Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Simple Truth About Essential Oils

I wrote recently about what got me started making my salt scrubs.  Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, here's the rest of that story!

When we went to the local theme park for their bluegrass festival, I saw these long tables lined with old fashioned washtubs and pitchers.  There were people standing behind the tables and small jars on the tables.  I asked one of the ladies what it was all about and she plopped some stuff in my hands and told me to act as if I was washing them.  This stuff was grainy, lightly pink and smelled strongly of strawberries.

A gentleman walked up and informed me that this was a completely natural salt scrub...and then he continued his sales pitch.  They poured water over my hands and they felt wonderful!  However, I wanted to know why the salt scrub they offered me was pink....(ever the skeptic!). This gentleman informed me that they used beet root powder.  Fair enough.  However...the strawberry smell??

When I asked him about the scent he told me it was strawberry essential oil. What?? I've been buying essential oils for well over 30 years from reputable people.  I have never seen a strawberry essential oil and if you think about much oil is in a water-based strawberry?

I told him I was a soap maker and shared my experience with essential oils.  I believe I saw his eyes twitch. I called him a blatant liar politely expressed my doubt about the existence of a strawberry essential oil.  He grabbed my hand, shook it hard and told me he was glad to be the one who introduced it to me....and he quickly moved down the line of tables to other people. The man was positively trotting!

This, people, is called green washing and it makes me mad! As I did some further research for this article, I was surprised to find not only strawberry essential oils on some websites but every other fruit you could imagine.  Watermelon and Cantaloupe were everywhere!  Blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, black raspberry, pineapple, cucumber, pomegranate, coconut, apple, plum, peach, pear and the list went on.

Here's the bottom line...THERE ARE NO ESSENTIAL OILS FOR FRUITS!!!! Oh, people are selling them everywhere...but not reputable businesses and I'm proud to say that none of those fruits are listed with my suppliers!  You can get essential oils from the RINDS of citrus fruit but not from the part you consume. You've probably noticed this if you work with citrus rinds for cooking or cleaning.

These people are using fragrance oils - which are chemicals!  I don't have a problem with that as long as they present them truthfully so that their clients can make an informed choice. I have soap making friends who use fragrance oils but they label them as such.  When you see products with names like After the Rain, Clean Cotton, Berry Harvest etc. you can pretty much assume they were made with chemical fragrance the labels and ask questions.  If they won't share the information, find another place to shop!

Stop and think about these things...a quality essential oil is created by pressing (or sometimes steam distilling) plant material to extract the oil. How much oil runs out of your watermelon when you cut it...or if you press strawberries to make jelly?

 Zip. Zero. Nada.  

Fruits don't produce essential oils. Some of the above fruits, like coconut, can produce an oil but it isn't an essential oil and doesn't have much scent - not like an essential oil does and they are not considered essential oils.

If you come across someone selling you candles, cosmetics, soaps, scrubs, lotions and so on...and they have "natural" products with essential oils from these fruits, they are either completely misled themselves or they are lying through their teeth. Ask them for the Latin name or INCI code for that essential oil - ask them for the name of their supplier...or...better yet, simply walk away.  There are many definitions for the word "natural" and they usually depend on who you are talking to. Just take a walk through your grocery store, pick up an item that claims to be natural and see if you recognize all the ingredients!

I believe that most of my customers, are looking for a clean, pure, chemical free product.  The trouble with unethical people like the "gentleman" above is that they make my job harder both as a consumer and as a provider  It reflects badly on those of us (like me!) who truly want to present you with a natural product.  When people find out that they were lied to, then they begin to doubt everyone who claims to be creating pure products! The most common question I get about my salves  is "do they really work?".  This tells me that the person asking the question has probably purchased something that didn't work.

My answer? Yes they do!! Because I make them with quality ingredients, pure essential oils and never with chemicals! It costs more to make products that are effective, pure and natural.  If the dollar is your bottom line, and you want to make as much money as you can, then chances are that you'll be tempted to cut corners.  Lavender fragrance oil may smell like lavender essential oil but I can assure you that there won't be any health benefit to you from a product made with a fragrance oil.  I think this is why I have customers who have been purchasing from me for years and years.  They know me, they know my standards and the quality of my products and the fact that they are effective! 

Rest assured, I have chosen not to ever use fragrance oils, or any other chemical, in any of my products.  My creations are used by myself, my friends, my children and my grandbaby - they will be of the highest quality, made with pure and natural ingredients. I promise this.

I hope this will help you to be more aware of green washing...and help you to avoid it.

Coming soon - a wee discussion on the "pure and natural" way to color soaps and how many soap makers are being duped by what some claim to be natural colorants!


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