Safe, Effective DIY Mascara

Today, I’m sharing a homemade mascara recipe with you.  My skin is fairly sensitive, particularly around my eyes, so I have to be careful when selecting eye makeup or my eyes will burn all day.  Before I share my recipe, I want to quickly go over the most common ingredients in commercial mascara and their properties.

Typically, commercial mascara is made of:

1.  Colorants

Colorants, of course, darken the eyelashes.  In commercial mascaras, carbon black or iron oxide pigment are commonly chosen colorants.  While iron oxide is fairly safe, carbon black is considered a moderate concern by the Enviromental Working Group (EWG) because it can cause organ toxicity.  In a more minor, but concerning, role, aluminum powder can also be added as a colorant, but can also be neurotoxic and is deemed a high concern by the EWG.

2. Polymers

In commercial mascaras, polymers form a film that coats the lashes.  Polymers vary widely in form and function.  Some are natural; some are synthetic.  Some are safe; some are not.  I recommend searching the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics database to determine the safety of all the ingredients in your beauty products, polymers included.

3. Preservatives

Preservatives are added to prevent bacterial and fungal growth in cosmetics.  Typical preservatives in mascara are parabens and propylene glycol (a few even still contain thimerosal).  Parabens can act as endocrine disruptors by mimicking estrogen in the body and are considered a moderate to high concern by the EWG (depending on which paraben is chosen).  Propylene glycol (aka antifreeze – yes, the kind you put in your car) is considered safe by the FDA and the EWG, but is a source of skin irritation for some.  And, even though its not a typically chosen perservative, it’s worth mentioning that some mascaras still contain thimerosal.  Thimerosal is an organomercury compound, which is considered a high concern by the EWG because it can cause organ system toxicity and neurotoxicity.  Thimerosal is also has the tendency to bioaccumulate and is persistent and difficult to excrete.

4. Thickeners

Mascara also typically contains thickening waxes or oils such as lanolin, mineral oil, paraffin, petrolatum, castor oil, carnauba wax, and candelilla wax, all of which are considered fairly safe by the EWG.  It’s worth mentioning here that retinyl acetate is a common thickener/conditioner, which enhances the appearance and feel of eyelashes, increasing body, sheen, and suppleness; however, it can cause biochemical changes at the cellular level (aka mutations) and is also considered a high concern by the EWG.

I actually didn’t intend to go into quite that much detail about commercial mascara, but I found the ingredients and concerns of them interesting and worth sharing.  Since mascara and all cosmetics for that matter are loosely regulated by the FDA, it’s wise to consider the ingredients in your beauty products and your use of them.  Today, I want to talk more about DIY mascara.  It turns out IT IS possible to have fuller, longer looking lashing without exposing your skin to commercial mascara’s harmful chemicals AND without breaking the bank.  Natural mascara provides a safe and healthy alternative for your skin and it’s SO EASY to make.  My inspiration for this recipe came from this post by Marie Rayma at Humble Bee & Me.  In this recipe, Australian midnight black clay and pink/red clay serve as the colorants (and also play same role as the polymer in commercial mascara).  Lavender essential oil is the preservative.  Guar gum is the thickener.  And, the vegetable glycerine and water dissolve everything and bring them together to form a liquid mascara that dries relatively quickly yet washes off easily.

Ingredients 

2 1/4 tsp. Australian Midnight Black Clay

1/4 tsp. Pink or Red Clay or Red Mineral Oxide

1/16 tsp. Guar Gum

1/4-1/2 tsp. Vegetable Glycerine (plus extra for moistening hardened mascara over time)

3/4-1 tsp. Water

5 drops Lavender essential oil (optional)

Preparation and Use

1.  Stir the dry ingredients (clays, optional mineral oxide, guar gum) together in a small bowl or tin jar.

2.  Then, add in the wet ingredients (vegetable glycerin, water, and optional essential oil) and combine well.  If the mascara is too thick, gradually add more vegetable glycerin or water.

3.  You can store the mascara in a NEW mascara tube or a small pot/jar with a lid.  Use a clean, bristle-y mascara brush to apply as usual.  This recipe makes enough for one tube/tin.

Note:  I’ve stored my mascara in a tin jar as shown below and it does tend to dry out over the course of a few weeks, so I simply add a few drops of vegetable glycerin to the top of the mascara mixture to moisten it.  I don’t combine it throughout the mix, I simply rub my mascara brush over the moistened area and apply as usual and it works great!

Mascara 2

Science

Australian black clay is matte black in color, fine yet heavy in texture, and mixes well with oil.  It’s a non-toxic mineral that helps cleanse, condition, and nourish skin and hair with iron and oxygen.

Guar gum is a resinous material made from the guar bean.  Guar gum can be used as a thickener in natural cosmetics, softener, moderate emulsifier, and also can help add “slip” when combing through hair.
Glycerin is an alcohol, obtained by hydrolysis of naturally occurring vegetable or animal fats, or via chemical synthesis from petrochemicals.  Some sources of vegetable glycerin are coconut oil and shea butter and, typically, if you are purchasing glycerin, the label will say if it is from a vegetable source of glycerin.  However, it’s worth pointing out that some labels may not disclose the source of glycerin (animal, vegetable, or synthetic) unless it is a marketing point.  Synthetic glycerin has received some publicity as being a potential health hazard because it is typically produced from the starting material epichlorohydrin, a toxic chemical classified as a probable carcinogen, which may remain in the final glycerin product in trace amounts (along with other contaminants like 1,4-dioxane).  So, be sure to read your labels.  In any case, vegetable glycerin is a conditioning alcohol similar to other conditioning alcohols, but it has three very hydroxyl (-OH) groups as opposed to one.  Vegetable glycerin has long been used in cosmetics and personal care for its moisturizing properties for skin and hair.  New studies have shown that it may also aid in the repair and regeneration of skin cells.

