Confused about fragrance? Let's learn more!

August 18, 2015

"I wish you made a lotion that smells like birthday cake! Why don't you?"

It's something we have heard before. People tend to love comfort scents -- whether it's the scent of pumpkin pie, strawberry shortcake or blueberry muffins, many people gravitate toward bakery aromas. Truth be told, they smell good. Who doesn't love the smell of fresh baked goods?

When it comes to skincare, though, there is no such thing as a natural essential oil we can use to make a cream or lotion smell like your Aunt Margaret's homemade apple pie.

Today, we’re going to talk about the differences in the types of ingredients used to give body care products their scent. 

Let's first learn more about Essential Oils.

What are Essential Oils? The term "essential oil" is a bit misleading, truth be told. An essential oil is actually a concentrated compound and not an oil at all. These compounds come from various parts of plants. They can be extracted from flowers, bark, resin, leaves, roots, and peels. They are typically extracted through a method called distillation. Distillation can occur chemically or through steam and you really want them to be steam distilled. It is not always an easy process, as it is sometimes much more difficult to extract these natural compounds. You can tell how easily an essential oil is distilled by the cost. The more expensive the essential oil, the more difficult it was to extract the natural compounds from the plant.

Essential Oils are very concentrated and need to be diluted prior to usage in almost every instance. The most common method is by adding Essential Oils to what is known as a Carrier Oil. Adding the concentrated Essential Oils to Grape Seed Oil, Olive Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Safflower Oil, Avocado Oil, etc. makes it easy to reap the benefits of Aromatherapy because you can apply the oil right to your body.

Essential Oils are the backbone of a practice known as Aromatherapy.

Quite simply, Aromatherapy is the practice of using Essential Oils in order to promote wellness and good health. Aromatherapy used one of our key senses, that of smell. Your nerve receptors, once hit with a fragrance, send a message right up to something called the Limbic System. This is within the brain and it essentially processes a scent and gives you a certain reaction. This is the system that triggers emotional responses to fragrance. Many people associate a certain scent with a person or memory.

Whenever I smell a certain department store perfume, I am reminded of my late grandmother. She always wore it when I was a child and even though she is gone, I instantly think of her when I smell it. When I smell tulips, I am always reminded of the garden I played in at my childhood home. The salty scent of ocean air reminds me of the summer we lived in Coastal Georgia planning our wedding.

Clearing up confusion when it comes to oils

A common misconception is that popular Fragrance Oils are basically the same as Essential Oils. This could not be more false. Well over 95% of an actual finished Fragrance Oil comes from petrochemicals (crude oil) and may be quite hazardous to your health. These oils are created in a lab and are made to mimic a particular scent. You can buy bottles of synthetic fragrance oil in every type of scent these days--from rose to chocolate chip cookies to pumpkin to the scent of pizza and popcorn. It is important to remember that these highly scented oils serve no benefit, are completely synthetic, and may be very harmful. Even though much has been done to raise awareness of certain toxins, synthetic fragrance oils often contain a deadly range of toxins known as phthalates. The EWG's Skin Deep Database gives fragrance a score of 8 on their 0-10 scale. 0 is safest. That is why essential oils are best.

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