damaging their liver and kidneys by ingesting improperly diluted essential oils on a regular basis. It would take routine blood tests to ascertain that type of issue.
It takes a lot to keenly "listen to your body" because we encounter so many different things on a daily basis from what we eat, drink, breathe, allergens, pollutants, fragrances, etc. It is an obvious sign that if I put an essential oil product on my skin and I get a rash that most likely that was the cause... or was it a combination of different factors? Will it happen all the time? This can happen with anything. I realized rather shockingly that while I have never had a problem consuming anything using baking soda as an ingredient that I cannot use natural deodorants that contain baking soda as it turns my armpits into itchy, red, fiery, painful pits of agony. There is a lot of gray area when some signs might not be obvious.
Recently, I discovered that German Chamomile should be avoided all routes with the blood pressure medication that I take -- I did not notice any issues, but I do not use German Chamomile regularly, but it is something to be cognizant about. I switched out the two things that I occasionally use with German Chamomile in it with another oil with similar therapeutic properties. Knowing this, I will have to be careful when preparing blends for clients and customers so that I don't accidentally cause myself to have issues by incidental exposure.
According to Tisserand & Young: German Chamomile is to be avoid all routes (topical, internal, and inhalation) due to drug interactions with German Chamomile for drugs that are metabolized by the enzymes CYP2D6, CYP1A2, CYP2C9, and CYP3A4.
To explain what this means, a chemical component or multiple components in German Chamomile and other essential oils inhibit the way that drugs are metabolized by the aforementioned enzymes. Enzymes function works is different for everyone. Some people are ultra rapid metabolizers and others are slow metabolizers. The risk is that if a drug is metabolized too quickly, it may decrease the efficacy conversely if the drug is metabolized too slowly, toxicity could result. This is probably why there is a general precaution for drugs metabolized by this enzyme since it would be hard to know if you are an ultra rapid metabolizer or a slow metabolizer simply by listening to your body if not obvious symptoms emerge. Safety warnings are just that, they are there to provide us with the necessary information to make an informed decision about our health.
This is another case where "listen to your body" doesn't cover all bases. Some will argue that there are no documented cases of anyone having major issues. While that may be the case, everyone has a different physiology, so while 10 people on the same blood pressure medication may not have had an issue, you do have to take into account the 1 person who did have an issue. It all comes down to evaluating risks and knowing what those possible risks were. It is also important to note that not everyone reports injuries due to essential oils as it may not be obviously the culprit.
As an aromatherapist, I could not in good ethical practice, encourage someone to use a product that is contraindicated with their medications or a health issue. What if they were that one person who had a negative reaction? Their health and well being is not worth the risk. There are other essential oils that have the same therapeutic benefits that could be used in place of the problematic one. Besides which, this would be a huge liability issue. The mantra of anyone practicing in traditional Western medical fields or complementary alternative medical fields is "first, do no harm."
I urge you to read "The Unspoken Truth About Essential Oils" by Stacey Haluka and Kayla Fioravanti. It drastically changed my perspective on how safety issues are handled in the aromatherapy world especially when you have numerous people without any formal training selling essential oils and espousing dangerous myths and potentially dangerous misinformation. Stacey's story is a must read for anyone who uses essential oils personally or professionally -- even aromatherapists and other industry professionals need to read her story so they know what is at risk and how to avoid the pain and suffering Stacey had to endure.
Using essential oils safely is a topic that is very important to me as an aromatherapist and in the product creation process for my business. I recently finished up researching essential oil safety for my pregnancy care product line and am embarking on product development for a new product line for babies and children. There is a lot of misinformation and unsafe practices that come across in Google searches, Pinterest boards, blog posts, and Facebook groups.
Human physiology is different for everyone and the constitution for babies and children is extremely delicate. The safety standards espoused by aromatherapy educators and industry experts is based on science and decades of experience. These standards apply to all essential oils even ones that are 100% pure or "therapeutic-grade."