Lavender essential oil has a sweet soothing and refreshing aroma.  Lavender is an adaptogen, and therefore the most versatile of essential oils, assisting the body where needed.  Lavender is highly regarded for skin and beauty and may be used to soothe and cleanse common cuts, bruises, and skin irritations.  It is also antibacterial and moderately anti-fungal.

Budget

As with many other cosmetics, mascara varies widely in cost.  Since I know you can buy makeup at the dollar store, I think it’s safe to say that the cheapest mascara is $1 per tube; however, the cheapest “all natural” mascaras are much more likely to start in the $20 per tube range.  The DIY mascara presented here costs about $0.52 per tube/tin (I’m not joking, double-check my math), making it cheaper in price than dollar store varieties AND it’s made with beneficial ingredients for your hair and skin and free from harsh chemicals and preservatives.  Plus, it’s so easy, so I hope you’ll give it a try.  I hope I’ve shown you in this series that it’s possible to have pure, safe, beneficial and high quality homemade beauty products.

Up next, I’ll do a personal post about our Easter celebration, complete with pictures.  In an effort to take quality family pictures at least twice a year, I almost always take pictures at Easter and Thanksgiving.  The Easter pictures are my family’s gift to me on Easter (since I don’t need candy).  And, yes, I WILL postpone the Easter basket and egg hunt until I get a good picture – so, SMILE!  😉  The Thanksgiving pictures are also my family’s thank you gift to me (uh-hem, for spending 3 days cooking 1 gigantic meal) and allow me to give our extended families an up to date picture for Christmas.  I digress.  Shortly after my Easter post, I’ll take you along on my spring cleaning and organizing journey.  For all you Type A’s out there, it’s going to be amazing!  For all you Type B’s, no worries, I hope you’ll find a tip or two you love and go with that!  😉

Red Lipstick and Rouge

Today, I’m going to share one of my new makeup loves with you – a lipstick/rouge combination.  I love it for several reasons.  First, I love the color.  It’s deep, rich and full.  I also love that you can tailor the color to your preferences (be sure to look at my notes in the preparation and use section below to see how to adjust the color).  I love that the rouge actually stays on my cheeks and doesn’t rub off after a few minutes.  I love that it’s nourishing and healthy and made from beneficial ingredients.  And, I hope you’ve noticed by now that it uses many of the same ingredients as well as the same procedure as the lip balm, lotion bar, facial moisturizer, and moisturizing lotion I’ve shown you previously.  So, if you’re planning to start making these things yourself, you’ll find that you use the same ingredients over and over again, which not only saves you money, but makes you more efficient in the process of making them (I often make them all at once to save on the time creating them, getting the ingredients out and putting them up, and on cleaning.)  So, without further ado, here’s the recipe.

Ingredients 

0.30 ounces Grapeseed or Almond Oil

0.25 ounces Unrefined Raw Shea Butter

0.15 ounces Cocoa Butter

0.15 ounces Beeswax Pellets

1/2 – 1 tsp. Red Mineral Oxide or Australian Reef Red Clay (start with less and add more, if needed, in step 3)

1 tsp. Light Clay (like Zeolite or Kaolin, start with less and add more, if needed, in step 3)

Pinch of Yellow Mineral Oxide (optional, start with less and add more, if needed, in step 3)

5 drops essential oil (optional)

Preparation and Use

Note:  Before you begin, place 6 spoons in the freezer.  Trust me on this one, it will make sense later.

1.  Measure the grapeseed/almond oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, and beeswax into a sauce pan.  I usually place my saucepan directly on a kitchen scale to make the weighing/measuring easier.

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2.  Heat the mixture over LOW heat just until the beeswax melts.

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3.  Turn off the heat and add the colorants and also the essential oils, if you’re using them.  Combine well the mixture well to distribute the color throughout.

Note:  Since it’s hard to tell what color the finished lipstick will end up being after it cools, test the batch by removing one of your spoons from the freezer and dipping it into the lipstick mixture while it’s still hot warm.  The oils and butters will cool immediately on the frozen spoon and show you what color it will be once it’s cool.  You can remove the lipstick from the frozen spoon with your finger and test it on your lips or cheeks.  DO NOT LICK THE SPOON!  🙂  If you like the color of your lipstick, proceed to step 4.  If you don’t like it, adjust the color by adding more clays or oxides to tint accordingly.

4.  Carefully, pour the warm/hot liquid into 4 lip balm containers. There are lots of options out there: tin jars, white plastic jars, clear plastic jars, or standard lip balm tubes. My personal preference is for the tin jars, but you can use whatever you like.

Red Lipstick

5.  Allow the lotion to cool completely before placing the lid on the container.

6.  Clean your dishes with hot, soapy water.

Science

I’ve written about the science behind these ingredients when I told you about my Deep Moisturizing All Body Lotion, so I won’t go over it again here.

Budget

Lip sticks and rouges can vary widely in cost.  Since I know you can buy makeup at the dollar store, I think it’s safe to say that the cheapest lip sticks and rouges out there are $1 per unit; however, the cheapest “all natural” lip sticks and rouges I’ve seen start in the range of $8-10.  The lip stick/rouge presented here costs about $1.31-2.32 per tube/tin, depending on which ingredients you use (red mineral oxide is cheaper than Australian red reef clay and kaolin clay is cheaper than zeolite clay).  The lip stick/rouge presented here is comparable in price to dollar store varieties, BUT it’s made with beneficial ingredients for your skin and lips and free from harsh chemicals and preservatives.  Plus, it’s so easy, so I hope you’ll give it a try.

The next post in my homemade beauty series is going to feature something I never thought I would make – mascara!  It’s even easier to make than lotions, lip balm and lip stick/rouge, so I hope you’ll come back to read about it.

