On many occasions I have gotten, well, attacked by essential oil purists that chastise me for my use of fragrance oils. While I think using essential oils are a very personal decision, I do not feel comfortable selling them to the general public that may be uneducated about their possible side effects. And in the post I'm going to defend that stance.
No matter what a rep may tell you- essential oils are in fact chemicals. They're the result of super-concentrated, undiluted components of plants that do things like metabolize sunlight, fight off predators, and secrete scent to attract pollinators.
But those chemicals have side effects- some known and some unknown. For example, lavender essential oil has been proven to be an endocrine disrupter. It should never be used around children because it can trigger hormonal imbalance. It also has the capability to put women into early labor.
Citrus essential oils cause photosensitivity, which has been documented many times in women that rub it on their skin or faces, leave the house, and then get intense and blistering sunburns, and sometimes second degree burns. This was the case for a woman in 2017 who ended up with second degree burns. Adding citrus oil to drinking water can also cause burning of the esophagus.
Cinnamon and peppermint oil in too high of quantities burning and stinging of skin and can also both trigger respiratory distress in children. Eucalyptus oil has been reported to also create respiratory distress in children and infants.
Some essential oils have been linked to liver toxicity, thyroid disfunction, intense allergic reactions, and internal and external chemical burns. And that is just not something I want to pass on to a customer that may not be knowledgable of the potential risk involved.
"Taking in larger amounts of certain oils -- like tea tree oil, wintergreen, and camphor -- can lead to throat swelling, a racing heart, vomiting, and even seizures, says the Tennessee Poison Center, which saw the number of toxic essential oil exposures double from 2011 to 2015."
Another thing I am not impressed by is the environmental implications of harvesting the plants for essential oil use. 250 pounds of lavender, 10,000 pounds of rose petals, 1500 lemons = 16 ounces of essential oil. I feel bad if I have to use a plastic water bottle. I certainly cannot justify 250 pounds of lavender for nice-smelling soap when there are perfectly safe alternatives.
Where are these plants being grown and harvested? How can we use that harvested land for good-smelling plants while we have millions of people starving in the world? The ecological implications of these mass-harvests is alarming, and the companies producing these oils do not disclose any of that information.
Many plants harvested for essential oil use are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature- Red List of Threatened Species, including sandalwood (Santalum album), which is listed as vulnerable, and rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora), atlas cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica), and rosewood (Dalbergia abrahamii), which are all listed as endangered. In 2017 of last year, Young Living Essential Oils was ordered to pay $760,000 after pleading guilty to federal misdemeanor charges regarding its illegal trafficking of rosewood oil and spikenard oil in violation of the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act.
Disposal of containers of essential oils also proves to be an ecological nightmare, since essential oils are proven to be toxic to aquatic life according to their MSDS. Many are considered hazardous household waste and should be disposed of as such, but aren't.
Essential oils are a highly personal choice. People who take the effort to educate themselves, acknowledge the risks, and make safe and well-informed decisions to use them are perfectly knowledgable consumers. But unfortunately that is not the vast majority of the public. Personally, I don't feel comfortable selling a product to somebody that may not know the potential side effects of their use, or passing on a product to customers that may have effects that have not been studied or proven yet. I have a very distinct ick-factor with that. The idea of potentially (though unknowingly) passing on something dangerous to my customers does not sit well with me.
While I do believe in the benefits of aromatherapy, when it comes to skincare, I don't feel that essential oils are a good choice. Just the very few things we know about them sheds light on the vast array of potential issues that have not been studied. In my next post I'm going to share why I believe phalate-free and paraben-free fragrance oils are a safe and viable alternative to essential oil use in skincare.
I hope this has helped shed light on my view of essential oils. As always, I am willing and open to all respectful and well-informed dialogue on the issue.
-Experts Say Essential Oils Can Pose Dangerous Health Risks, Ali Skahan, https://connect.mayoclinic.org/2016/04/08/experts-say-essential-oils-can-pose-dangerous-health-risks/
-What are the benefits of aromatherapy? From Brent A. Bauer, M.D. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/aromatherapy/faq-20058566
-Essential Oils: Natural Doesn’t Mean Risk-Free By Lisa Marshall https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/news/20170809/essential-oils-natural-doesnt-mean-risk-free