General Safety & Dosage Guidelines
Oils to avoid and why
There are plenty of essential oils that are perfectly safe to use on babies and children as long as you follow the correct dosage guidelines. However, there are many essential oils that you will want to avoid all together depending on their age. You may have used some of these oils on your children and have had no issues, but you should be aware of the safety precautions and wary of bad advice that is easily accessible online. Just because you have not had an issue, does not mean that it can never happen. Children do not metabolize essential oils in the same manner that adults do.
Avoid use on children under 2 years old
Certain essential oils should be avoided topically due to a moderate risk of mucous membrane irritation, skin sensitization, and the potential for phototoxicity. The only exception is Hyssop ct. pinocamphone which should be avoided using (all routes) due to methyleugenol content which is neurotoxic.
Avoid use on children under 5-6 years old
Oils to Avoid due to estrogenic content
Oils to Avoid due to Menthol content which can slow breathing and possible cause neurological issues in young children when applied on the face or nose.
Oils to Avoid due to 1,8 cineole content which can cause CNS and breathing problems in young childrenwhen applied on the face or nose.
Avoid Use on Children Under 10 Years Old
Avoid Use on Children under 14 years old
Diffusing in classrooms and shared childcare spaces
The topic of diffusing essential oils in classrooms, day cares, and other shared childcare spaces comes with a whole host of issues. It seems innocent enough to want to replace chemical air fresheners with a natural alternative, but it does pose a risk for children with medical issues and chronic illnesses.This poses the same concerns from parents and educators as it would for a child with a severe food allergy. You will see plenty of articles for and against this practice.
Diffusion should be done with care especially when you are around babies and children as essential oils that are mucuous membrane irritants like Clove, Lemongrass, and Ylang Ylang could potentially irritate the mucous membranes in the nose and mouth from prolonged exposure to diffusion. Now take into account anyone with chronic issues involving irritation and inflammation in these areas.You also have to take allergies into consideration as well. A parents consent should be taken into consideration. Would you want someone exposing your child to them without your consent?
Thieves - Is it safe to use on or around children?
I've received several private messages about the safety of Thieves and similar essential oils blends and product lines. Thieves is a blend of Lemon, Clove, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Radiata, and Rosemary essential oils. It is not clear which chemotype (camphor, cineole, or verbenone) of Rosemary is being used.
On Guard is a similar blend to Thieves and is a blend of Wild Orange Peel, Clove Bud, Cinnamon Leaf, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary. It would also pose the same risks as mentioned above.
I know many people who use Thieves and similar blends in the homes without having any issues. It is a trade off between using the standard chemical-laden cleaning products and room fresheners, but essential oils and essential oils products have their own safety precautions as well. They do not get a carte blanche 100% safe mark across the board.
Raindrop Therapy / Aromatouch Technique
Raindrop Therapy and Aromatouch Technique are widely regarded throughout the professional aromatherapy community as dangerous for not only children, but adults as well.
Raindrop Therapy utilizes the application of undiluted Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Cypress, Wintergreen, Marjoram, Peppermint, and two proprietary blends from Young Living: Valor and Aroma Siez. Valor is a blend of Black Spruce, Camphor, Blue Tansy, Frankincense, and Geranium. Aroma Siez is a blend of Basil, Marjoram, Lavender, Peppermint, and Cypress.
Aromatouch Technique utilizes a similar application of undiluted Lavender, Peppermint, Tea tree, Wild Orange, and proprietary blends by dōTERRA: AromaTouch, Deep Blue, Balance, and On Guard. Balance is a blend of Spruce, Ho Wood, Frankincense, Blue Tansy, Blue Chamomile, and Osmanthus. Aromatouch is a blend of Cypress, Peppermint, Marjoram, Basil, Grapefruit, and Lavender. Deep Blue is a blend of Wintergreen, Camphor, Peppermint, Ylang Ylang, Helichrysum, Blue Tansy, Blue Chamomile, and Osmanthus. On Guard is a blend of Wild Orange Peel, Clove Bud, Cinnamon Leaf, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary.