Facial Moisturizer

Is it just me or can facial moisturizers be ridiculously expensive?!  I understand that different people have different skin care needs.  I happen to have a pretty normal and complexion, so I have a really hard time spending a lot of money on facial moisturizers.  I believe facial moisturizers are an important part of short- and long- term skin care, but I have often wondered if they’re worth the price I pay for them.  If your skin is more problematic, you may believe differently.  I tried out a few homemade facial moisturizer recipes and settled on this one.  I can’t believe how easy it is to make and how effective it is in use.
I will add one disclaimer, it does not have the texture of a typical store-bought facial moisturizer, but rather feels more like a salve going on.  My face sometimes feels a little oily for a minute, but it quickly soaks in and that feeling goes away (and doesn’t lead to breakouts as I thought it might).  I’ve been using it now for at least 2 years and am very happy with it; I can’t remember a time in the past 2 years that my face has felt dry, oily, or acne-prone.  It makes my face feel “just right.”  And, when you get to the budget section below, you’ll see why my husband loves it so much, too!  🙂
Ingredients 

4 ounces Coconut Oil

0.75 ounce Beeswax Pellets

4 drops Grapefruit Essential Oil (optional)

2 drops Lavender Essential Oil (optional)

Preparation and Use

1.  Measure each of the ingredients into a sauce pan.  I usually place my saucepan directly on a kitchen scale to make the weighing/measuring easier.

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2.  Heat the mixture over LOW heat until the beeswax melts.

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3.  Turn off the heat and add essential oils if desired.

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4.  Carefully, pour the warm/hot liquid into a container.  I like to use Ball 4 ounce Jelly Jars or a previous facial moisturizer container because I believe they’re a perfect size for scooping out the lotion without being too cumbersome.

Facial Moisturizer

5.  Allow the lotion to cool completely before placing the lid on the container.

6.  Clean your dishes with hot, soapy water.

Science

If you’ve read my previous lotion/moisturizer posts, you may remember that coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm.  Coconut oil is easily absorbed into the skin owing to its small molecular structure.  Coconut oil aids in the removal of dead skin, revealing the smooth, youthful surface beneath and providing instant relief for chapped skin.  Coconut oil also provides long-term healing properties to connective tissue cellular structure by providing it with nutrients and antioxidants, leaving your skin smooth and radiant.  Coconut oil is composed of triglycerides that, when applied to the skin, convert to antimicrobial-free fatty acids which bolster infection-fighting abilities.

Beeswax has emollient, soothing, and softening properties, which help the skin retain moisture, making it beneficial cosmetically.  It’s also great in skincare products because it acts as a thickening agent (because it turns into a semi-solid substance when it comes into contact with air), emulsifier, and humectant.  After processing, beeswax remains a biologically active product retaining anti-bacterial properties. It also contains vitamin A, which is essential for human cell development.  So, it’s great as an antiseptic and for healing wounds.

Essential oils have a wide variety of skin supporting properties.  If you choose to use essential oils, you can select them based on scent preferences AND/OR based on their skin supporting properties.  There’s a great reference chart here on selecting oils to relieve dry, sensitive, oily, or acne prone skin as well as to support better elasticity and wrinkles.

Budget

As I mentioned earlier, facial moisturizers be ridiculously expensive!  The cheapest somewhat “natural” facial moisturizers that I have shopped for cost at a minimum $10-15 for 2-4 ounces (conservatively, $2.50-7.50 per ounce).  The moisturizer presented here costs $2.29 for 4.75 ounces ($0.48 per ounce).  So, the homemade facial moisturizer presented here is FAR less expensive than pretty much anything you’ll find in stores.  What’s more, it has all natural ingredients, is easy to make, AND the scent and properties can be tailored to your skin care needs!  With all those benefits, it’s definitely worth trying – so go make some!  It will only take about 15 minutes!  🙂

Deep Moisturizing Lotion

My next blog series is going to highlight some of the homemade beauty recipes I love, use, and why.  I never would have thought that I would make almost all my own beauty products, but now I do and love them more than anything I’ve found commercially.  Plus, I know they’re healthy for me.  I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do!
When I first found this recipe, it was titled as a facial moisturizer, but I found it to be WAY too greasy for my face.  So, to use it up, I started using it on other dry skin patches and fell in love with its intense moisturizing ability.  I love the way some great discoveries are made by accident or out of what some would consider a failure.  A while ago, I shared with you a lotion bar recipe.  I love the simplicity, versatility, and ease of using the lotion bar.  It’s my husband and children’s go-to lotion when their skin is dry and cracked.  However, sometimes I want something a little more moisturizing and softer in texture; in those times, I turn to this deep moisturizing lotion.
Ingredients 

5 ounces Unrefined Raw Shea Butter

2 ounces Coconut Oil

1.6 ounces Beeswax Pellets

1 ounce Grapeseed or Almond Oil

20 drops Grapefruit Essential Oil (optional)

2 drops Lavender Essential Oil (optional)

Preparation and Use

1.  Measure each of the ingredients into a sauce pan.  I usually place my saucepan directly on a kitchen scale to make the weighing/measuring easier.

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2.  Heat the mixture over LOW heat just until the beeswax melts.  Refrain from heating on high or overheating as this will cause your shea butter to become grainy.  It won’t hurt the lotion, but the lotion simply won’t be as smooth.

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3.  Turn off the heat and add essential oils if desired.  In the recipe, I highlighted the essential oils I normally use in my lotion, but if you like different scents in your lotion then use what you like.  The ratio of oil:lotion I usually use is 10 drops of essential oil per 2 ounces of lotion.

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4.  Carefully, pour the warm/hot liquid into a container.  I like to use Ball 4 ounce Jelly Jars. because I believe they’re a perfect size for scooping out the lotion without being too cumbersome.  As you can see, I replace the lid with a mayonnaise jar lid so I don’t have the hassle of of a band and ring every time I’m getting my lotion out, but you can use what’s easiest for you.

