One important thing that we should never forget in our lives is that despite the hectic and stressful everyday schedule, we should always make time to take care of ourselves. Taking care of oneself is not just about drinking your vitamins or trying to eat healthily, it’s also about making yourself feel good with a refreshing skincare routine and a healthy hair care routine. As they say, when you feel good about yourself, everything follows in confidence.
All aboard the glass skin adventure, the Korean skincare routine has amassed a large following in recent years. First, it was just the Korean pop fans who were into it as KPop idols endorsed beauty and skincare products. Suddenly, the Hallyu Wave started to ride the oceans of the western coast and enter the US market with a total export value of $52 million in 2015. This made the US the third biggest export market of Korean beauty and skincare products next to China and Hong Kong. I think it was in 2016 when I first experienced the hype of having a skincare routine – everyone was doing it. People posted pictures of them wearing face masks and trying out Korean beauty products – a massive influence of K-dramas like Descendants of the Sun which was exported into 32 countries all over the globe. Everyone wanted to be a Song Hye Kyo (myself, included) with her glass skin and youthful look.
In 2017, seven out of every ten millennials take their time researching skincare products. And a year later, more and more people became obsessed with skin-care (in general) and lots of them have been sharing their routines and holy grail products on different social media platforms. From YouTube with beauty and makeup vloggers to Instagram and influencers and celebrities, everyone has a pick. Most of them would actually share how it wasn’t just the effect on their skin that made them feel good, it was also the time for the nightly ritual that they allow themselves to be in control and to take care of their skin that actually gives the additional magic.
Introducing Oils: The Two Types of Oils
Generally, the most basic skincare routine revolves around four steps which are: Cleanse, Tone, Treat, and Moisturize. But depending on your skin type or your dedication (actually) to do this religious practice, you can add in more steps. In every step, you have different products you can use and one active ingredient present in most of them is oils.
There are two types of oils that work in conjunction with each other that help us achieve and maintain healthy skin.
First is the essential oil. These are your aromatic oils extracted from a plant’s leaves, barks, roots, or any other plant section with a thin viscosity. Essential oils, as the name suggests, capture a plant’s essence – it’s scent and flavor. These oils are obtained through distillation via steam or water or mechanical processes such as cold pressing and are highly concentrated. There are over 90 kinds of essential oils that are now available for using each with their own unique aroma and respective health benefits.
On the other hand, the carrier oil does most of the labor work. It’s the support system of the essential oils to maximize its effect. Carrier oils act as “carriers” of essential oils into the skin, delivering nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins and minerals and also adds in some moisturizing effects. Since essential oils are potent, they cannot be used alone and this is where carrier oils play a role. They dilute these essential oils to make it safe for topical or direct to skin application.
Carrier oils are rarely aromatic and border from a lightly sweet scent to nutty to none at all. These are extracted from the fatty portion of seeds, nuts, and kernels. They are dubbed as “fixed oils” as they remain fixed on the skin after application. Thus, they do not quickly evaporate from the surface controlling concentration and reducing the aroma of essential oils without compromising any of its beneficial effects. It also prevents any potential irritation, redness, and burning that may be experienced.
There are two main classifications of carrier oils. One is according to its state and the other is according to the source which also lists all of its benefits. According to its state, we separate carrier oils into hard oil and soft oil. Hard oils are solid at room temperature and add firmness to the final product. The most popular hard oils on the market are palm oil and coconut oil. On the other hand, soft oils are liquid at room temperature and supply nourishment and moisture to end products which include olive oil, canola, rice bran, and sweet almond.
Carrier oils can also be classified according to its source which can be broken down into four types: nutty, seed, fruit, and essential fatty acid oils. All of these generally contain the following:
These are usually fat-soluble minerals that balance oil production and therefore maintaining skin’s moisture to a healthy level. It also encourages exfoliation of dead skin cells as well as firms and tightens skin making it appear smoother. It also protects skin against any environmental stressor.