As discussed above, several of these oils should be avoided with children, especially wintergreen, but also including Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Camphor, Oregano and Peppermint. Even some of the other oils can be problematic as well, Cinnamon Bark and Thyme depending on the chemotype can be a mucuous membrane irritant and skin sensitizer as well.
Read more about the dangers of these popular methods of application:
Adverse Reaction Database
For more information on essential oils safety, the Tisserand Institute's Adverse Reaction Database is an excellent resource, but be warned some of the images shown in the database are graphic. Please note that these are reported issues, many people have reactions to essential oils and do not report them or do not recognize them as injuries due to improper use.
My intention is not to scare anyone aware from aromatherapy and using essential oils on your babies and children, but I urge you to do so safely. Do you research including pro's and con's and make your decisions based on this information, but be sure to discern the difference between marketing hype meant to sell products and actual research based on safety standards. The aromatherapy industry loves essential oils and we want you to use them safely for yourself, your families, and customers.
At the behest of one of my doula friends, I have embarked upon developing a product line to suit the needs that arise throughout the course of the pregnancy, labor & delivery, postpartum, and baby care. Earlier this year, I took a course through the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies on this very subject in addition to my aromatherapy and essential oil safety training. During my research phase, I was shocked to find that while there are hundreds of websites and blogs with information about essential oil use and pregnancy that there was no definitive resource. I found list after list about what oils are safe to use and which ones are to be avoided, but a lack of purpose and reasoning behind them.
In addition to the task of developing a new product line, I found myself consulting my books, course materials, and online resources to get the low down on all things related to pregnancy and aromatherapy in order to provide an accurate resource for professionals in the field and for informed mothers. I pulled together a comprehensive list of safe essential oils that can be used during pregnancy, noting their benefits, and any special precautions in addition to a list of what to avoid and why. I spent a lot of time cross referencing the list with Tisserand & Young's Essential Oil Safety as it is the go-to resource for safety data on essential oils.
Safe Essential Oils
There are many conflicting resources regarding essential oils that are safe to use during and after pregnancy. I have compiled a list of safe oils to use, but some are only used during particular times during and after the pregnancy depending on whether or not you are breastfeeding. There may be other essential oils that are safe to use during pregnancy, but these are the primary ones that can be used during pregnancy.
See the full list of Pregnancy Safe Essential Oils.
Oils to Avoid
Pregnancy by Trimester
All pregnancies are different for each person and issues may manifest in different ways. Since the sense of smell is heightened and can be triggering during pregnancy, it is important for any blend to have a pleasing aroma, but there will always be the chance that even if it smells good that it may trigger nausea or headaches.
First Trimester: Weeks 1 - 12You may not know that you are pregnant until after week 4, but can start focusing on the changes occurring in your body and what you need during the beginning months of your pregnancy. You might start experiencing morning sickness, moodiness, cravings, fatigue, and other symptoms associated with the early stages of pregnancy. Aromatherapy can help ease some of these symptoms and help you along the way through every stage of your pregnancy.
Second Trimester: Weeks 13 - 28Some of the early symptoms of pregnancy may reside a little, but new concerns may develop during the second trimester. It is common to feel anxiety as the pregnancy will seem a lot more real during the second trimester as you will become more noticeably pregnant over time. It is important to stay active and healthy throughout your pregnancy and you can continue to use or change your aromatherapy solutions to manage sensitivities to smell and any new issues that may arise. You may start experiencing back pain and as the baby grows you will start to gain weight and may be concerned about stretch marks.
Third Trimester: Weeks 29 - 40You might start feeling excited about the arrival of the baby not being so far away, but you will still need to support any new or recurring pregnancy symptoms that you may be having at this time in order to prepare for the process of giving birth.
Labor, Delivery, and PostpartumWhether you have a natural delivery or C- Section, be sure to take care of yourself during these delicate days from the first contraction to taking your infant home for the first time. Your body has undergone something major and you will need time to heal your body, mind, and spirit in addition to caring for your newborn child.
Read more about aromatherapy for each stage of your pregnancy.