Moisturizer 2b

5.  Allow the lotion to cool completely before placing the lid on the container.

Moisturizer 2a

6.  Clean your dishes with hot, soapy water.

Science

Coconut Oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm.  Coconut oil is easily absorbed into the skin owing to its small molecular structure.  Coconut oil aids in the removal of dead skin, revealing the smooth, youthful surface beneath and providing instant relief for chapped skin.  Coconut oil also provides long-term healing properties to connective tissue cellular structure by providing it with nutrients and antioxidants, leaving your skin smooth and radiant.  Coconut oil is composed of triglycerides that, when applied to the skin, convert to antimicrobial-free fatty acids which bolster infection-fighting abilities.  All that, and it’s pure and free of harsh chemicals!

Unrefined Raw Shea Butter is a slightly yellowish-colored fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree.  Shea butter is often used for stretch mark prevention during pregnancy, fighting the effects of aging, repairing rough damaged skin, treating dry skin and eczema, treating minor burns, relieving pain from swelling and arthritis, improving muscle relaxation and stiffness, as a sunscreen, treating dark spots/skin discolorations/blemishes, and healing diaper rashes.

Beeswax has emollient, soothing, and softening properties, which help the skin retain moisture, making it beneficial cosmetically.  It’s also great in skincare products because it acts as a thickening agent (because it turns into a semi-solid substance when it comes into contact with air), emulsifier, and humectant.  After processing, beeswax remains a biologically active product retaining anti-bacterial properties. It also contains vitamin A, which is essential for human cell development.  So, it’s great as an antiseptic and for healing wounds.

Grapeseed oil/Almond oil have a supporting role in this lotion recipe, but they also tout many great skin supporting properties like being high in essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and Vitamins A and E.  Their natural composition makes them great choices for moisturizing skin as well as helping prevent fine lines, wrinkles, and aging spots.

Essential oils have a wide variety of skin supporting properties.  If you choose to use essential oils, you can select them based on scent preferences AND/OR based on their skin supporting properties.  There’s a great reference chart here on selecting oils to relieve dry, sensitive, oily, or acne prone skin as well as to support better elasticity and wrinkles.

Budget

Lotions can cost as little as $1 for 8 ounces ($0.13 per ounce).  The cheapest “all natural” lotions will cost more.  The lotion bar presented here costs about $4.82 for 9.6 ounces ($0.50 per ounce).  The lotion bar presented hear costs more than the cheapest lotion you’ll be able to find at the Dollar Store or X-Mart; however, it’s comparable price-wise to the “all-natural” varieties you’ll find in your local health food store or on Amazon.  AND, in my opinion, it works better!  Plus, you’ll know what the ingredients are, where they came from, and have the ability to tailor the scent and properties to your taste and preferences!

Essential Oil Basics: Chemistry

In the first post of this series, I told you about the basics, what essential oils are, some thoughts on getting started, and why you want to be selective when choosing an essential oil distributor.  In the second post, we surveyed different general techniques for essential oil use and application as well as some specific applications I’ve used in my home.  Now, is the moment we’ve all been waiting for, today I’ll go into the science behind what essential oils are, where they come from, and how they work.  First, though, I want to give credit where credit is due.  My inspiration for this post came from the Dr. David Stewart’s book Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple: God’s Love Manifest in Molecules and I’ll cite it by linking to it when a point or idea references something Dr. Stewart talks about therein.  Dr. Stewart also writes a quarterly newsletter on various topics on the science and usage of essential oils, which are archived here.  In any case, Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple is a hearty textbook with way more information that I could ever go into in a blog post, so if you’re yearning for more information after you read this post, I highly recommend reading this book.  I was not disappointed in its breadth and depth of insight, chemically speaking.

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WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS?

I defined essential oils in the first post of this series, but I believe it makes sense to mention it again here.  Essential oils come from plants.  They are “essential” because they sustain the life of a mature plant, by directing vital processes in plants such as metabolism, nutrient absorption, regulation of plant functions, protection, healing, repair, and reproduction.  And, they are “oils” because they are made up, primarily of hydrocarbons (atoms of hydrogen and carbon), which a simple definition of an oil.

There are actually two types of oils found in plants: fatty oils (aka vegetable, carrier, neutral, or base oils) and essential oils.  Fatty oils are large, found only in plant seeds, and feed the seed before it germinates.  For that reason, fatty oils are only found in plant seeds and do not circulate in plant tissue.  Essential oils are light, found in all plant matter, and sustain the life of the mature plant via the processes mentioned above.  For those reasons, they circulate through all plant tissue and are able to pass through cell walls and membranes.

A FEW CONCERNS ABOUT HOW ESSENTIAL OIL PLANTS ARE GROWN

Since essential oils come from plants, the plants need to be grown, cultivated and harvested under the right conditions at the right times.  I’m not going to go into all the details of that process here except to say that the same things that concerns me about the growing conditions of my food, concerns me about the growing conditions of my essential oils since they’re also be absorbed into my body.  Concerns like whether the seeds used are heirloom, hybrid, or genetically engineered.  Concerns like whether or not the growing conditions are organic or conventional.  And, concerns like whether the plants are grown indigenously, in the parts of the world where they naturally grow best, which will most likely yield an essential oil with the most therapeutic value.

HOW ARE ESSENTIAL OILS EXTRACTED?

Most therapeutic grade essential oils are made by a process called steam distillation.  Citrus oils are also considered essential oils, but are not collected by steam distillation.  Rather, they are collected by a process referred to as cold expression of the pressed peel where the essential oil is collected by using mechanical pressure to squeeze the oil out of the citrus peel.  But, since most essential oils are made by steam distillation, I’m going to focus on that method here.  I believe the below image designed by Rain Shadow Labs illustrates the process of steam distillation the most simply and clearly.

