Sunday, August 16, 2009


I was reading a blog this morning and although the pictures are beautiful I found the content a little unnerving. The blog post was about Essential Oils vs. Fragrance Oils. Now, I'm not trying to slag off on the person who blogged this information. They might be a very wonderful, generous, caring person - I have no idea. They might make great products that I would even want to buy. Who knows. What does bother me is the misinformation presented on the site. Now, I'm not calling the person a liar, in fact, I'm assuming they just don't have all the facts.

On the blog the author states that although Fragrance Oils are synthetic they are very safe to use unless you have an allergy or sensitivity to them. She then goes on to state that Essential oils are more likely to cause allergic reactions and certain EO's are actually dangerous.

First, lets explore Fragrance Oils:

FO's are a combination of synthetic materials used to create a fragrance that closely resembes that of a flower, fruit, etc... Most often the chemicals used come from petroleum. Today there exists thousands of chemicals to help create a fragrance oil. Many of these chemicals cause cancer, birth defects, etc...

My favorite is Hormone Disruption. Fragrance Oils can contain phthalates and synthetic musk. Phthalates disrupt estrogen and testosterone leading to thyroid problems, damage to the sexual organs of a fetus, and synthetic musk attacks living tissue. Phthalates have been found in cancer tissue, our blood, and breast milk. Phthalates are also known to affect our moods.

FO's are responsible for environmental, respiratory and neurological disorders.

You don't have to take my word on this, just google scholar and you'll find many research articles on this.

Now let's talk about Essential Oils:

Essential oils are extracted from plants, flowers, stems, roots, etc... by distillation or other method. EO's contain the true essence of the plant/flower that it was derived from. Essential oils also provide therapeutic benefits.

Because EO's are so concentrated you cannot apply them directly to the skin, you would dilute them in a carrier oil, cream, diffuser, etc...

Are EO's dangerous? They definitely can be. If you are allergic to a particular plant, flower, etc... and you apply the EO to your skin you may have an allergic reaction. Some citrus EO's can increase your sensitivity to sunlight.

list of dangers associated with EO's

I'm not trying to sway readers into buying EO's over FO's. I've used both in my products. I'm a scent junkie and although 99% of the time I try to buy FO's that have no phthalates I know that phthalates aren't the only synthetic chemicals in the fragrance. I do believe in transparency. I think if we discuss the dangers of one then we must discuss the dangers of the other. I think people have the right to know what they are using or what they are buying. If someone asks what the benefits of one is over the other, I think they should be told the truth.

Up to 60% of what we put on our body can get absorbed into our skin. FO's and EO's can cause allergic reactions. You should always do a skin patch test prior to use.

Skin Test
You should always conduct a skin test before using any new product on your body. A skin patch test should be done to know if you are sensitive to a particular product. Apply the product on the inside of your elbow and wait for 24 hours to see if it leads to any redness or itchiness (With an EO you apply a small amount of diluted oil to the inside of your elbow). If you develop any type of irritation you should not use that product.

Just because you do a skin patch test and don't develop a reaction doesn't mean the ingredients in the product doesn't enter your blood stream upon use. What happens externally is quite different from what happens internally. That is why FO's can cause negative health affects and why EO's have positive health benefits.

Whether absorption through the skin is an issue with products like soap that sits on the skin for a matter of seconds has not been researched.


Amy W said...

Excellent post, Michelle! I would love to hear your resources for your information about phthlates and synthetic musks.

Anonymous said...

Good post, M! Someone who bought soaps from me asked specifically if the FO contained phthalates (I had to ask Anne-Marie since it was a BB FO). A skin test is definitely a terrific idea!

Michelle said...

T, I think more and more people are beginning to inquire about those things. I've had people ask me about the safety of the ingredients I use as well. Recently I had a discussion with someone about Lush products. She said she purchased something from Lush and the sales clerk told her it was all natural but when she gave me the ingredients list it contained SLS (sodium laurel sulfate). Now, this person would have purchased the product even if they had told her it was 98% natural or whatever but instead she was angry that they had lied about its naturalness. I always think when lies are being told something serious is being hidden.

I recently found this on the lush site "We have recently begun to replace Sodium Lauryl Sulfate with a milder surfactant, Sodium Coco Sulfate. This new material is gentler and is kinder to the scalp but still cleans the hair effectively."


Amy,here are some articles/links for you.

The Hazards of Scents authored by Klaus Ferlow, HMH (Honorary Master Herbalist, Dominion Herbal College, Burnaby, B.C (manufacturer & distributer of organic toxin free personal care products)

Our Toxic World by Dr. Doris Rapp

Article Whiff of Danger by Cynthia Washam written about the study of musk and its health affects on humans by researchers Till Luckenbach and David Epel from Stanford University (

Two really good You Tube Videos on Phthalates & other chemicals citing some research:

A consumers dictionary of cosmetic ingredients by Ruth Winter is really good too. I read it a long time ago but I believe that is the book that gives you a list of ingredients and tells the hazards of each (if there are any). This is the book I learned that coconut oil can cause allergic reactions from (helped explain my problems when using too much coconut oil in my soap). My body dries out with too much coconut oil :(

Carrie Garvin said...

Great post~ lots of information that is soooo useful to know and use.



Christa said...

Thank you for this information, you hear so many conflicting opinions/reports that it becomes really difficult to make informed decisions. I've been reading about soapmaking for the past couple of months and am planning my first batch this week - I will be using only EOs and phthalate-free fragrance oils (though I hesitated to use FOs in the first place since I'm trying to go as natural as possible) for any of my future ventures. Love the blog, keep up the good work!

Michelle said...

Thank you Christa for your comments!

Good luck with your soaping ventures, it is addicting :)