When it comes to beauty it’s hard to know what's essential, especially when it involves literal essential oils. While the word essential means absolutely necessary or from the essence of something, essential oils should be paramount in your day-to-day life. In a world with countless essential oils and with so many varied uses and endless DIY possibilities, where does a novice apothecary start?
It’s probably good to start with what makes an essential oil different from a regular oil, and for that, Anna Persaud , P.h.D and CEO of This Works, stepped in to school us all. She explains that vegetable oils are carrier oils -- they don’t fully penetrate the skin. Essential oils on the other hand, are volatile and they evaporate so they won’t leave an oily residue, and they are soluble in alcohol. This is important because it explains how you can make your own oil blend: take a carrier oil, and in it suspend an essential oil, from there that is how your body is able to retain its benefits. “ Vegetable oils are unable to penetrate, but do help to retain moisture in the top layers of your epidermis while enabling the essential oils to leave the carrier and enter the body via the fatty layers of the skin,” says Persaud.
That’s the basic level on which essential oils work, but which kind is right for you? As Persaud explained, “There is no single essential oil that is non-negotiable, but there are many essential oils that have significant skincare benefits.” For one, Persaud suggests geranium or (Pelargonium graveoens) because it ihelps to balance the skin. Geranium also happens to be an adaptogen -- adapting to the environment around it and thereby seeking to balance that environment. But beyond that, geranium is good for all skin types, including combination skin. Remarkably, this essential oil also helps with water retention and dminishing the appearance of cellulite. According to Persaud, is"...it is also regenerative making it useful in helping people fight conditions like eczema and dry skin."
Adina Grigore, founder of S.W. Basics, author of Just the Essentials, a guide to essential oils, and all around essential oil guru, has a number of methods she abides by when brewing her own essential oil blends. As it happens, Grigore suggests that the essential oil newbie starts with tea tree oil as a good gateway. “Tea tree oil is the most powerful, but a gentle oil— it’s how I got my start with essential oils.” She continues, “It’s super anti-inflammatory: it's good for killing off bacteria and viruses, and help curb any breakouts that you have. Not to mention, it’s gentle enough that you can use it straight on the skin.”
Another category of essential oils that come highly suggested are citrus oils. Why? Grigore reaches for them because of their mood boosting elements. But beyond that, Persaud explains that as top notes, citrus oils are great for use in the morning because they are invigorating, energizing, and stimulating. That being said, Persaud warns that if you have sensitive skin, undiluted citrus oils such as lemon, grapefruit, bergamot, and mandarin should be avoided as it can cause irritation.
While you may have an idea for which oils you want to try first, how do essential oils really work with your body? Persaud explained that topically, essential oil molecules are so small that they can be absorbed by the epidermis into the bloodstream. Once they enter the bloodstream, these molecules travel the body and bring balance and well-being based on the benefits of the oils that are used. As an example, one of the products from This Works called In-Transit Camera Ready works as follows, “The neroli in this product will leave the cream and help the body by its therapeutic molecules in areas of stress, blood pressure irregularity, and hormonal balance, but while on the skin will bring an anti-inflammatory and soothing action.”
Essential oils, however, don’t have to be used topically. They also function when you inhale them, perhaps in an even deeper way. According to Persaud, when inhaled, essential oil molecules are taken directly to the top of the nose where the receptor cells of the olfactory system are situated. From here, electro-chemical messages are forwarded to the area of the brain associated with smell. These trigger the release of neuro-chemicals, which may be sedative, relaxing, stimulating, or euphoric in effect. In fact, inhalation is the fastest route for essential oils to reach the bloodstream.
Alright, so what if you want to DIY your own blend? First, pick up good quality essential oils from your local natural food store. This is where your nose comes into play, according to Grigore. “Essential oils and blending your own body oil is a personal experience,” said Grigore. She contintues, “You never know how you are going to react to one, so it’s important that you first test a drop of oil on your arm before you cover a large surface area. But more importantly, your nose will warn you if you shouldn’t be using an oil.” That’s right, your sense of smell, and therefore your instincts, will tell you if a specific essential oil is going to be something that works for you or doesn't. If you don’t like the smell of it, it’s doubtful your body will like the actual oil. Simple as that.
Secondly, Grigore stresses that the process of DIY blending is going to take some trial and error. She advises to start with just one essential oil by adding 1-2 drops of it to an avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, or jojoba oil and see how it works for you over a period of time before adding more. Creating your own blends may take some time to achieve optimal benefit, but ultimately, you'll refine a solution for yourself. After all, there’s no one who knows your needs more than you.