1.  Water is heated to create steam.

2.  The steam is passed through plant material; this could be any part of the plant, roots, stalks, stems, leaves, flowers, etc. because essential oils circulate through all plant tissue.

3.  The steam pulls the volatile essential oil out of the plant material; the oil rises with the steam.

4.  The steam/volatile oil mixture are then cooled in a condenser, which takes them from gases (steam and volatile oil) to liquids (water and essential oil).

5.  The liquid essential oil is then separated from the floral water (aka hydrosol).

6.  The floral water/hydrosol can be used in beauty products.

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When steam distillation is done at low pressure and minimum temperatures, the resulting oil will be closest to that in a living plant with the most therapeutic benefits.  If the steam distillation process is too harsh (at higher temperatures and pressures), the resulting oil will not be as beneficial therapeutically, if at all, but more oil can be obtained in doing so.  This is one of the reasons I encouraged you know your distributor in the first post of this series.  Some interesting facts, it requires about 250 pounds of lavender to yield 1 pound of lavender essential oil; 2,000 pounds of cypress for 1 pound of cypress essential oil and 6,000 pounds of melissa for 1 pound of melissa essential oil.  So, if you’ve ever wondered why melissa is more expensive than lavender, this is in addition to the varied cost of optimal growth requirements are contributing factors why.

Another note, most of the time, the steam distillation is only done once because the plant matter only has so much volatile oil to offer, so harvesters usually optimize the amount of time needed to run the steam distiller accordingly.  However, in the case of a few plants, like peppermint and ylang-ylang, longer distillations (increasing temperatures and pressures midway) can be done to yield more oil, more cost effectively; however, it’s most likely at the expense of the therapeutic value of the oil.  But, again, bear in mind that this is only the case for very few oils.

One last note about steam distillation, the process of steam distillation oil only removes the volatile oil from the plant matter, meaning only components 500-1000 amu (atomic mass units) or less are going to come through the steam distillation process (500 amu would be a conservative estimate; 1000 amu would be a more liberal estimate).  Bear in mind also that there’s healing in the large molecules, which can be accessed only by eating fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, and herbs and not by using essential oils by definition.  I believe this is one of the reasons why we can’t expect essential oils to fix all our problems.  We also need to eat a good diet and be other wise healthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually by exercising, resting, reducing stress, etc.

ESSENTIAL OIL TESTING AND SOME OTHER THOUGHTS TO CONSIDER

After the essential oil is collect by steam distillation, it’s usually tested using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS).  While testing is an important part of the process of determining the composition and purity of essential oils, Adrienne, a fellow writer, researcher and health nut at a Whole New Mom candidly discusses some valid concerns with relying solely on GC/MS for determining purity here.  She discerningly points out several great points to consider when selecting a therapeutic grade essential oil:

Growing Conditions:  Is the plant organic and/or wild-crafted with natural fertilizers and without the use of synthetic pesticides/herbicides/etc. and far enough away from farms that choose to use these products?

Steam Distillation:  Is steam distillation conducted without the use of solvents or adultering of any other kind?  Is it conducted using minimum pressures and temperatures?

Testing and Final Product:  Is the resulting essential oil pure and free of artificial oils?  Does the resulting oil fall within GC/MS guidelines?

ESSENTIAL OIL COMPOSITION

Once obtained, the essential oil of any plant species is a complex mixture of tens to hundreds of small organic molecules (again, here, small is defined as less than 1000 amu and organic is defined as containing carbon atoms).  To date, no essential oil has been completely analyzed for all it’s constituents.  According to Dr. Stewart, the small molecular structure of essential oils means that 1 drop of essential oil can contain up to 40 million trillion molecules.  Recently, Bianconi et al. estimated that the human body contains around 40 trillion cells.  So, if these estimates are correct, mathematically, each drop of essential oil contains enough molecules to cover each cell with 100,000 molecules.  Dr. Stewart writes here that it only takes one molecule of the right kind to open a receptor site and communicate with the DNA to alter cellular function; however, too many oil molecules can saturate receptor sites, rendering them ineffective and unresponsive.  Think along these lines, I applied a lot of essential oil (either accidentally or intentionally).  If the receptors of my cells fill up with essential oil molecules of the wrong kind, the molecules I my body needs can remain outside the cells searching for an open receptor.  That’s a scenario, but I write all that to say and as Dr. Stewart points out, in terms of essential oil usage, a can go a long way.

Living organisms, plants, animals, and microbes, produce thousands of small organic molecules and little is known about them.  However, we do know that the isoprene unit is one of the most frequently found and fundamental structural patterns in small organic molecules in plants, animals, and microbes.  Compounds containing isoprene units are referred to as isoprenes or terpenes.  Gershenzon from the Max Planck Institute and Dudareva from Purdue University cite that around 25,000 terpene structures have been reported and discuss some of the major roles of terpenes in nature in this review article.

isopreneIsoprene-3D-balls

There are three main classes of terpenes found in essential oils:  phenylpropanoids (aka hemiterpenes), sequesterpenes, and monoterpenes.  Each class containing hundreds or thousands of different compounds.  Phenylpropanoids help resist bacteria and viruses as well as clean cellular receptors.  Sequesterpenes are the largest class of natural products, with structural varieties numbering around 10,000.  According to Gershenzon and Dudareva, sequesterpenes have potent antibacterial and antifungal activity, a tremendous benefit for protection, healing, and repair; sequesterpenes have also been reported to act as toxins, growth inhibitors and deterrents in plants, demonstrating their ability to regulate plant functions, including metabolism.  Dr. Stewart states here sequesterpenes can also play roles in cellular oxygenation as well as correcting miswritten codes in DNA.  Monoterpenes have been implicated in plant defense and protection as well as synergistically enhancing the effect of sequesterpenes.