A Sneak Peak Look at the Products
Restorative Aromatics is developing a wide array of aromatherapy products safe for use during the time of fertility and conception throughout the pregnancy, after birth, and for babies. As a certified aromatherapist, I have been trained in the safe and proper use of essential oils and aromatherapy products for use throughout every stage of pregnancy, labor and delivery, after birth, and for newborn babies.
Shop Restorative Aromatics Products
Do you know what the average shelf life of a water-based product with essential oils is before it starts "going bad?" Even if you refrigerate it? THREE DAYS! That is, if you do not use a preservative! I started using Benzylalcohol-DHA which Making Cosmetics describes as "a broad-spectrum preservative blend consisting of benzylalcohol (aromatic alcohol) (87%), dehydroacetic acid (8%) & water (5%) and is an effective alternative to parabens. It is soluble in water, alcohols & glycols." This is the natural preservative that I chose to use in all of my water-based products. That includes things like hydrosols, aloe vera, and other water-based extracts.
I knew you needed to use preservatives in hydrous products, but I didn't know how fast things start to degrade without it and how prone they become to microbial growth. You can also add antioxidants like Vitamin E Oil and Rosemary Antioxidant (which is a plant extract and not an essential oil) to properly ensure your products shelf life, but they do not act as preservatives on their own. I used to make my own foaming hand soap with a simple recipe using distilled water, castile soap, and essential oils -- without any preservatives. Guess what, that all natural soap I made would be floating with microbial growth in a matter of days!
There are preservative calculators that can assist you in figuring out the correct weight to add to your finished products. I like the one from HumbleBee & Me, but you need to keep in mind that it is basing the weight in grams, which is the standard unit of measurement for making topical cosmetic applications. There are also conversion tools available to figure out the total weight in grams if you are using ounces. One ounce roughly equals 28.3495 grams. Most kitchen or lab scales can be adjusted to switch from ounces to grams as well.
There are many FDA regulations in place when it comes to legally selling hydrous products -- those being products that contain any type of water-based ingredient. I started using Sagescript Institute, LLC in Colorado to test my products. Sagescript states, "The FDA does not require any microbiology testing but it is a responsible thing to do to protect your formula and your customer. The FDA does say that a cosmetic should not be adulterated which is interpreted as meaning it should not contain harmful bacteria or fungus." All this means is that if you are making and selling products, you are liable for them. Pro tip: It is also a good idea to get yourself some business and personal liability insurance. The Indie Business Network and The Handcrafter's Soap and Cosmetics Guild offer discounts as a membership benefit.
Each product will cost between $28 and $32 for microbial testing. You package and label your samples and mail them to the lab, they test them, and then send you the report. The whole process can take about 2-3 weeks. It is recommended that even if you are using the same base ingredients, but make a slight variation to the coloring, essential oils, or fragrance oils that you should also have those products tested too -- even though they will most likely yield the same results as the base products that were originally tested.
Preservatives exist for a reason and the natural ones will conform to your personal or philosophical standards that you may adhere to in your product creation process. There are numerous natural preservatives available on the market in the US, UK, and Europe. When in doubt, if it has any water or water-based products in it, use a preservative!
Knowing and trusting the company or companies you purchases your essential oil products from is crucial in this industry and I have and continue to use numerous different brands of essential oils. Early on in my essential oil journey, I began using Young Living essential oils because they were the best, most pure, therapeutic grade essential oils and the company owned their own farms.
Earlier this year in January, when I was working on my first aromatherapy certification, I contacted Young Living specifically to ask what chemotypes their Rosemary, Basil, and Thyme since they were not on the label or website and they do not provide GC/MS reports on their website or by request.
For your reference: “A chemotype occurs when a plant of a specific genus and species produces a particular chemical in a higher than normal amount because of geographic location, weather, altitude, insect and environmental interactions, and the like. A chemotype is not a different species or genus, nor is it a type of chemical; it is merely a chemical anomaly within the plant that occurs naturally.” -[ The New York Institute of Aromatic Studies, Aromatic Scholars program.] To learn more about chemotypes of certain essential oils, please read my previous blog post: What are Essential Oil Chemotypes?
