What’s The Deal With Essential Oils?

By Charity

  • Ever wondered if essential oils are good or bad for your skin?
  • There's no one answer, as there are positive and also negative attributes to these powerful oils
  • Read on for more info on how to work with these potent plant-based medicinal ingredients!

If you are anything like me and love the idea of plants as medicine, then you’ve probably come across essential oils. They are a hot topic in alternative medicine and the natural wellness community. 

In many ways, essential oils are the avant-garde of natural medicine, particularly because their use can be traced back to ancient times. I have always been fascinated with essential oils because of the versatile use and sensory engagement (I love the scent of beautiful and natural things). Essential oils make up the ingredient list when experimenting with DIY product development such as household cleaners, soaps, candles and body creams! 

And while we can celebrate the ancient wisdom and colorful nature of essential oils, they demand a great amount of reverence and understanding for any person to use. Improper use can be detrimental. And while I am in no way an expert on essential oils, my natural wellness journey has led me to dive in deeper on research for best practices on application. 

I asked Dr. Yoon for some of his thoughts on essential oils:  

"Essential oils are high-concentration natural vegetable oils extracted from aromatic medicinal plants that have a distinct fragrance and have healing effects such as sterilization, soothing nerves, and relaxation. There are positive and also negative attributes to these powerful oils. The good effects are the above referenced benefits – they can help sterilize, soothe, nourish or relax your skin and nerves. The negative aspect of essential oils is that they can cause acne on acne-prone skin and allergies on sensitive skin."

Because of the powerful potency and extensive variety of essential oils, I’ve resorted to become a life-long researcher to understand as much as I can! There are two things I keep top of mind when exploring the colorful world of essential oils. I’ve shared them below and hope that they are helpful to you on your adventure. 

Essential oils are plant-based medicine

The key word here is that essential oils are used for medicine - as Dr. Yoon articulated, they are concentrated oil extractions from the natural plant. And just like with any medicine, we need to be mindful of the recommended dosage and application. There are some essential oils, such as lavender, which tend to be very gentle and safe for most people to use in various dosages and in multiple ways. But not all plant power is equal! Some essential oils are considered ‘hot’ because they give a very strong sensation upon application, like oregano. One drop of oregano can leave your tongue in utter shock! 

Learn which applications to use for each essential oil

The amazing thing about essential oils is that there are multiple ways in which we can extract their benefits! Depending on the potency of the plant, some are best experienced aromatically through a diffuser, topically with the help of a carrier oil, or internally through ingestion. For example, while peppermint oil can be ingested directly in small doses, it would be wise to use a carrier oil, like coconut oil, when applying to the skin for muscle relief. 

There are some skincare brands these days that classify essential oils as "suspicious" and stay away from them entirely. If you or family members have strong sensitivities to fragrances, then you may want to be more careful around essential oils. Also it is recommended that pregnant and nursing women consult their physicians before use.

But if you don't have sensitivities, allergies or other conditions, don't let the “suspicious” classification scare you away from essential oils, especially if you already enjoy their benefits.  Like many other things in skincare, everyone is different and it really is up to you to research and experiment for yourself to find what works.

For my personal practice, I will occasionally take a few drops of lavender and mix with coconut oil for a gentle massage on my neck and feet before bedtime. As a scalp stimulant treatment, I mix a few drops of rosemary with avocado oil and apply to my scalp overnight.

Which essential oils are in your wellness cabinet and how do you use them?