IMPLICATIONS

Gershenzon and Dudareva speculate that the structural diversity and vast number of terpenes within organisms may allow cellular messages to be very specific with high information content.  Terpene variety may also result in a synergistic effect whereby the actions of individual terpenes are enhanced in the presence of other terpenes.  Many of the ancient essential oils (like those mentioned in the Bible) as well as some modern essential oil blends contain all three types of terpenes.  Dr. Stewart additionally points out here that if an essential oil contains all three types of terpenes, the phenylpropanoids may clean the receptor sites, allowing the sequesterpenes access to the cell through cellular receptors to regulate cellular function and the monoterpenes to restore, or even reprogram, cellular function.

While generalizations may be easier for us to understand, Gershenzon and Dudareva wisely point out that making generalizations about the activity of classes of small organic molecules as varied as the terpenes, can be dangerous.  Remember that each class of terpenes contains hundreds or thousands of different compounds.  Even the smallest of changes in structure, as in the case of (R)– and (S)- carvone, which have the exact same chemical formula but are structurally sightly different (being “right” and “left” handed), result in noticeable differences – we know (R)-carvone as spearmint and (S)-carvone as caraway.

carvone1

Similarly, the (+)– and (-)- gossypol found in cottonseeds also have the exact same chemical formulas and are altered just the slightest structurally, but enough so that (-)-gossypol is toxic to humans while (+)-gossypol is not.  So, we can see how we need to be careful.

Scientific research on the composition and effects of essential oils is limited, but I believe there are enough good resources on essential oil composition and usage to support safe, reliable, and responsible use.  So, it’s important to do your research and trust your instincts.  The chemistry of an essential oil determines what is possible and what is not.  Dr. Stewart aptly points out in the Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple that a given essential oil is only capable of the possibilities within its constituents.  And, that our prayerful, informed, and discerning application and usage determines which possibilities actually happen.

 

 

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FDA Disclaimer: The products and statements made about specific products in this presentation have not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to diagnose, treat cure, or prevent disease. All information provided during this presentation, or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging, is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. Any testimonials presented are based on individual results.

Essential Oil Basics: Use and Application

When my kit of essential oils arrived in the mail, I stared at them for several days and thought “now what?!”  For new essential oil users, my goal in this post is to get you to open your bottles and/or kit sooner than I did and start seeing how they can help you in your everyday life.  Or, maybe, you like to plan ahead and the thought of buying something you don’t know what to do with simply doesn’t make sense.  I’m with you there, too.  So, another goal of this post is to reach out to you and let you know some very practical ways essential oils can be added into your daily routine.  Lastly, for avid essential oil users, I hope that you learn something new either directly from this post or by the principles inspired in this post to take your essential oil experience even deeper.  So, let’s get started.

ESSENTIAL OIL USE AND APPLICATION

There are several methods of use with essential oils.

1. Cleaning

One of the easiest ways to use essential oils is to add them to your DIY cleaning products.  I frequently add a few drops to my DIY All Purpose Cleaner.  I will also add a few drops to a 1:1 mixture of vinegar:water to soften the vinegar smell and enhance its cleaning and disinfecting power.  When I’m removing stubborn stains like the grimy buildup on the bathtub or removing stickers from jars, I apply lemon essential oil directly to the stain and scrub with 1:1 vinegar:water and baking soda.

2. Aromatherapy

Another easy way to use essential oils is to inhale them directly from the bottle.  You can put a couple drops in your palms and cup your hands over your face and inhale (a side note: any time I have leftover oils on my hands from applying elsewhere I will use the cupping method in order to get added benefit from the oil).  Or, you can use a home diffuser.  The beauty of a home diffuser is that everyone in the room benefits from the oils.  I enjoy diffusing citrus oils when I’m waking up.  I like diffusing calming lavender to wind down and relax.  I often diffuse Thieves when I am concerned about supporting my immune system and/or reducing germs.

2. Topical Application

Another easy way to use essential oils is to apply the oils directly to the skin.  Neat refers to applying oils to the skin undiluted.  Most often with topical use, you will likely want to dilute your essential oil with a carrier oil.  A carrier oil refers to any vegetable oil; olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, and argan oil are all common carrier oils.  You want to dilute “hot oils” like cinnamon, peppermint, and oregano even more because they can burn and/or irritate the skin.  Diluting the hot oils doesn’t reduce their power, if you think about it, you’ll still be getting the same amount of the oil in your system (one drop, two drops, etc.); however, it does slow down the absorption rate of the oil so they don’t burn and/or irritate your system as much.  Another reason you may want to dilute your oils is to allow them to cover a larger surface area like if you’re trying to comfort a sunburn, rash, or stomach ache.  Therapeutic grade essential oils are very potent so a little bit goes a long way in terms of finding relief.  You’ll also want to take care to dilute oils if you’re using them on children, probably even more than you would on yourself.

Where and how you apply your oils will vary depending on which oil you’re using and what you are focused on.  Generally, when I have an ailment I apply my oil on that location. For example, if I have a headache I apply to the oil to my temples and forehead, for a stomach ache or digestive issue I apply the oils to my abdomen, for respiratory issues I apply to my chest, and so on.  For other things like mood and sleep you can apply to pulse points like the wrists and neck, up the spine where lots of nerve endings can be found, or on the bottoms of the feet.  The soles of the feet have very large pores so they absorb oils very well.  Avoid putting essential oils in your eyes or ears; if you do get some in by accident, flush with carrier oil to dilute.  Another way to apply oils is on the Vita Flex points.

Vita Flex points are places on hands, feet, spine and ears that relate to organ systems and activate their reflex, also known as reflexology.  Acupressure and acupuncture techniques work with these same electrical and energetic pathways to stimulate a bodily response.

