Essential oils are very popular for many purposes, including natural skincare, aromatherapy, or as alternative medicines. What are they though? Are all plant oils essential oils?
Let’s look at the Wikipedia definition:
An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile (easily evaporated at normal temperatures) chemical compounds from plants.
To understand what an essential oil is, let’s breakdown the following terms:
Hydrophobic - “afraid of water”, meaning it will not mix with water
Volatile - evaporates easily, meaning they can go up to your nostrils and you can smell them
Basically, this means that an essential oil is a concentrated liquid extracted from plants that contains a strong scent. They are called “essential oils” because they contain the unique “essence” (characteristic scent) of the plants.
Are Pure Plant Oils essential oils?
You might think then, don’t pure plant oils have their own signature scent? What about Tamanu, Coconut or Black Seed oils? They are all oils that have unique scents as well!
pure plant oils can have absolute amazing colours. Check out how vibrant Sea Buckthorn Pure Oil is!
These are NOT essential oils because
- They are not (as) concentrated (that’s why you can put them directly on your skin!)
- They do not evaporate easily (they won’t disappear into thin air if left in an opened bottle)
In general, essential oils can be extracted from almost any plant with a unique scent. These plants typically do not contain a high oil content, which is why you need a LOT of plant material to extract essential oils.
For example, to produce 1kg of essential oils of the following plants, you need:
- 10,000 kg of rose petals
- 250 kg of lavender
- 3000 kg of lemon
not nearly enough for a few drops..
To contrast, to produce 1kg of pure plant oils (aka carrier oils), you need:
- 10kg of coconuts
- 20kg of tamanu nuts
- 30kg of argan fruit
- 4kg of black seed/black cumin
Because of this, essential oils are potent, and cannot be directly applied on the skin, while for pure plant oils, unless you have a specific sensitivity, you can slather them on liberally!
So are essential oils good or bad?
Essential oils can be great when used appropriately and safely. When used appropriately, they can have various benefits for the skin such as controlling acne. However, they can also be irritating in inappropriate concentrations, and could also trigger sensitivities or allergies on individuals. To minimize the risks, our products have no scent or a light scent.
many essential oils are anti-microbial, some of them being excellent at controlling acne bacteria
For those with sensitive skin, it could be a good idea to avoid heavily scented products in general, even if they use pure essential oils. If you find yourself sensitive to a product in the market, looking at the ingredient list for the culprit could help you understand your skin better. It could be a particular essential oil that is incompatible with your skin!
Hopefully this helps you make wiser decisions when it comes to essential oils. Whether for skincare, aromatherapy, or any other purpose, treat essential oils with respect and do your research to gain benefits from these plant “essences”!