Like minerals, these are also fat-soluble. They are generally characterized to exhibit anti-inflammatory properties (reduces redness, swelling, and pain). It also maintains and repairs vital skin tissues and hydrates skin to promote a healthy glow. Aside from that, they are also known to even out skin tones and prevent acne which is common facial issues.
These are also known as phytosterols, which are fats present in all plants, including fruits and vegetables. As a beneficial constituent of carrier oils, it moisturizes and softens skin and hair. It minimizes the appearance of scars and also reduces age spots. It can also help repair sun-damaged skin.
This is classified as a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid which has a long list of benefits. To name a few, oleic acids exhibit antioxidant properties that protect cells against free radicals which are major players in many heart-related diseases as well as cancer. They also aid in eliminating dandruff, promoting healthy scalp, and stimulating the growth of your commercial-looking hair – thicker, longer, and stronger. As for its skin effects, it reduces aging symptoms and maintains the softness, suppleness, and radiance of the skin.
These acids make the consistency of oil thinner soothing acne and also reduces the chances of any future skin outbreak. It also promotes moisture retention in both skin and hair allowing healthy growth. They also facilitate wound healing.
Vitamin E is responsible for delaying the appearance of aging symptoms through its antioxidant activity and repair of damaged tissues.
This increases blood circulation which results in the enhancement of healthy and strong skin and hair. It also hydrates hair and skin, restoring its moisture and luster and keeping it soft and smooth.
Essential Fatty Acids
These are “essentially” the skin’s natural oil reducing water loss from the surface and antimicrobial barrier against harsh environmental elements. It also nourishes cells and eliminates body toxins.
Selenium facilitates the healing of burns, wounds, and other skin conditions and also slows down the appearance of wrinkles.
This eliminates harmful bacteria as well as viruses and fungi. It boosts hair growth by offering intense moisture, eliminating dandruff, and conditioning the hair.
These also aid in preventing the early onset of aging symptoms such as wrinkles by moisturizing and tightening the skin and enhancing the complexion.
Some carrier oils have high nutrient composition and are too rich to be used on their own which is why they need to be diluted in lighter oils.
The History of Carrier and Essential Oils
These oils are associated in context with aromatherapy. The term aromatherapy was first coined in 1937 by Rene Maurice Gattefosse, a French chemist and perfumer, who became interested in studying the properties of essential oils. It was in 1910 when he had experienced the beneficial effect of these essential oils when his hand got badly burnt and the first accessible compound at that time was pure undiluted lavender oil. He decided to use it to treat his injured hand and immediately felt pain levels go down and additionally, the healed hand did not show any sign of scar or infection. He also discovered that trace amounts of essential oil were absorbed by the body and further interacted with body chemistry. Following the result of the experiment, Dr. Jean Valet used to treat soldiers during World War II successfully.
In the 1950s, the therapeutic effects in massage were first discovered by Marguerite Maury who started mixing and diluting essential oils into a vegetable carrier oil and using it to massage her skin through a Tibetan technique that applied pressure along the spine. She was also the first to prescribe combinations of essentials suited to the needs of the person being massaged.
Since then, essential oils and its use in aromatherapy have created a huge following as a major part of the alternative health system. Nowadays, it’s widely used in portable devices such as diffusers which have become a household item.
Benefits of Essential Oils through Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is considered both as an art and science – a holistic healing treatment that utilizes natural plant extracts and can be interchangeably called “essential oil therapy”. It enhances both the physical and emotional health of an individual through aromatic essential oils via a sense of smell or inhalation or skin absorption.
Aromatherapy products have a wide range in the market. They can be aromatic spritzers, inhalers, bathing salts, body oils, creams, lotions, hot and cold compresses, clay masks, and the most popular – diffusers.
Diffusers are little electronic devices that infuse essential oils and then diffuse them as cool mist. Most individuals use this device to alleviate stress and reduce anxiety as an alternative to common medical solutions. Aside from the claimed effect on stress and anxiety, these devices also help purify the air by killing bacteria and fungus.
There are four different types of diffusers which involve different processes to disperse essential oils into the air.