Young Living’s Product Support responded in February saying that “We do not have a specific chemotype for our essential oils available to provide as we do not standardize our essential oils by chemotype. However, we are able to provide the key constituents on a specific oil you have concerns regarding. “
This did not sit well with me because it seemed as if they didn’t really have a good understanding of what chemotypes were at all. How can you standardize something that occurs in nature based on things like weather and whatnot. I even inquired with my colleagues and aromatherapy instructors all of which agreed that this claim makes no sense -- I even asked Robert Tisserand during one of the weekly Q&A sessions during the Essential Oils Safety Masterclass and he said that it "made no sense."
Young Living does not release their GC/MS reports to the public, so there is no way to confirm this information, but it would appear (in the past) that even if they do not standardize oils by chemotype that their Basil is high in Methylchavicol, Rosemary with 1,8 cineole, and Thyme with thymol.
Fast forward a couple of months, I followed up with a few questions:
I was told that " We do not have a specific chemotype for our essential oils available to provide as we do not standardize our essential oils by chemotype. However, we are able to provide the key constituents on a specific oil you have concerns regarding." I was given the corresponding chemical constituents for the oils requested (Rosemary, Basil, and Thyme). But the first statement is concerning to me as chemotypes are very important to know for these essential oils."
"You should be able to tell customers what chemotypes of oils that you are selling. This is not a standardization, chemotypes occur in nature due to a variety of factors including: chemical composition including environmental conditions such as light, soil, temperature, moisture, climatic influence and altitude as well as geographic area.. Many essential oils have chemotypes and it is always important to know which one you are working with as therapeutics and safety may differ. Do your chemotypes stay the same? Do they change depending upon the harvest? This information is hard to ascertain since you do not publish your GC/MS reports."
To which Young Living Product Support responded:
"Young Living® no longer standardizes its essential oils by chemotype (CT). Chemotype is another name for chemical variety (a specific variety of a plant species based on chemical profile). Young Living has adopted the use of "Seed to Seal®" to standardize its essential oils by. Seed to Seal includes standardization by chemical profile as well as growing conditions, distillation, and manufacturing process."
I responded again with:
"This seriously makes no sense, while yes, a chemotype is a chemical specificity or variety, it is one that is based on numerous factors. For your reference: A chemotype occurs when a plant of a specific genus and species produces a particular chemical in a higher than normal amount because of geographic location, weather, altitude, insect and environmental interactions, and the like. A chemotype is not a different species or genus, nor is it a type of chemical; it is merely a chemical anomaly within the plant that occurs naturally."
"So unless you can control the weather and the aforementioned factors, I am suspect about your claims that you can "standardize" your oils by "Seed to Seal" without altering the chemical makeup of the oil artificially. I understand that some aspects can be controlled, but you cannot account for one crop having had more rain than another and have it not have a relative chemotype."
"I would like further clarification upon this subject because there are vast different therapeutic properties for different oils with chemotypes. For instance, Rosemary can be used for hair growth - this is true of the verbenone chemotype, but not 1,8 cineole or camphor chemotypes. This is particularly frustrating since Young Living does not share its GC/MS reports with the public."
I am rather frustrated and disappointed that they could not answer a simple question and seem to not even be all that educated in the science of essential oils, which is also a bit off-putting since they are one of the biggest essential oils companies in the world and like to claim that their oils are the most pure, the most therapeutic grade, and seed to seal.
Finally in August they replied….
"We recognize that pure essential oils will have natural variances in chemical makeup from batch to batch caused by many different factors including time of harvest, amount of sunlight, amount of water, geographical location of harvest, etc. However, our Seed to Seal® quality commitment ensures that every batch of oil contains the optimal levels of natural bio-active compounds. We verify the chemical constituents of each batch through testing before we begin selling the oil. From this information, we can assure you that the active constituents in each batch and bottle of essential oil meet our specifications and thus have the same therapeutic value."
