Essential oils are ubiquitous in the world of skincare and yet remain a mystery to ınany, which is why I have dedicated an entire chapter to them. So what exactly are essential oils, anyway? Basically speaking they are volatile aromatic compounds which have been extracted from plants using steam or water distillation.
Oils extracted using solvents (e.g. Jasmine Absolute) or by mechanical pressure (e.g. Orange-peel oil) may also be classed as essential oils. Flowers, leaves, wood and tree resins can ali yield essential oils, and the viscosity, colour and price of the different oils can vary immensely.
Some plants (e.g. Rose or Melissa) yield very little essential oil, and it can take several tons of plant material to make a few kilos of oil; as a result these oils have a high price. lf the oil is available cheaply, then it is best to assume that it is not the real thing.
Most of us probably associate the use of essential oils with aromatherapy. How-ever, the essential oils n,arket is actually conh·olled by the perfuıne, pharmaceutical and food industries. Does this matter? Yes: because these particular industries are not interested in 100% purity, they need oils to be the same year after year, which is impos-sible when dealing with a natura] product. You cannot ‘standardise’ nature.So the oils are adulterated, blended, de-terpenated, fractionated and generally altered to create the perfect oil for their needs. Because these industries control almost the whole market
That a very high proportion of essential oils on sale, whether or not they are labelled ‘100% pure’, are not totally genuine. Most aromatherapy oil suppliers siınply buy the oils wholesale from. a big distributor so it is nigh on impossible to ensure purity.
It’s not just the big businesses messing with these precious gifts of nature; the process of distillation itself can change the chemical structmes wi thin the oils and create new compounds. Exposing living matter to in tense heat can change natura! and benign nutrients into new substances which may turn out to be toxic to the body.
Distillation is no different: when the plants are ‘cooked’, new chemicals can be fonned that were not present in the plant before. Personally I love essential oils, and I’m certainly not saying we shouldn’t use them;
I just think it’s important to remember that we aı-e deal-ing with very potent, concentrated, heated, probably adulterated, extracted chemical compounds which may contain ali sorts of new substances or impurities asa result of processing. Use sparingly, use wisely, and if you cannot be sure that you are using 100% pure oils then it’s probably best not to use them at all.