Table of Contents
Oil is usually seen as something bad, and you see frequent false warnings about how they clog pores and give you blackheads. This mindset is changing rapidly in the modern world, with the age-old tradition of using essential oils for skincare gaining increasing prominence.
So, what exactly are essential oils? Essential oils are natural extracts of plant oils which hold the fragrance or 'essence' of the plant it is removed from, thus giving it its name. Various parts of a plant are used for this process and may include the seeds, fruits, flowers, leaves, roots, barks, peels etc. This means that different kinds of oil can be extracted from the same plant as is the case for lemon bushes (the leaves and the peel of the lemon are both used).
The use of essential oils dates to over 5000 years ago where ancient civilizations discovered its medicinal uses, along with its soothing, calming properties. Various salves and aromatic oils were made by the ancient Egyptians who combined fragrant oils with various spices and tree resins. The traditional Hindu or South Asian healing method 'ayurvedha' meaning 'life-knowing' in Sanskrit was (and still is) famous for using natural oils in many of their medicinal concoctions.
The Greeks were the next group of people to see the benefits of essential oils, and influenced by both the Egyptians and Indians, they combined their extensive knowledge of plants and herbs to spread the use of essential oils throughout their rapidly expanding empire. Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 BC), also known as the founder of natural medicine is known to have said 'a perfumed bath and a scented massage every day is the way to good health'.
And the rest is history. People have been using aromatic oils for centuries, and to great effect. Some people believe that going natural beats any store-bought medication. Let's look a little closer into how they are manufactured now.
Essential oils are most commonly drawn out through a process of steam distillation, giving the product a very potent nature (other methods include extraction, cold pressing etc..). Most times a lot of plant product can go into making just a few milliliters of oil. Take for instance the 15ml bottle of rose oil that uses up just under 30kg of rose petals to extract oil from.
These means that these concentrated oils need to be handled with utmost care. They need to be mixed with certain 'carrier oils' to usually a one part to twenty ratio (although sometimes higher or lower levels of dilutions are recommended). A few such carrier oils are coconut, olive and jojoba oil. Before application, these oils need to be tested on a small patch of skin to check if you have any allergic reactions to any compound in them.
One of the most popular uses for essential oils is its popularity in the skincare industry. There are a lot of oils out there that can be used for different purposes, and have different effects on the skin. In the next segment, we will look at a few popular oils on the market today.