In ultrasonic diffusers, ultrasonic vibrations convert water (mixed with essential oils) into water vapor (liquid to a gaseous state) produced by a vibrating disc that produces sound waves at an ultrasonic frequency. These ultrasonic waves trap oil bubbles within water enabling the aromatic smell and its therapeutic effects to be carried out throughout the space as microparticles. Therefore, it’s a very quiet process that is ideal for relaxing, sleeping, and working.
These are the most common diffusers in the market today which gives consumers, like us, a wide variety of options. They can also double in as humidifiers since they both require water to operate. It also has its drawbacks, one of which is citrus-based oils are highly discouraged as the acids in the oil can potentially erode parts of the device. Most ultrasonic diffusers also have built-in light features that cannot be turned off. Though this could be an advantage for some and largely depends on user preference. Though the major drawback pointed out for ultrasonic diffusers is the decreased potency of the mist compared with other types of diffusers.
The nebulizing diffuser is the most expensive type of diffuser and has a significant set-up difference from the common ultrasonic diffusers. For this type of diffuser, a water reservoir is not required. Instead, it operates through a principle named Bernoulli’s Principle which is a fluid dynamic theory discussed in physics.
Following Bernoulli’s principle, air is shot through a small tube at a very high velocity which produces a pressure difference within the tube wherein the measured pressure near the exit of the tube is lower. The pressure difference then results in a suction-like effect causing essential oils at the bottom of the tube to be sucked up. This combination of interactions between the stream of pressurized air with the rising essential oils produces the waterless mist that is diffused throughout the room.
Since this type does not require water, it doesn’t require additional setup of any kind. And unlike ultrasonic diffusers, the mist produced from this diffuser is more concentrated and more potent. It also features timers that you can customize to control the duration of diffusion. Aside from that, this is also designed with minimal to no lighting, an attractive feature to those who sleep with no light at all. Although this is relatively louder than other diffusers and uses up more oil quickly since the oils are not mixed with water.
Evaporative Fan Diffuser
There are two kinds of diffusion methods for this type of diffuser. First is through passive evaporation. One common and the perfect example of passive evaporative diffusers are reed diffusers. Reeds are porous wooden materials that act like oil wicks. Its porous nature enables effective capillary action – that is, oil wicks up from the container to the upper tip of the reed and then evaporates.
On the other hand, an active evaporative diffuser makes use of an absorbent pad soaked in essential oil. Its process involves a small fan that generates enough energy to blow across the pad and evaporate the oil.
Evaporative Fan Diffusers are the most inexpensive type of diffuser both as an initial purchase and long-term operating costs though like a nebulizing diffuser which doesn’t require a water reservoir, it also uses up oil more quickly. It’s also a great travel companion but note that this type also has limited coverage and weak output limits thus the therapeutic benefit is not as strong as other types of diffusers. Absorbent pads in active evaporative diffusers should also be regularly replaced and filled.
Heat diffusers can be called your traditional types of diffusers which do not depend on batteries or electricity to operate and are considered relatives of evaporative fan diffusers since they use the same concept only instead of a fan, it uses heat to power the process as its name suggests. The drawback of this kind of operation is that it can fractionate the essential oils and may cause impurities and bad smell which definitely affects its supposed therapeutic benefits. Although they’re affordable and low maintenance, it also lacks security features that the electric diffusers come in with and it’s not appropriate in all kinds of setups such as office-based environments.
There is a growing body of research that shows the potential health benefits provided by essential oils but as of today, these studies are limited to animal and cell cultures only. Large clinical trials on humans have not yet produced conclusive results though one study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements showed that the general health effects of essential oils are as effective as other normal supplements which is promising. Other studies have also shown positive and interesting effects of essential oils through inhalation as it can stimulate the limbic system, the part of the brain that plays a role in emotions, behaviors, sense of smell, and long term memory. Though again, the research in this area is still lacking.
However, people still bank on its therapeutic benefits affecting physical health as the limbic system also plays a role in several unconscious physiological functions such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Some physical conditions that benefit from essential oils are the following:
Stress and anxiety
Forty-three percent (43%) of people who “suffer” from stress and anxiety explore non-traditional or alternative methods to alleviate these conditions. Initial studies involving aromatherapy have yielded positive results though are still inconclusive as scents tend to be subjective thus biases can not be ruled out. In general, essential oils can be very beneficial to alleviate stress but are not proven effective in treating anxiety.
