Essential Oils Guide. How To Choose, How To Use, How To Store

Essential oils are the most powerful ingredients available in natural skincare and well-being. Here’s our guide to help you avoid mistakes and to get the most out of those precious essences.

Potent and powerful, essential oils are complex — albeit natural — chemical cocktails that must be chosen wisely, used with respect and stored with care.

In this guide, we’ll give you the dos and don’ts as briefly as possible for a quick and easy reference.

BEAUTYCALYPSE Essential Oils Guide

How To Choose

It should go without saying that like any product with a strong impact on our health essential oils are best purchased in a 100% natural and organic or at least untreated (controlled) quality and from a trusted manufacturer with transparent sourcing and ethical production methods.

In the EU, essential oils can come in three product qualities that are subject to different regulations.

Manufacturers must decide which one kind of product it is they are selling. Food grade, pharmaceutical grade and cosmetic use oils must be declared in a way that is not the same for oils declared as objects of utility — the latter for example must bear hazard symbols according to the EU chemicals regulation known as REACH.

Generally speaking, you want to look for 100% natural essential oils. Organic is great but controlled wild harvested quality is fine as well. Only the most expensive or intensely smelling essential oils can sometimes be marketed in a diluted form, rose essential oil comes to mind, but it’s not the case for most other plants.

DO
check if the product carries the following information in order to understand whether or not you’re purchasing a quality product:

1. The label carries the botanical name of the plant and the name of the plant part. This is very important information. For example, lavender essential oil can come from several different plants with botanicals names Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula latifolia or Lavandula stoechas. These are three different plants you would refer to as lavender in everyday life. However, their chemical profiles and their properties are not the same, this is why the differentiation matters, and in this case “100% Lavender Essential Oil” is not enough information. What about plant parts then?
Another example: bitter orange leaves, flowers, and zest yield three different essential oils — Petit Grain, Neroli and Bitter Orange Essential Oil respectively.

2. The label carries information regarding the country of origin (this influences the properties of the essential oil) and the art of cultivation (organic agriculture versus wild harvested, for example).

3. The label informs you on the art of distillation; the exact ingredients disclosure in accordance to the INCI regulation which can include the dilution (in percentage), the information of which ingredients are organic or natural, and the listing of allergens; the indication of quantity (usually in ml); the best before date.

4. You can find the batch number, the certification/ association information and any additional usage information along with important safety information (for example, “keep out of reach of children”, “don’t use during pregnancy”, “toxic to water organisms”).

DON’T
fall for esoteric claims (“purify your karma!”, “hand-picked and processed under the new moon in Gemini”, “manifest more money!”). Don’t be naĂŻve about clearly exaggerated and questionable health claims (“will help you detox and lose weight!”, “will boost your hair growth!”).

DO
differentiate between relevant, fact-based information and purely marketing-related, unregulated claims like “therapeutic quality” (means nothing as opposed to a real pharmacy-grade product) or “100% pure essential oil” (can be a blend which may be not critical in terms of quality or smell but vital in terms of impact and/or price).  

DON’T
confuse synthetics or “natural”/ “identical to natural” fragrances for essential oils: some scents, like peach or raspberry or green apple are only available in man-made quality, others can be reproduced using natural materials which doesn’t still make them natural as in — untreated.

There are a dozen of trusted companies known for their expertise and for high quality essential oils: brands like Farfalla, Maienfelser — a small manufacture known for the most exotic essential oils, Primavera and Taoasis come to mind.

One more tip: because essential oils are volatile and don’t have the longest shelf life (or they may have, even improving their scent over time — but will lose any therapeutic benefits), they are not best bought in batches. Small dark glass bottles with airtight caps are best, but you will find more on that in the How To Store part.

How To Use Essential Oils

As stated above, essential oils are very potent substances. You want to treat — and use — them with due respect. They are safe when used with caution and can be problematic, dangerous even, when used carelessly. Always remember: natural doesn’t equal 100% safe.

Small children, pregnant women and people with specific conditions like epilepsy should not be exposed to essential oils without the consultation of a professional.

Just think about it: you need 30 rose flowers to make 1 single drop of rose oil; and 1 drop of peppermint oil would be the equivalent of  drinking dozens of cups of peppermint tea.