3. Ingestion

Last, but not least, the third way to use essential oils is to ingest the oils.  We ingest food, pharmaceutical drugs, vitamins, etc., so ingesting essential oils doesn’t seem like a far stretch of the imagination for me if I have an ailment of some sort I’m trying to find relief from.  However, just as not all plants are safe for human consumption, not all essential oils should be consumed either.  Many high quality essential oils are safe to consume, but some are not, so make sure you do your research. Personally, I only ingest therapeutic grade essential oils for the reasons described in the previous post.  Make sure the essential oils you’re ingesting are guaranteed for purity.  Each oil has specifications and safety information printed on the label.

When ingesting, I prefer to drop my essential oils in a glass of water.  You can also drop them on a spoonful of raw honey, or on a slice of bread.  Again, “hot oils” should also be significantly diluted for internal use just like with topical application so they don’t cause stomach upset or irritation.  Internal use of essential oils with children should be done with extreme caution, if at all, because they are so potent.  If you’re considering internal use of essential oils, do thorough research and only do what you are comfortable with.  Personally, I’ve used essential oils internally myself, but not with my children because that’s what I’m comfortable with.

Aside from these three main uses, essential oils can also be used to make homemade body products (soap, lotions, lip balm), sunscreen, bug spray, bath salts, etc.  As an avid DIY-er, I’ve had a lot of fun crafting with them.  So, I’d encourage you to have fun with them, too!

SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF USE AND APPLICATION

Do your research and experiment with different uses and application methods to see what works best for you and your family, that’s the best way to learn!  Now that we’ve covered the basics of how to use essential oils.

If you’re looking for a good reference book, I own, use and like Essential Oils Pocket Reference.  There’s a section explaining potential uses for each oil and blend and another section explaining various ailments and what may assist that particular ailment.  There’s also a brief section on essential oil chemistry, application (more thorough than I’ve described above to be sure), massage and more.  I know there are other great essential oil reference books out there, but this is the one I use most.

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New users to essential oils, I’m not saying all this to overwhelm you!  So, let’s all take a deep breath…and, another.  Okay, now, if you remember from the previous post, I’ve been using essential oils for several years now.  When I first started, I used peppermint, lavender, and lemon.  And, that was the extent of my essential oil usage…at first.  However, as I began to see the effectiveness of therapeutic grade essential oils, I gradually started branching out and using oils for other ailments, conditions, and in crafts.

If you’re ready to get started, but aren’t sure how, I covered the basics of my recommendations for getting started in the previous post.  Up next, I’ll write about the chemistry of essential oils, particularly what essential oils are made of and how they work.  Last month, I started teaching a class of the same name to some local essential oil users with tremendous success, so I’m going to try my hand at relaying the information in blog form, too.  Oh, and I promise you won’t need a chemistry background to understand what we’re talking about, so I hope you’ll come back!

 

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FDA Disclaimer: The products and statements made about specific products in this presentation have not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to diagnose, treat cure, or prevent disease. All information provided during this presentation, or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging, is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. Any testimonials presented are based on individual results.

Essential Oil Basics: Getting Started

HEALTHY BASICS

Being healthy is an all encompassing task.  It involves all parts of our being: body, mind and spirit.  It involves many small and big decisions day in and day out, some of which contradict our nature and wishes, made in the knowledge and understanding that our bodies and lives will be better because of them.  That being said, sometimes we just don’t know where to start.

1.  Eat Healthy Foods.

One of the first and easiest ways to start is by making healthy food choices.  There are an abundance of great books, literature and blogs on the topic of eating well and I even allude to some on this blog from time to time.  Because of this abundance of resources, I won’t spend a lot of time on this topic now except to say that food can be our medicine in so many ways.  Fresh produce along with fresh and dried herbs have energy that they transmit to our bodies, making us healthier when we eat them in a balance diet of lean protein and healthy carbohydrates and fats.

2.  Use positive thoughts and words and pray.

A second way to be healthy is to use positive thoughts, words, and prayers.  The interaction between the mind and matter is supported by science (simply go here and enter the search term “mind body connection” to pull up a whole host of scientific articles exploring the topic).  Human thought and intent also has energy that transmits to our bodies, making us healthier when we use them.  While this can also be a difficult task, there’s also a wealth of resources in addition to communities of people who dedicate their lives to helping people make these positive changes.  So, again, I’ll move my focus on to the third way I’ve found to be healthy, a way in which I believe there are less resources and support available.

3.  Use therapeutic grade essential oils.

A third way to be healthy is to use therapeutic grade essential oils.  Despite our best attempts to eat well and think positively, for most of us, life catches up and we find ourselves stressed and busy, eating poorly and struggling to find something “nice” to say or even to think a coherent thought at all.  In situations such as these, some turn to modern medicine, but since I’m more happy and comfortable with a natural approach, I believe this is where therapeutic grade essential oils can be very helpful in overcoming struggles and getting back on track with a healthy diet and thought life.  Essential oils have been a life-changing part of my life for the past several years and I’m excited to share with you what I’ve learned!

Power-of-Nature-in-a-Bottle

So, for my first three posts on health and wellness, I’m going to talk about essential oils.  I recently told a friend about essential oils and was looking for a good, basic yet informative site to direct her to.  Since my search came up void, I decided to write this series.  In this post, I’ll tell you about the basics, what essential oils are, where I buy oils and why as well as some thoughts to consider when selecting an essential oil distributor.  In the next post, I’ll move on to some different techniques for use and application.  And, finally, since I’m a chemist and a lover of details, I’ll go into the science behind what essential oils are, where they come from, and how they work.

WHAT IS AN ESSENTIAL OIL?

Essential oils come from plants.  They are “essential” because they sustain the life of a mature plant, by directing vital processes in plants such as metabolism, nutrient absorption, regulation of plant functions, protection, healing, repair, and reproduction.  And, they are “oils” because they are made up, primarily of hydrocarbons (atoms of hydrogen and carbon), which are also known as “oils.”  (A special note: because they are light weight, which we’ll talk about in my third post on the chemistry of essential oils, they are not greasy like the heavier weight vegetable oils many of us are more familiar with.)