Headaches and Migraines
There have been studies that proved the effectiveness of essential oils such as dabbing a peppermint and ethanol mixture on a patient’s forehead and temple. Additionally, peppermint mixed with lavender oil also reduced headache pain as well as chamomile and sesame oil.
Sleep and Insomnia
In a review of more than 15 studies conducted on the effect of oil on sleep showed that inhalation or smelling of oils especially lavender had positive effects on sleeping habits. Women who have just given birth and patients with heart disease have also shown the same positive effects when subjected to lavender oil.
Other conditions that are believed can be treated by essential oils are inflammatory conditions as well bacterial and microbial ones though these were only conducted in test tube studies and results are not published to be certain medical treatments.
Benefits of Carrier Oils
Carrier Oils, as discussed previously, function as the support system in carrying essential oils. They are used to generally dilute the concentration of potent essential oils for safe use. Though they are mixed in with essential oils, carrier oils possess their own health benefits depending on the amount of essential fatty acids and other nutrients they contain. Mixing in the right amount of essential oil to its perfect carrier oil will produce maximized effects.
These oils stimulate blood circulation which helps in maintaining tightness and elasticity of the skin. If you have acne-prone skins, products with nut oils (ex. Almond, macadamia, hazelnut, walnut) can be very efficient in face mask treatments. It also acts as a good emollient and soothes sensitive, dry, and sore skin. It is also reputed to contain anti-inflammatory properties and also aid in wound healing.
Seed oils condition skin to rejuvenate the complexion and works in preventing premature aging symptoms. It also repairs damage caused by dryness and soothes itching and other discomfort caused by burns.
These are generally the gentle and nourishing types of carrier oils which are light in texture and leaves no greasy residue upon application. They cleanse and soften skin and are very suitable to those with very sensitive skin types. They also exhibit antioxidant properties.
Essential Fatty Acid Oils
These are your resident anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic oil. They balance essential fatty acid deficiency as well as oil production of the skin. Aside from those, they also show reparative and astringent properties which assist in wound healing. Lastly, they also hydrate and soothe acne-prone skin and its symptoms.
The top carrier oils used are the following: coconut, olive, jojoba, argan, avocado, grapeseed, apricot kernel, castor, neem, hemp seed, rose, flaxseed, and many others.
Uses of Oils
Essential Oils (in conjunction with carrier oils) are also used in treating chapped lips and different skin conditions like rosacea and blackheads. For safety measures, before using or applying any essential oil to your skin, it is highly encouraged to seek out medical advice first and put aromatherapy as your secondary treatment. Though aromatherapy is gradually transitioning to work alongside medical science, it’s effects and treatments are still considered inconclusive as opposed to drugs developed by medical science. On another related note, this can also be used in promoting healthy hair.
What is Rosacea?
Rosacea or more commonly known as skin redness is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that is observed mainly on the cheeks and nose which kind of forms a butterfly image. In its worse states, it can spread to other parts of the face like the forehead, ears, and eyes extending to the back and chest. It is characterized externally by flushing, dryness, acne-like papules, and redness. Its redness is due to the presence of dilated red blood vessels which look like red spider-like veins. Internally, there is also fibrosis and distended capillaries. Thee are prevalent among middle-aged women (between 30-60 years olds or after menopause) with fair skin.
Rosacea can be treated through different natural remedies including essential oils which can be incorporated in different products in your skincare routine.
What essential oils are used to remedy Rosacea?
There are several essential oils that have been tried by many which have been proven effective in battling Rosacea except for mint and citrus-based oils as they can be harmful and irritating to already vulnerable and sensitive skin.
Dr. Liv, a board-certified dermatologist with a focus on cosmeceuticals, aesthetic and preventative dermatology who also worked years in the fashion industry, shared that oils (per se) should not be used to remedy acne or rosacea. You can catch her perspective on the topic on her youtube video which has already amassed more than 42,000 views after being posted last February 2019.