"The key constituents for Basil, Rosemary, and Thyme given to you past provided the ranges for the levels of those constituents which were considered within our Seed to Seal specifications at that time. Due to a recent change in company policy, we are no longer able to provide ranges for the chemical constituents in our essential oils. This information is now regarded as proprietary as it discloses the constituents we deem most therapeutic in value, and therefore the information is considered trade secrets. Patents and trademarks do not adequately protect this information, as you cannot patent or trademark an oil."
So after close to 9 months, I still have no answers, and they seem to be stuck on seed to seal trumping chemotype considerations which occur naturally due to a variety of environmental effects. This is why companies need to provide GC/MS reports on their website or at the very least by request. This is not proprietary information. The "because we are awesome and we say so" argument does not hold up here at all. I am highly disappointed by their responses and lack of actual information beyond the company marketing lines.
One of my favorite aromatherapy bloggers: The English Aromatherapist wrote a recent post called OUCH! HOW NOT TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS and I, of course, was intrigued and inspired to write about the subject matter touching upon two controversial DIY "essential oil hacks" -- essential oil tampons and eye drops. Yes, you read that correctly. People put essential oils on their tampons and in their eyes!
Not all advice on the Internet is good advice and some of it can be downright dangerous and detrimental to your health -- even if it comes from your favorite essential oil company or their reps. Suffice it to say, professional aromatherapists and other industry professionals DO NOT advocate or recommend using essential oils on tampons or as eye drops for many safety reasons. We are not being killjoys, your safety is our concern. We love essential oils too and we do not want to see anyone get hurt by improper usage.
I am trained in French Aromatherapy, which promotes the safe use of essential oils and herbs internally, but there are many things to consider and essential oils should never be taken internally without using an excipient or some type of carrier oil or butter. People are being advised to soak tampons in undiluted essential oils, usually Tea Tree, to treat various ailments. This can be extremely dangerous and lead to chemical burns and scarring. Many essential oils are mucous membrane irritants and therefore should be avoided in sensitive areas like the genitals and eyes.
Vaginal pessaries and rectal suppositories can be useful for treating ailments affecting the vagina, rectum, and colon due to their near or direct contact with these parts. Pessaries can have antibacterial, antifungal, antiprotozoal, antiviral, labor-inducing and spermicidal agents, prostaglandins and steroidal properties. To use properly, individually the pessary or suppository should weigh about 3 grams with the essential oil content for each being no more than 4-6 drops for adults. You will ALWAYS need to use Cocoa butter, Coconut oil, or Sesame oil with your Essential Oils and powdered herbs for this route of internal application. Never, ever is it recommended to use undiluted essential oils vaginally or rectally. [French Aromatherapy Certification Program, The New York Institute of Aromatic Studies]
When it comes to using essential oils in or around the eyes, it is best to avoid practice -- and that includes making eyelash growth serums. I tested the typical eyelash growth serum out early in my essential oil experimentation days and avoid the practice all together. Typically, they call for blending castor oil with varying amounts of Rosemary, Cedarwood, and Lavender -- up to 15 drops of each oil plus some castor oil in a mascara tube. I used a couple drops each plus castor oil and no matter how careful you apply it, you will get it in your eyes and it will burn. It just is not worth the risk. I use Latisse and the method of application for this product is not to use a mascara wand and apply to the entire length of your eyelashes, but you get a delicate straight brush and apply one drop across the base of your eyelashes because that is where your eyelash growth comes from. I cannot imagine using essential oil eyedrops since I wear contact lenses and do not want to damage them, I have never intentionally gotten essential oils in my eyes. Renowned essential oil safety expert Robert Tisserand states that there is no evidence that essential oils will improve eye health and using essential oils in the eyes should be avoided.
As a professional aromatherapist, I love essential oils, a lot actually. My collection includes over 140 different oils and is continually growing as is my knowledgebase and research. I keep a database of every oil, its safety precautions and therapeutic applications for reference. Research should always come from reputable resources, not Pinterest boards or the advice of untrained essential oil enthusiasts. They may mean well, but your health is not worth the risk.
Owner, Restorative Aromatics and NAHA Certified Aromatherapist Level One. This blog focuses on aromatherapy education and other essential oil related topics.