The logical conclusion is:

DO
use essential oils with caution and sparingly.
Avoid any contact with eyes and mucosae in general.
Essential oils are highly flammable, so avoid open fire.

DON’T
use essential oils on your skin undiluted. Sensitivities to essential oils always develop over time, and once you have them, you’re likely to be forever allergic to them — so you want to keep the exposure low to avoid such reactions.

DO
dilute essential oil in a carrier oil like jojoba or almond oil for body care, or in sesame or coconut oil for dental care (oil pulling).
Aim at a 1% dilution for body care, 0.5% for facial care, and 1-3% for topical aromatherapeutic treatments.

DON’T
apply furocoumarin-rich essential oils such as citrus, cumin, anise to name a few, to your skin, even diluted, when you’re going out in the sun. They can sensitise the skin to sunlight and cause skin reactions.
If you love citrus, look for essential oils that are marked “low in furocoumarin” or “FCF” for furocoumarin-free.

But of course there are many more ways to use essential oils than in DIY skincare.

DO
reap the aromatherapeutic benefits by diffusing essential oils in your home or by inhaling them, either using individual inhaler sticks or aromatherapeutic roll-ons. Modern diffusers come with ionic technology like this Farfalla travel diffuser.
When diffusing with a candle, make sure to have enough warm water as a base (but usually, diffusors do come with instructions, so read and follow those).

DON’T
diffuse and inhale essential oils 24/7 though: your senses do need a break and we need literal fresh air as well.

DO
dare to use essential oils, diluted in lots of water, internally, to treat specific conditions after a thorough consultation with a medical professional — BUT

DON’T
treat yourself or anybody else with essential oil application in any way, particularly not with essential oil ingestion, without the help of a certified professional. This can cause reactions from mild to severe and life-threatening!

In the casa BEAUTYCALYPSE, essential oils are used in a variety of ways: old-school diffusor lamps (no name), individual inhalers (Farfalla), diffusor “stones” (Grüne Erde) and room or textile sprays (Farfalla, Susanne Kaufmann) are used to purify the air from germs during winter months or to create a specific mood — for more clarity, for more energy or for a deeper sense of relaxation. I also like to have signature scents for specific tasks calling for a lot of focus, such as writing.

I don’t dabble in DIY skincare in particular, but I will sometimes drink water infused with a drop of a specific essential oil that I know works for me. Also sometimes a culinary extravaganza like a dessert or a cocktail does call for a droplet ofa 100% organic and pure rose, vanilla, cacao or orange oil.

How to choose, how to use and how to store essential oils — a guide
Favourite essential oils and diffusors: inhaler (Farfalla), oil lamp (no name), diffusor stone (GrĂĽne Erde).

How To Store Essential Oils

These delicate but powerful essences are volatile and will destroy plastic and rubber (from dropper bottles) over time. Not only will this damage the bottle or cap and leak, causing even more damage to your furniture, it can also release undesired chemicals from these materials into the oil. Also, essential oils need protection from air, heat, sun rays and humidity and dropper bottles are definitely not airtight. Let’s have a look at the dos and don’ts.

DON’T
store essential oils in plastic or rubber.

DO
store essential oils in dark glass bottles with secure and airtight caps. For blending, use glass and stainless steel. Most diffusors are made of ceramics, stone, or steel as well.

DON’T
store essential oils in your car, in your bathroom or in the kitchen!

DO
store your essential oils in a dry, cool, dark place with consistent temperature and check for best before dates — some oils will only be good for about 12 months (citrus), others for up to 5 years (vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli).

Sometimes companies that sell essential oils will also offer storage solutions like this practical wooden storage box by Farfalla or like this open Primavera display.

Personally, I recommend using a sturdy box with to protect your furniture surfaces from potential leakage. My essential oil collection sits in a large cardboard box in the dark of our walk-in closet. When summer heat strikes, the box moves to the fridge.

Questions, remarks, suggestions, objections?
Write me or chat with me!

About Nath @ BEAUTYCALYPSE

Geeking out about all things truly green, healthy and ethical over at BEAUTYCALYPSE.com (Avatar illustration by A. Goncharenko)