For centuries, cultures across the globe have been using essential oils for a variety of purposes. There is evidence of oil being extracted from plants and applied to the hair and skin dating back to ancient times. The earliest evidence of the use of essential oils for health and beauty was found in the works of the Muslim scientist and chemist, Ibn al-Baitar. He lived in Andalucía, Southern Spain from 1188 to 1248 and is believed to be the first person to work out how to use steam distillation to extract essential oils from a range of plants.
He examined and catalogued the properties of 1,400 plants, drugs and foods in his first work. In it, he referenced previous work by 150 other Arab authors and scientists, plus 20 Greek scientists. This shows that the use of essential oils for beauty and health was widespread a long time before Ibn al-Baitar began his studies.
Why are essential oils so powerful?
The reason that essential oils are so powerful is that they are a concentrated formula. This means that all of the cleansing, moisturising and healing properties are present in a much more concentrated form than they would normally be.
Rosemary oil is great for healing and cleansing, but rubbing raw rosemary on the skin has no real restorative effect. It is only when the plant is heat treated to release the oil that the true power of the plant is accessible. The same is true of the other oils that are widely used in beauty products such as Lavender and Almond.
Because essential oils are completely natural products it is extremely easy for your body to access and utilise the trace elements, vitamins and minerals they contain and use them to sustain your hair and skin. The fact that the oil does not contain any chemicals that the body does not naturally have access to as a food also means that most people who suffer from allergies do not find these oils irritating to their skin. However, those who are allergic to certain foodstuffs should still exercise caution. If you are allergic to a food group like nuts, using a beauty product that contains nut oil could prove dangerous, because the skin will absorb it, which could lead to an allergic reaction.
The importance of quality
However, not all essential oils are created equal. Like anything else that works and becomes popular, the essential oils beauty industry is suffering from an influx of cheap fakes. Some of the low price products you find at car boot sales and other outlets are nothing more than cheap beauty products that have had the smell of the essential oil added to them. They do not really contain any effective level of essential oil, so rarely have the properties of the real thing.
If you want to benefit from adding products based on essential oils to your beauty routine it is important to buy a trusted brand like L’Occitane who led the way in repopularising the use of essential oils for beauty in the 1970s. If you only buy from trusted retailers, you can avoid buying cheap copies of their products and really begin to benefit from adding essential oil based products to your beauty routine.