About Naturally Based Body Care Products

Do all body care products or colognes use pure essential oils for aroma? No, most large scale products use fragrance oils which are derived from synthetics or constituents isolated from a botanical. Many high end colognes can contain a combination of pure essentials and synthetics. It is often hard to know exactly what chemical or compound has been used to create a scent as the term "fragrance" or "parfume" for example is an accepted term for labeling purposes. When products contain pure essential oils they are generally labeled as "essential oil" or "essential oils of...." Product prices depend on the compounds or essential oils used to make a fragrance which can impact cost. Botanicals are a commodity and are affected by things like scarcity, method of extraction or manufacture and the degree of difficulty to extract or isolate an aroma.

How come naturally based products can smell a little different from batch to batch? This can vary due to the ingredients used in a product. For example, essential oils, hydrosols, witch hazel, carrier oils that have faint aroma, bees wax and other natural bases impart their own scent. Many of these items are distilled or cold pressed and the aroma can be affected by the botanical species used, the time of the year distilled, the nutrient or conditions of the soil, the yearly fluctuation in climate and so forth...  therefore when a product contains these types of ingredients the base aroma can be slightly different from batch to batch because we don't use any "masking agents" - see below. This doesn't affect the skin care properties of the product and should be looked upon as a confirmation that it is not mass produced.

How do I know if my naturally based product has spoiled? Under normal household conditions our products have naturally derived or food grade preservatives for nine to twelve months of shelf life. Other products have all-natural preservatives for six months of shelf life. We recommend that the purchaser use these products in the shortest amount of time possible and not leave them sitting on the shelf. Slight variations in aroma from batch to batch are not an indication that anything is wrong. Off putting indicators would be a sour or otherwise rancid aroma or the appearance of mold on a product - think of cheese. Some products however have an earthy, musky aroma, for example witch hazel, so knowing the normal scent profile range for an ingredient is helpful in determining the shelf life. The maximum benefit is derived from using natural botanicals in the shortest amount of time possible. Freshness can be affected by the environment, with cooler surrounds maximizing the useful life. Like food that nourishes your insides, high proportion botanicals nourish your outsides and should be viewed in the same perishable way. Let your senses and common sense be your guide.

What does "masking agent" mean? When you smell a product that is unscented, and it has no smell at all, sometimes it is because the aromas from the ingredients used to make the product have been "masked". In other words, other fragrances or ingredients have been added to cover up the natural smell of the ingredient/s in the product. This would apply more to mass-market products.

Why do the products that are 100% natural or nearly natural seem to cost more? Because synthetic compounds tend to cost less and, therefore, are more affordable to use in mass-produced body care products and for cost cutting. For example, mass-market soaps produce glycerin that can be stripped from the soap making process because Glycerin is worth more as an ingredient sold separately. This is why natural "cold-processed" soap (see below) made by artisan vendors can be more beneficial for skin care because the natural glycerin has not been taken away from the product.

What does a "single note" essential oil mean? This is essential oil obtained from a specific botanical species. Single note essential oils can be blended with other single note essential oils to create a fragrant or synergistic blend. Essential oil of Lavender can be obtained from the genus Lavandula, species L. officinalis, L. latifoila or L. stoechas as an example of several kinds of lavender plants that provide an essential oil. Each genus and species produce slightly different scents and intensities which can further be affected by origin, climate conditions and method of extraction. Not all essential oils can be derived from so many species, however lavender is an example of a botanical that can and therefore makes a good study for this subject.

What is a fragrance or synergistic blend? Combining more than one single note essential oil together to form a new scent, or in the case of a synergistic blend, when the combined oils enhance the aromatherapeutic experience.

What do the terms top/head, middle/heart and bottom/base notes mean? Essential oils are volatile. Therefore, when exposed to air an aroma profile begins to develop and change. There are three main characteristics used to describe these stages of volatility:
     Top/head notes dissipate the fastest and are the shortest lingering. They are the first to reach our sense of smell and emit a light fresh fruity scent that is sometimes biting. Examples are eucalyptus, grapefruit, lemon, lemongrass and mint.
     Middle/heart notes are the soft, flowery scents. They are balancing and energizing, and are the heart of the perfume or fragrance. Examples are clary sage, Roman chamomile, lavender, myrtle, rose and ylang ylang.
     Bottom/base notes linger and do not evaporate quickly. Usually prepared from herbs or trees and often used as fixatives to prolong a scent's presence. Examples are cedarwood, cinnamon, frankincense, patchouli, pine, rosewood and vanilla.

Some oils, in and of themselves, have constituents that will fall into more than one stage. When blending your own essential oils try to balance these various stages for a well-rounded and longer lasting blend.

What are the main categories that essential oils fall into? There are mainly nine categories that are used to describe essential oils, which include citrus; floral; fruit; grasses and hays; herbs; menthols; mosses, resins and roots; spices; and woods and barks.

What is a `patch test'? This is the process of placing a small amount of the ingredient to be tested on the inside of wrist or forearm, placing a bandage on top, and leaving on for up to 24 hours. If any redness or itching occur, discontinue use or dilute the ingredient, as in the case of an essential oil.

What is "soponification"? This is the process of adding a lye to fats and oils to make soap. The caustic properties of the lye are changed and evaporate during the process.

What is the difference between cold pressed soaps and commercial/mass-produced soaps? Cold pressed soaps are made at low temperatures by soponification and retain the natural glycerin that is produced. Commercial soap making uses a continuous process and generally uses animal fats, synthetic ingredients and fragrances. Glycerin, a valuable commodity, is usually extracted from commercial soap and sold or used for other purposes. Look for cold pressed soaps made in small batches that use natural vegetable oils and beneficial ingredients.