Since we began making soap one of the special ingredients we have worked hard to source out is essential oils… But what do we know about them, and why are they so beneficial in soap preparations?
Essential Oil , according to Wikipedia are:
An oil is “essential” in the sense that it carries a distinctive scent, or essence, of the plant. Essential oils do not form a distinctive category for any medical, pharmacological, or culinary purpose.
Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation. Steam distillation is often used. Other processes include expression or solvent extraction. They are used in perfumes, cosmetics,soaps and other products, for flavoring food and drink, and for adding scents to incense and household cleaning products.
Various essential oils have been used medicinally at different periods in history. Medical applications proposed by those who sell medicinal oils range from skin treatments to remedies for cancer, and often are based solely on historical accounts of use of essential oils for these purposes. Claims for the efficacy of medical treatments and treatment of cancers in particular, are now subject to regulation in most countries.
As the use of essential oils has declined in evidence-based medicine, one must consult older textbooks for much information on their use. Modern works are less inclined to generalize; rather than refer to “essential oils” as a class at all, they prefer to discuss specific compounds, such as methyl salicylate, rather than “oil of wintergreen”
Interest in essential oils has revived in recent decades with the popularity of aromatherapy, a branch of alternative medicine that claims that essential oils and other aromatic compounds have curative effects. Oils are volatilized or diluted in a carrier oil and used in massage, diffused in the air by a nebulizer, heated over a candle flame, or burned as incense.
As soap makers we have found that essential oil in small amounts adds a luxurious fragrance, while not causing allergic reactions. We have done extensive reading about EOs to understand better how they will impact soap production. As a side benefit we have learned that some EOs are particularly beneficial for the skin, such as chamomile, and tea tree.
By contrast Fragrance Oils are not always natural, but chemically created, or a blend of synthetic and natural fragrances. We prefer to use essential oils rather than fragrance oils because there is less likelihood of allergic reaction to EOs.
We source our essential oils from around the world, and with the help of the internet we can easily procure most oils that were once exotic, and difficult to find. Here are some of the more exotic EOs we use:
Neroli – Neroli is a citrus fruit grown only in part of Italy and Sicily, and prized for a sweet citrus fragrance, which is extracted from the bitter orange. There is a hint of honey in the fragrance also. We blend this with our chamomile to create a soft and gentle soap.
Bergamont – This is also a citrus fruit which is grown on the Ionian Sea coastal areas of Italy known as Reggio di Callabria. Also famous for being the star ingredient in Earl Gray tea, this citrus fruit gives an essential oil that has a floral quality and blends nicely with some florals to enhance, or soften or temper the overall fragrance. We blend bergamont with rose to create a soft “but not your mother’s old” rose soap that has a little zip, not overpowered by rose.
Lavender – Once the icon of the french country side, now we grow lavender in our own garden. We love that lavender is known as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory and it’s fragrance is calming, said to have been used to treat patients with anxiety. It is also one of the original EOs used in soap making because of it’s clean crisp note.
Lemongrass – Grown widely throughout asia and the pacific, and used in cooking for the subtle tart lemon flavor, this is a grass plant that grows in clumps. This grassy citrus fragrance is fresh, clean, spa like. And the basic vegan soap we add this essential oil to offers a spa like experience.
Vetiver – This also is a grass plant grown in tropical places like Haiti, southeast asia, and the pacific islands. A common plant there, the grass is expressed of its essential oil which gives off a warm and dry, and conveying earthy, woody, leather, balsamic and smoky notes. We pair vetiver essential oil with vanilla essential oil for a soft, perfume like feminine scented soap.
This is just a small glimpse of the essential oils we use in our soap, and scrub products. Scents that evoke various different moods, and thoughts, but that carry well in cold processed soaps, and last as long as you use the soap, staying vibrant, and stimulating to the senses while not illiciting allergic reaction.