By virtue of their “vital” purpose in plants, therapeutic grade essential oils have the potential to assist us in many similar ways they assist plants.

ESSENTIAL OIL DISTRIBUTORS

One of the most important things to understand is that not all essential oils are created equal.  With the boom in natural health over the course of the past decade or so, many companies have jumped on the essential oil bandwagon, but taken shortcuts along the way that have compromised the integrity of their oils.  If your desire is to use essential oils for health and wellness, to assist you in supporting an ailment, I would encourage you to do your research on the company you’re buying from.  Please make sure you’re buying a pure, organic, therapeutic grade essential oil, which will have the most healing properties available to you with no fillers or contaminants.  Just as there are many essential oils distributors selling low quality products, there are several distributors selling high quality oils, too.  So, do your own research and find one that works for you.

I like Young Living because they are one of the leaders in the essential oil industry.  They set a high standard with their organic seed to seal process, they own all their farms, and have over 20 years of experience.  They test every batch of oils using a highly calibrated gas chromatograph, comparing each batch to a high standard of a known standard; any batches that fall short are thrown away.  Young Living oils are pure, therapeutic, and potent.  Young Living is a multi-level marketing (MLM) company, while I understand that that is a turn-off to some, I like it in the essential oil market because of the supportive community/team you become part of when you join an active Young Living group.  While I enjoy Young Living essential oils, I have friends and family who love doTERRA, which is also an MLM company.  I also have friends and family who love Rocky Mountain Oils, which is closely allied with Native American Nutritionals, neither of which MLM companies.

For me, using essential oils is about natural health.  While modern medicine certainly has it’s place, many believe it has become overused.  Not to mention that a lot of over the counter and prescription medications simply don’t work for me, which has led me down a path of looking for natural alternatives.  When I first started using essential oils, I didn’t know what to expect, but using high quality essential oils, I’ve experienced amazing results for many ailments.  I have personally used my oils for colds/flu, headaches, mood support, household cleaning, oral care, relaxation, routine skin care, rashes, cleaning, stomach aches, canker sores, sunburn, bug bites, muscle pain, and more using aromatherapy, topical application, and ingestion (the topic of my next post).  As you know from my blog, I am passionate about natural health and wellness as well as a good deal.  For those reasons, many of my friends and family members have asked me my thoughts on getting started with essential oils.

HOW DO I GET STARTED?

If you’re ready to get started I highly recommend the Premium Starter Kit for a few reasons.  Getting started with the kit qualifies you for a 24% wholesale discount on all your future purchases.  There are no yearly membership fees, no commitments or strings attached, it really is as simple as it sounds.  Starting with the Premium Kit gives you will have a whole arsenal of oils (11 to be exact) to test, experiment, and play with.  Buying single oils or smaller kits means it will take a lot longer to build a collection as well as to determine which oils work best for you.

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WHAT’S INCLUDED WITH THE KIT?

The Premium Starter Kit includes:

  • 5 mL bottles of the following essential oils:
    • Frankincense (supports youthful skin and spiritual connection)
    • Lemon (supports detoxification and cleaning)
    • Lavender (supports skin irritations and relaxation)
    • Melaleuca Alternifolia (supports immune function and skin)
    • Peppermint (reduces muscle soreness and digestive issues)
    • Joy (supports happiness and love)
    • Purification (helps in cleaning)
    • PanAway (reduces pain and inflammation)
    • Thieves (supports immune function, helps colds/flu)
    • Stress Away (reduces stress and tension)
    • Bonus: Citrus Fresh (supports immune function, purification, and calming)
  • Home Diffuser 
  • Aroma Glide Roller Fitment (which allows you to turn any oil into a roll on)
  • 10 sample packets for travel or sharing
  • 2 samples of NingXia Red (an antioxidant supplement)
  • Lots of helpful literature on oil usage and the Young Living company

BUYING YOUNG LIVING ESSENTIAL OILS

When you are ready to sign up you have two options.  The first is a retail account, which I don’t recommend because you pay 24% more than you need to.  The second option is a wholesale account.  I believe this option, along with the Premium Starter Kit, is the best value.  In addition to getting 24% off all your purchases, you will also be eligible to sign up for their Essential Rewards program to earn free oils and, if you ever decide to be an independent distributor, you will have that option available to you as well with a wholesale account. There is no obligation, commitment, hidden fees, or strings attached to the wholesale account.  If you believe this is the next step for your family’s health, click here.

As an MLM, if you click the link above, you’ll see that I’m providing you with my Young Living ID in the sponsor and enroller ID boxes.  I’d love to sponsor you and, thereby be able to help and support you on your essential oil journey and to help you find answers to your questions about essential oils and their uses.  In fact, it would be my honor.  Please know that this is not about numbers, sign-ups or making money for me.  I simply want to make sure that everyone seeking answers about essential oils finds them either from great books, articles, and resources or from an active, supportive community like our private Facebook group.  I’ve received a lot of information and support from my essential oil community.  I believe that’s one of the reasons I’ve seen so many benefits from essential oils.  I want that for you, too!

So, whether you choose Young Living or another high quality essential oil distributor.  Whether you’re looking to make more natural changes in your health or that of your family.  Or, whether you’re trying to reduce your exposure to toxins and harsh chemicals.  Or, if you simply have more questions about essential oils that you want answered, I hope that you’ll stick around for the rest of this series to learn more about essential oils.  I will not be making any more product pitches after today; my inspiration for this post came from my friends and family wondering where I recommend starting and why.  The remaining posts will provide information that will be useful to any user of therapeutic grade essential oils.  Up next, I’ll write about different techniques for essential oil use and application.

 

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FDA Disclaimer: The products and statements made about specific products in this presentation have not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to diagnose, treat cure, or prevent disease. All information provided during this presentation, or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging, is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. Any testimonials presented are based on individual results.