Nevertheless, should you choose to still try essential oils (and doctor-approved), here are some you could choose from.
Tea Tree Oil
This oil is derived from the leaves of a tea tree. In stories, the tea tree grew in the swampy southeast Australian coast and was named by eighteenth-century sailors. Tea tree is generally used to treat acne, an infestation of the eyelashes with a type of mite (ocular demodicosis), toenail fungus (onychomycosis), and athlete’s foot (Tinea pedis). The chemicals in tea tree oil have properties that can kill bacteria and fungus and reduce allergic reactions. As of now, there have been no studies pointing to its direct effectiveness in treating rosacea but the evidence of tea tree helping against similar conditions like acne makes it a great candidate. It can be applied directly on the skin, diluted with a carrier oil, or mixed in with honey.
Lavender is considered one of the most popular and versatile essential oils distilled from Lavandula angustifolia and is believed to treat numerous medical conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, fungal infections, allergies, eczema, nausea, and menstrual cramps. It is also purported to have antispasmodic, analgesic, detoxifying, hypotensive, and sedative effects.
Studies have also shown that lavender oil exhibits anti-inflammatory properties which reduce skin irritation, redness, and skin discoloration. Lavender, when combined with other soothing and nourishing ingredients (like vitamin E, rose-hip oil, etc.), can be very beneficial for those suffering from angry, irritated skin conditions like rosacea.
This is one of the gentlest essential oils used to treat sensitive skin conditions like rosacea. Though chamomile is more associated with a cup of tea and a deeply-relaxing vibe, using it as a cold compress can already be proven to give a refreshing effect to an easily aggravated skin such as those suffering from rosacea. Additionally, it can also be used as a toner to calm down the inflammation and redness.
Geranium Oil is popular for its antioxidant and astringent properties which helps soothe inflammation, fasten the process of wound healing, and significantly decrease bacterial overgrowth on the skin – all of which are beneficial in treating symptoms of rosacea. It can be enjoyed in a bath with coconut milk or oat milk to calm down inflammation.
Rose oil is a gentle essential oil that can be used in treating rosacea. Since the skin of those with rosacea is aggravated, it’s important to use gentle oils that the skin could tolerate. Rose oil can be paired with natural vegetable glycerin to create a skin-soothing elixir.
What are blackheads?
Blackheads are common skin conditions and I think we’ve all experienced this one. Technically speaking, blackheads are clogged hair follicles overflowing with excess sebum. This overflow causes dead skin cells and oil inside the pore to rise and push through the surface. Its interaction with the air prompts oxidation resulting in black dots. Blackheads are commonly called by doctors as “open comedones”. To treat blackheads, use products that break these oil plugs.
Incorporating it into your skincare, essential oils can be used in the first step which is cleansing. You can do double cleansing with the first one using an oil-based cleanser to remove makeup (if any) and other pollutants followed by a second gentle cleanser to remove dirt and oil.
What essential oils are used to remedy Blackheads?
Similar to rosacea, you can use tea tree and lavender oils to treat blackheads but here are some other recommendations you can use:
Grapefruit oil provides a natural solution to combat skin breakouts. First, it balances sebum levels with its astringent properties removing any excess flow which can lead to blackheads. It also shrinks and tightens pores. And lastly, it has antimicrobial and disinfectant properties that help cultivate clean skin removing any cause for blackhead growth.
Eucalyptus oil like grapefruit helps in balancing excess sebum production which prevents blackheads from developing. You can add this to your cleansing or moisturizing cream whichever you prefer. Or you can blend it to make facial scrubs with oatmeal, white clay, raw almond, and lavender oil.
Clary Sage Oil
This oil can be simply combined with your serum or moisturizer to obtain its effects. It’s a flowering herb that helps unclog pores and soothe inflamed-area of the skin where blackheads may likely develop. It’s healing and soothing properties help with stress, restlessness, and insomnia which are known causes of skin breakouts.
