At the soap conference this weekend, we had a wonderful session on how to make some really beautiful swirls in our soaps. The woman who was conducting the session is a certified aromatherapist. As she was explaining some of the oils in her soap recipe she was demonstrating, she spoke briefly about fragrances. She said that as an aromatherapist, she normally does not use essential oils to fragrance her soap and instead uses fragrance oils. She briefly went on to say the reason she does this is because essential oils are medicinal and using them frequently as fragrance can lead to overexposure. This really struck a chord with me as someone who took aromatherapy during my massage therapy training. Having a background in pharmacy, as a pharmacy technician, I know what overexposure to medications can cause. They can cause various conditions/diseases and allergic reactions. Essential oils should be treated the same as any other medication that you would ingest or put on your body. You can overdose yourself and cause problems within your body and develop allergies if you continually expose yourself to the chemical compounds in essential oils. While essential oils are natural, they are still made of of chemical compounds from the plants they are derived from. That is why any essential oil applied to the skin should always be placed in a carrier oil, such as olive, coconut, grapeseed, or other skin safe oils, before being applied. They should be used in very small amounts (just a drop or two) and should not be ingested unless you are under the supervision of a certified aroma therapist or naturopathic doctor. Essential oils are extremely concentrated forms of the plants they come from. It takes many pounds of plant material to produce a small amount of essential oil.
Fragrance oils are lab created using natural and man-made compounds. They are deemed to be skin safe or non-skin safe. Non-skin safe fragrances can be used in items such as air fresheners and candles along with other non-skin applications. Skin safe is for use in cosmetics and other items that will make contact with skin (such as laundry detergent, soaps, fabric softener, etc). They are extensively tested to ensure their safety. Not all fragrance oils are created equally. Some fragrance oils contain phthalates to create certain scents. Phthalates have been indicated to be endocrine (hormone) disruptors. You can read a little more about that here (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/). I always make sure that when I am purchasing fragrance oils, they come from very reputable companies (not ebay or amazon) and they are phthalate free. I only use fragrances that I am comfortable using on every member of my family, from myself and husband all the way down to my 2 year old. While I always buy the most reputable fragrances possible, people can still have sensitivities to fragrances as well as essential oils and not be able to tolerate any type of fragrance (whether natural or lab created) in their skin care products. We always suggest testing the product on a small section of your skin before using to check for sensitivities.
The most important thing, as a consumer, is to do research and ask questions. I am always available to answer questions about my products and even some questions about different oils and their usage. The big thing to remember is essential oils are extremely beneficial to the body and smell wonderful, but they are still medicinal and should be treated as such.
You can find out more about the benefits and contraindications of essential oils by researching “essential oil properties” of a specific oil on the internet. The link below gives some info on a few oils.