Essential Oils 101
We all have scents that comfort us. Maybe it’s the smell of the forest near your childhood home or the acidity of a favorite single-origin coffee. Opening a bottle of any essential oil is, first and foremost, about the scent. But that’s not all that essential oils have to offer. With benefits for the skin, hair, and around the home, essential oils may just be the comforting balm you’ve been craving.
If you’ve always wanted to learn about the world of essential oils, keep reading and our basic guide will tell you everything you need to know.
What Is an Essential Oil?
True essential oils are aromatic compounds that are extracted naturally from plants, typically via steam distillation or cold pressing, and they’re musts for any self-care tool kit. Although most essential oils are too concentrated to apply to the skin undiluted, mixing a few drops into a carrier oil such as coconut, jojoba, or argan oil is a safe and gentle way to reap all their benefits topically.
Essential Oils for Aromatherapy
Every essential oil has a distinct fragrance that can subtly influence the emotions—and knowing which oil to use when can help you soothe, brighten, or uplift your mood. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Lavender: This relaxing scent can help you de-stress, relax into sleep, or cheer up.1,2 Reach for it when you’re feeling anxious, worried, wound up, restless, or a little down.
- Tea tree: The clean scent of tea tree oil invigorates, uplifts and rejuvenates—but also evokes calm, relaxed feelings. It’s just right when you’re worn out, burned out, or stressed.
- Jasmine: With its heady, floral scent, jasmine lifts moods and is often referred to as the “perfume of love.” Reach for it when you want a chill or romantic vibe.
- Frankincense: The woodsy, earthy scent of frankincense encourages calm, focus, and clarity.3 Try it when you’re stressed, feeling frazzled, or overwhelmed.
- Lemongrass: With its light, citrusy scent, lemongrass oil inspires a bright, happy, and calm mood, so it’s a solid choice if you’re tired, need a boost, or just want to stay sunny.4,5
To take advantage of the aromatherapeutic effects, place a few drops of the essential oil of your choice in a diffuser, or combine with a carrier oil to dab on wrists or temples. You can also mix and match oils and create your own custom blends.
Essential Oils for Beauty
Because they are concentrated extracts that can cause reactions if applied directly to the skin, essential oils need dilution to be used safely. A carrier oil serves as just that—a carrier, or way to spread the nourishing components of the essential oil. Add a few drops of your essential oil of choice to your preferred carrier oil (or to other self-care products) and enjoy the effects, which we’ve outlined below.
Lemongrass oil hydrates and tones the skin when added to moisturizer or carrier oils.6,7 This citrus-y oil also encourages long, strong hair, so be sure to add a drop or two to your regular shampoo or conditioner.
As long as it’s properly diluted, tea tree oil is appropriate for all skin and hair types. Add it to toners, moisturizing oils, and masks for clear skin, or drop some into your shampoo or conditioner to maintain lush, healthy locks and a comfortable scalp. Adding a few drops to cleansing oil is a kinder, gentler clearing cleanser.8,9,10,11
Frankincense addresses the issues of both youthful and mature skin. This ancient oil’s antioxidants and boswellic acids discourage free radicals, ease the effects of the sun, and encourage the skin’s production of elastin and collagen for agelessly smooth, plump skin—while also having a calming effect that helps keep away redness, irritation, and breakouts.12,13,14,15,16,17,18 Just add a drop or two to your daily skincare products.
Lavender oil supports collagen production and healthy blood flow (think: attractive blush!) while discouraging redness and breakouts, and you can also use it to maintain full, healthy hair and soft, kissable lips.19,20,21,22,23,24 Add it to skincare oils, moisturizer, hair care products, and lip balms.
Essential Oils for DIY
Looking for more ways to enjoy essential oils? It’s time to get creative! These ideas can help get you started:
- Design your own signature perfumes and sachets.
- Mix up a batch of homemade moisturizer, body butter or hair mist.
- Craft naturally scented candles by adding essential oils to melted beeswax or soy wax.
- Make your own safe, natural deodorants and household cleaning products.
- Experiment with adding essential oils to dried fruit and flowers for homemade potpourri.
- Use lemongrass oil as a natural mosquito and insect repellent.
When shopping for essential oils, be sure to choose only naturally extracted plant oils with no synthetic additives. Rest assured that all our pure, single-ingredient Valentia essential oils are lovingly, sustainably, and ethically crafted—and are completely free of parabens, GMOs, phthalates, preservatives, synthetic fragrances, or artificial ingredients of any kind.
