Natural Beauty and Health

Breaking down essential oils: When and why to use them

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Grapefruit essential oils in bottles

Image: Shutterstock/ORLIO

Essential oils are the earth’s medicine. Dating back as far as 18,000 B.C.E., the uses of essential oils vary from culture to culture. These concentrated nutrients have been used for as long as human civilization can remember, so why would’t we check them out and try to incorporate them into our beauty routine? Essential oils have endless benefits, but it can be confusing to sort through them all, since there are so many. We have put together this complete guide to help you navigate the world of essential oils and learn when and how to use them. But first, what even are essential oils?

History

Technically, essential oils are the liquids that are distilled from plants, taken from many different parts including their seeds and bark. This oil-like substance is an extremely concentrated version of the plant it came from, which makes it very potent with nutrients. They make up the regenerating, oxygenating, and immune defense properties of plants so they are basically holy water. It takes a huge amount of one plant to make just a little bit of essential oil. For example, one pound of pure melissa oil sells for about $9,000-$15,000 which seems like a crazy amount, but it takes three tons of plant material to produce that single pound of oil. Other smaller plants, like lavender, take only 100 pounds to make one pound of essential oil. Even so, that’s a lot of work just for a little oil.

Essential oils have been used for centuries for everything from religious purposes to medicinal healing. The first known use of them within human civilization was in the Dordogne region in France where cave paintings were found suggesting medicinal use. Places like Egypt, China and India are also places were essential oils have been utilized for as long as we can remember. Seriously, everyone loves them, and for good reason.

Benefits/properties

So why should you use the oil that comes out of a plant on a day to day basis? The real question is, why shouldn’t you. There are hundreds of health and beauty benefits from using essential oils, so it’s impossible to tell you about all of them. But don’t worry, here is a list of the most important and relevant benefits that you should know about so you can begin diving into the world of essential oils.

Note: before using essential oils it is important that we suggest testing the oil on a small patch of your skin to ensure you don’t have a bad reaction. While they are completely natural, they are very concentrated substances that will react differently with everyone, just as poison ivy does. Be careful before putting essential oils directly onto your skin!

Essential oils are tiny in molecular size

Okay.. so what? Because of their tiny molecular size, essential oils can absorb into the skin really easily, making their healing and nourishing properties readily available to your body quickly. Whether they are added to lotions or put directly onto the skin, they will absorb quickly. Added bonus: they do not stick around and build up in your body. They offer up their benefits, then head out. Tysm.

Most essential oils are high in antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties

Not only can you use essential oils in your beauty routine, you can use them while cleaning! Adding them to cleaning supplies (like makeup brush or sponge cleaner) will offer disinfecting properties, as well as make them smell amazing. Even mixing them into your facial moisturizer could prevent acne as well as add more moisture to your skin.

Essential oils are totally natural

Nothing gets more natural than when it comes from a plant. Because essential oils come from nature and cannot be artificially produced (at least not authentically), they cannot be patented. That means no doctors will recommend them for medicinal uses, and they will not be studied as heavily. All the knowledge we have about essential oils has been passed down by generations, and comes from personal use and experimentation. Because of this, don’t be afraid to experiment with different oils and find out what works best for you. What works for one person may not work as well for another – it’s all about your personal preference!

Essential oils are aromatic

Huh? Aromatic simply means that something has an aroma. When essential oils are diffused by air (within a diffuser) they have many impressive properties. Once the oil is in the air, it can remove metallic particles and toxins from the air, increase atmospheric oxygen, increase ozone and negative ions in the area, which inhibits bacterial growth, destroy odors from mold, cigarettes, and animals, and just make the room smell good. Once you experience it, you will want a diffuser in every room in your house.

Bio-electrical frequency

Essential oils actually have a bio-electrical frequency that is several times greater than the frequency of herb, food, and even the human body. Excuse me, what? This means that when ingested or used outside of the body, essential oils have been shown to raise the frequency of the human body, returning it back to it’s healthiest state. As confusing and spiritual as this sounds, my take on it is that they just give the body good vibes all around, molecularly. Who doesn’t want good vibes, man?

Essential oils last forever

Okay, not forever, but anywhere between 5-10 years. If you invest in good quality essential oils, they will end up paying for themselves because of everything they offer you. While some are more expensive than others, with some experimentation you will figure out which ones work best for you so you can purchase those exclusively. Investing in high quality oils though will prove to be totally worth it because of how long it lasts.

Which oils should you use for what?

There are so many essential oils to use for pretty much everything, so how do you know which ones are the most important? Different oils can be used for beauty purposes, physical health, mental health, pain and pretty much any problem you could ever have. Headache? Essential oils. Dry skin? Essential oils. Boyfriend acting up? Essential oils. Well maybe not the last one, but for pretty much anything else you can think of, essential oils can help. We have put together a list of them that you should always have on hand for various emergencies.

Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil is known for its properties that treat indigestion, respiratory problems, headache, nausea, fever, stomach and bowel spasms and pain. Massaging some into the skin on your abdomen and/or wrists, and inhaling the aroma can help relieve motion sickness or nausea (shout out to everyone who gets car sick like me). Putting some into a diffuser or inhaling the aroma can also help with a stuffy nose if you have a cold by clearing out your sinuses. It’s important to note that when peppermint oil is applied directly to the skin, it has a tingling/burning sensation that could be painful if you apply too much, or apply it without a carrier oil (like jojoba or olive oil) mixed with it. Just be prepared for that minty tingling feeling!

Lavender oil

Lavender oil is widely known for it’s calming and relaxing properties. If you’re feeling especially stressed, use a lavender spray on your body, or dab some straight up lavender oil onto your temples. Also, lavender oil has been shown to help with insomnia. If you find that you have trouble sleeping, put a few drops onto your palms and run them across your pillow before you go to bed, or put some into a diffuser to ensure you get a good night’s sleep. Lavender oil has also been known to promote blood flow during menstruation, so it could help to relieve cramps as well. We’ll try anything that claims to relieve cramps. Gently massage a few drops into your abdomen to relieve pain.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is extremely well known for its antiseptic properties, and it has been used medicinally for centuries. Typically used for problems like acne, bacterial infections, cold sores and bad breath, really you can use it for so many things. If you struggle a lot with acne, tea tree oil could save your skin. There are a few different options. You could make your own homemade face wash by mixing two teaspoons of raw honey with five drops of pure tea tree oil that will add moisture to your skin as well. Or, you could simply dip a q-tip into a bottle of pure tea tree oil and apply it directly on the blemish you are trying to heal. No more acne achieved naturally, yay!

Eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus oil is one of the most potent oils used for medicinal purposes, including everything from reducing inflammation to killing leukemia cells! One useful way to utilize these properties is to diffuse eucalyptus oil overnight if you have a cold, as they kill toxins and microorganisms in your body that make you feel gross and sick. Beauty wise, eucalyptus oil is great for your hair and scalp. Adding a few drops to coconut oil or olive oil to create a nourishing mask will make your hair feel shiny and moisturized. It also is a good alternative to chemical treatments if you get head lice (yikes!).

Lemon oil

Lemon oil is great for detoxifying the body and mind. The concentrated amounts of antioxidants provide amazing cleansing properties for all the toxins in your body. Put a few drops into a glass of water to clean out your liver, kidneys and digestive system. Also, put a few drops into tap or public water to kill anything weird that might be in it. The scent of lemon oil is uplifting and pleasant, so if you need a boost of happiness put a few drops on your palms and inhale the good vibes.

Additional oils

While the five oils we discussed above are great to have on hand at all times, these next few are just additional options to keep in mind if you have specific issues you would like to treat, or you’re just obsessed with essential oils (like us). Check out these beauties.

Ginger oil

Ginger isn’t just good in Moscow Mules. It actually has really beneficial properties for your digestive system. If you have issues with indigestion or nausea, ginger is your answer. Put 1-2 drops into a glass of water to help with nausea and indigestion. Also, massage a bit on your lower abdomen and/or the bottom of your feet to help with indigestion. No one likes an upset stomach.

Rose oil

Just like tea tree oil, rose oil has many skin benefits. However, rose oil is usually used for anti-aging and brightening purposes rather than treating acne. It helps to balance moisture in the skin, reduce the appearance of skin imperfections, promotes an even skin tone and healthy complexion, and its emotionally uplifting. Use it as a natural facial serum after cleansing your face each night all over, taking it down your neck as well. Glowing skin was never so easy and so natural.

Rosemary oil

Rosemary oil is one of the most versatile oils out there. Used medicinally, for beauty, household chores, and in the garden, there really isn’t anything you can’t do with rosemary oil. One thing it’s known for is relieving headaches and muscle pain. Just rub a bit of oil directly on your temples, and muscles that are sore regularly to feel relief. Also, you could rub 1-2 drops between your palms and hold them against your nose and mouth for up to a minute to breathe in the amazing effects. Seriously, try it for everything.

Where do I get them?

There are many places to get essential oils, but it’s important to be knowledgable about what you’re actually getting. If you’re a beginner and just want to try it out, it’s okay to get lower quality oils. By lower quality, I mean oils that are not in their absolute purest form, but are mixed with a carrier oil such as olive oil. Places like beeyoutiful.com offer amazing essential oils for great prices, and even starter packs with different choices to try out. However, if you’re looking for top notch quality and are willing to pay a little extra, check out mountainroseherbs.com. This site offers ethical and organic essential oils of the best quality.

Lauren is a beauty and lifestyle editor for Beauty Hacked at 301brands who has a strange obsession with cats and a love for Drake that will never be reciprocated. Follow her on Instagram: @lpetermeyer