photography by PHUONG NGUYEN
Essential oils are nature’s superpower: They can help you sleep, or clear up your skin, or set the mood in your home. But how are essential oils made, and what are they made up of? We set out on an essential (oil) journey, chatting with a few experts—one who specializes in home essential oils, another in body and face oils—along the way.
What are exactly are essential oils?
“Essential oils are extracts taken from plant materials, such as leaves, flowers, bark, or resins,” says Vitruvi co-founder Sara Panton. “They are extracted in a number of different ways, but steam-distillation is the most popular method for premium essential oils.”
Are organic ingredients important?
“Yes, very important,” says Jiva-Apoha owner and founder Angela Shore. “It’s like eating organic foods. Our body care products should also be free of parabens, chemicals, and GMOs. The cleaner, the better for the body, inside and out.”
We always strive to be able to offer completely organic essential oils, but sometimes it can be hard to get organic certification in specific countries,” Vitruvi’s Panton agrees. “So whenever possible, use organic, but if you can’t, at least make sure you’re using 100 percent pure essential oils.”
Is the essential oil container important?
“Extremely important,” says Panton. “It should be in an airtight bottle and should be a dark color, such as amber glass. These requirements are necessary for protecting against UV sun exposure, which can decrease the integrity of the oils.”
“I always prefer glass over plastic any day, and darker the glass, the better,” says Shore. “You have less of a chance of the essential eating the plastic lining and ruining the oil. Glass helps keep the light out, making it more light proof. And oils should never be stored in hot temperature or sitting too long in direct sunlight.”
Should oils be used within a certain time frame after being opened?
“If you’re keeping your essential oils at room temperature in an airtight dropper, I would suggest you use them within six months for best experience,” says Panton.
Are you wary of low or high cost essential oils?
“Essential oils that are priced really low are often one of two things,” says Panton. “They can be synthetic fragrance oils, which are much cheaper to manufacture, or they can contain filler oils, such as cheap carrier oils, which means they have a lower percentage of the actual essential oil.”
“I’m mostly wary about knowing where it’s sourced (and knowing the producer is always a plus),” says Shore. “Essential oils can be pricey considering the region, the materials, and how it’s being produced.”
What else do you want consumers to know when purchasing essential oils?
“Great essential oils don’t need to be incredibly expensive,” says Panton. “Some companies have really extreme mark-ups because of their selling methods. I believe that you should be able to get great quality essential oils that are be priced in a way that makes you use them with ease throughout your routine. They shouldn’t be so expensive that you feel like they’re too precious to use.”
"Make sure the essential oil is a pure essential oil—no synthetics,” says Shore. “Check the label.”
What unique ways do you use essential oils?
“At Vitruvi, we create new recipes every week; we share how you can use essential oils for home, in your beauty routine, or as part of your wellness rituals,” says Panton.
“My favorite ways to use essential oils are:
1. Adding five drops of eucalyptus to my hands in the shower in the morning. If you rub your hands briskly together the heat of the shower helps fill the bathroom, creating the feeling and scent of a Eucalyptus steam room at a spa. It’s a great way to start the day.
2. Add three drops of geranium and two drops of grapefruit essential to a warm face cloth in the morning to cleanse your face. It’s a really fresh and balancing blend of essential oils.
3. As an evening ritual, I add ten drops of frankincense and five drops of Lavender essential oil to my diffuser before bed. I like to add it one hour before falling asleep, and I shut my bedroom door to help fill the space so that when I’m ready for bed, the whole room smells like a relaxing oasis.”
Read more about essential oils:
A Good Night’s Sleep Is Just a Spray Away
7 Chic Diffusers You'll Want To Display In Your Home
The Must-Use Oil You've Never Heard Of