Lemon oil has properties that can kill bacteria trapped in pores and causing breakouts. It also helps in exfoliating dead skin cells clogging hair follicles and pores with its Vitamin C and antioxidants. Its healing properties also expedite healing from breakouts and treatment of scars.
Cedarwood oil possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties which can be beneficial for skins experiencing acne and blackheads. Aside from diluting with carrier oils, you can also add this to creams and astringent products you use for your skincare routine.
Aside from skin conditions, essential oils can also be used in treating dry, chapped lips which we usually experience on hot days. Some recommend just drinking lots of water but you can also use coconut oil to alleviate the dryness caused by sensitivity to moisture loss of the thin skin of your lips.
Coconut oil always tops all lists for best carrier oil for its long list of health benefits. One of its many benefits is its moisturizing effect which makes it a perfect remedy for chapped lips. Coconut oil is also considered an emollient, a non-cosmetic moisturizer that helps maintain the moisture of the skin. They trap moisture on your skin to keep it looking hydrated. You can simply add a few drops of coconut oil to your lips or combine it with thickening agents like beeswax or shea butter to create a chapstick texture to moisturize your lips throughout the day. Coconut oil also contains disinfecting and antimicrobial properties that protect the cracked lip skin from being infected.
Essential oils are also used to promote healthy hair. Most people only focus on skincare routine and forget to take care of their hair as well. Your hair is your crowning glory and dead hair does not really contribute value to yourself. Here are some tips using essential oils that you can use to bring back the glory of your hair.
You can use sunflower oil to help out your dry hair. It’s rich in nutrients such as vitamin E and sesame oil which both contain antioxidant properties helping neutralize free radicals that can damage your scalp and your hair.
It also contains oleic acid which prevents and stops hair breakage making hair appear healthy and growing faster. Additionally, it has anti-inflammatory properties which help in relieving itchy scalp caused by dandruff. It also smoothens split ends and softens hair.
You can use sunflower oil in a variety of forms such as scalp treatment by directly massaging small amounts of it on your hair before shampooing or conditioning. Sunflower oil can also be applied as a hair mask using avocado, banana, honey, coconut, or olive oil. For conditioning, you can add it to your existing conditioner and apply it as normal. Lastly, you can use it to smooth any frizz by applying pea-sized amounts and directly applying to frizz.
Flax Seed Gel
You can also create a DIY flaxseed gel for your hair needs. This has been a holy grail among curly hairs as it leaves curls fluffy, soft, and flake-free.
To make your own flaxseed gel, you have to prepare a pot, pantyhose or stocking, jar with a lid, flaxseed, essential oils (rosemary, tea tree, or lavender), and any scented oil.
First, combine in a pot ¼ cup of flaxseeds and 2 cups of water and heat them until boiling while constantly stirring to make sure that the seeds wouldn’t stick at the bottom. We want to get a slick gel cast with the right consistency – not too thick and pasty or too thin and liquid. The higher the heat, the faster it will thicken.
Next, you will observe that the seeds will rise to the top along with the mucus-looking gel. At this point, you can now lower the heat and start straining the gel. Flaxseeds are reusable so the most recommended way in “juicing” the gel while saving the seeds is to pour it out to a pantyhose covering a mason jar. It’s tricky how to get all the gel out but you can try using tongs to squeeze the remaining gel. After you’re done, you can pull the pantyhose or stocking inside out and store it for the next use.
Now for your concoction, mix it thoroughly then choose whether to cover it with a tight lid and put it directly into the fridge and takeout before use or add in a bit more oil and nutrients. You can opt to add vitamin E which helps in repairing and building damaged tissue. It also adds 3 weeks to the shelf life of the gel. If you want a more aromatic smell, you can also put in your favorite scented oil.
If you’re not good with written instructions, you can watch it here.
In summary, essential oils are highly concentrated oils that are supported by carrier oils for safe use. There are over 90 essential oils with a unique aroma and health benefits. On the other hand, carrier oils do not just function in the delivery of these essential oils but also supply additional nutrients. They can be used to treat skin conditions like rosacea and blackheads, provide natural solutions for chapped lips, and promote healthy hair.