- Conrad, P., & Adams, C. (2012). The effects of clinical aromatherapy for anxiety and depression in the high risk postpartum woman – A pilot study. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 18(3), 164-168. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2012.05.002
- McCaffrey, R., Thomas, D. J., & Kinzelman, A. O. (2009). The Effects of Lavender and Rosemary Essential Oils on Test-Taking Anxiety Among Graduate Nursing Students. Holistic Nursing Practice, 23(2), 88-93. doi:10.1097/hnp.0b013e3181a110aa
- Moussaieff, A., Rimmerman, N., Bregman, T., Straiker, A., Felder, C. C., Shoham, S., … Mechoulam, R. (2008). Incensole acetate, an incense component, elicits psychoactivity by activating TRPV3 channels in the brain. The FASEB Journal, 22(8), 3024-3034. doi:10.1096/fj.07-101865
- Shah, G., Shri, R., Panchal, V., Sharma, N., Singh, B., & Mann, A. (2011). Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Cymbopogon citratus, stapf (Lemon grass). Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research, 2(1), 3. doi:10.4103/2231-4040.79796
- Costa, C. A., Kohn, D. O., De Lima, V. M., Gargano, A. C., Flório, J. C., & Costa, M. (2011). The GABAergic system contributes to the anxiolytic-like effect of essential oil from Cymbopogon citratus (lemongrass). Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 137(1), 828-836. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2011.07.003
- Tzortzakis, N. G., & Economakis, C. D. (2007). Antifungal activity of lemongrass (Cympopogon citratus L.) essential oil against key postharvest pathogens. Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies, 8(2), 253-258. doi:10.1016/j.ifset.2007.01.002
- Boukhatem, M. N., Ferhat, M. A., Kameli, A., Saidi, F., & Kebir, H. T. (2014). Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) essential oil as a potent anti-inflammatory and antifungal drugs. Libyan Journal of Medicine, 9(1), 25431. doi:10.3402/ljm.v9.25431
- Camila S, O., Ana Beatriz PP, S., Leopoldina L, F., Nadia RB, R., Anderson O, F., Marcos Antônio F, B., & Hudson C, P. (2016). Development and Preliminary Cosmetic Potential Evaluation of Melaleuca alternifolia cheel (Myrtaceae) Oil and Resveratrol for Oily Skin. Journal of Dermatology Research and Therapy, 2(4). doi:10.23937/2469-5750/1510032
- Jooya, A., Siadat, A., Iraji, F., & Enshaieh, S. (2007). The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, 73(1), 22. doi:10.4103/0378-6323.30646
- Sinha, P., Srivastava, S., Mishra, N., & Yadav, N. P. (2014). New Perspectives on Antiacne Plant Drugs: Contribution to Modern Therapeutics. BioMed Research International, 2014, 1-19. doi:10.1155/2014/301304
- Malhi, H. K., Tu, J., Riley, T. V., Kumarasinghe, S. P., & Hammer, K. A. (2016). Tea tree oil gel for mild to moderate acne; a 12 week uncontrolled, open-label phase II pilot study. Australasian Journal of Dermatology, 58(3), 205-210. doi:10.1111/ajd.12465
- Beghelli D, Isani G, Roncada P, et al. Antioxidant and Immune System Regulatory Properties of Extracts. (2017). Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity., 2017:7468064.
- Thring, T. S., Hili, P., & Naughton, D. P. (2009). Anti-collagenase, anti-elastase and anti-oxidant activities of extracts from 21 plants. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 9(1). doi:10.1186/1472-6882-9-27
- Choi, Oi-Sook, Mi-Hwa Kwon, Min-Kyu Kong, Soon-Hee Lee, Sung-Rye Gang, Pil-Sun Kim, and Young-Chul Kim. (1986). Inhibition Effects of Frankincense Oil on Skin Aging (II): Focussed on Histological Observation. Journal of Environmental Toxicology, 23, no. 2: 129-138.
- Calzavara-Pinton, P., Zane, C., Facchinetti, E., Capezzera, R., & Pedretti, A. (2010). Topical Boswellic acids for treatment of photoaged skin. Dermatologic Therapy, 23, S28-S32. doi:10.1111/j.1529-8019.2009.01284.x
- Ljaljević Grbić, M., Unković, N., Dimkić, I., Janaćković, P., Gavrilović, M., Stanojević, O., … Vukojević, J. (2018). Frankincense and myrrh essential oils and burn incense fume against micro-inhabitants of sacral ambients. Wisdom of the ancients? Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 219, 1-14. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2018.03.003
- Dozmorov, M. G., Yang, Q., Wu, W., Wren, J., Suhail, M. M., Woolley, C. L., … Lin, H. (2014). Differential effects of selective frankincense (Ru Xiang) essential oil versus non-selective sandalwood (Tan Xiang) essential oil on cultured bladder cancer cells: a microarray and bioinformatics study. Chinese Medicine, 9(1), 18. doi:10.1186/1749-8546-9-18
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- Mori, H., Kawanami, H., Kawahata, H., & Aoki, M. (2016). Wound healing potential of lavender oil by acceleration of granulation and wound contraction through induction of TGF-β in a rat model. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 16(1). doi:10.1186/s12906-016-1128-7
21, Hossain, S., Heo, H., De Silva, B., Wimalasena, S., Pathirana, H., & Heo, G. (2017). Antibacterial activity of essential oil from lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) against pet turtle-borne pathogenic bacteria. Laboratory Animal Research, 33(3), 195. doi:10.5625/lar.2017.33.3.195
- Puškárová, A., Bučková, M., Kraková, L., Pangallo, D., & Kozics, K. (2017). The antibacterial and antifungal activity of six essential oils and their cyto/genotoxicity to human HEL 12469 cells. Scientific Reports, 7(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-017-08673-9
- Zu Y, Yu H, Liang L et al. (2010). Activities of ten essential oils towards Propionibacterium acnes and PC-3, A-549 and MCF-7 cancer cells. Molecules, 15:3200-3210
- Shiina, Y., Funabashi, N., Lee, K., Toyoda, T., Sekine, T., Honjo, S., … Komuro, I. (2008). Relaxation effects of lavender aromatherapy improve coronary flow velocity reserve in healthy men evaluated by transthoracic Doppler echocardiography. International Journal of Cardiology, 129(2), 193-197. doi:10.1016/j.ijcard.2007.06.064