Pampering the Soul and Skin
Are you one of those people who opens the lid of everything to have a sniff before you buy it? Are you drawn into a shop or to a person because of the way they smell? Likewise aroma can also be a distinct turn off- too much perfume on the wrong person at the wrong moment can leave an aromatic scar for ever! Aroma preference is a very personal thing and involves many complicated chemical process in the brain, along with a highly emotive input. There are also cultural and religious societal aspects which enter into the mix. In the fifteen years I taught aromatherapy and there was always some sort of emotive reaction at some time when aromas were first encountered in the class room. Some were quite extreme- nausea and cramps when geranium was smelled as the person had been beaten as a child and can remember the smell of geraniums coming through the window. Others were less dramatic and usually involved fond memories of a dear person who has passed away. If you are interested in learning more about the basics of using essential oils feel free to apply for our free introductory aromatic adventures lessons available from www.aromaticadventures.com.
This article is more about the hedonistic pleasure side of aromatics. As a creator of natural skin care products which are exported to several different export markets, the use of aromas in the products is a carefully thought out process. Firstly the product needs to have a particular effect (eg soothing, anti bacterial, anti inflammatory). However the oils which give it this effect may not have the aesthetics necessary- a classic example is Teatree- melaleuca alternifolia. This oil can at best be described as ‘medicinal’. It takes another strong aroma to mask it- however the side effect of this is that the ‘masking’ aroma may have to be used in high concentrations which can irritate the skin. There is no way teatree is blended for pleasure! There are also regulations around the percentage of certain aromatics or constituents in skin care.
Using essential oils in perfumery and aesthetics gives a wonderful dimension to your own creations. You may wish to try and create some of the well known perfumes or to develop something of your own. However, you must keep in mind that most, if not all of modern perfumery relies totally on the use of predictable and reliable synthetic chemicals to recreate the aromas of nature. For example there isn’t an essential oil equivalent of ‘sea breeze’ or ‘forest air’; however some aspects of these can be created.
What can the essential oils be blended in to?
True perfumes are alcohol based as essential oils and synthetic chemicals are all soluble in alcohol. Perfumers’ alcohol is completely aroma free and is 100% proof. It is not possible to buy this in New Zealand without a special license as it is both highly flammable and also lethal if ingested or used indiscriminately. Isopropyl alcohol is sometimes substituted, and sometimes this is available from chemists and solvent suppliers. However, due to the high use of isopropyl alcohol in certain drug manufacturing practices, it also may be hard to come across. The other thing against isopropyl alcohol is that it does have a slight aroma. For domestic purposes the easiest alcohol to get is vodka at 40 proof. The cheapest grade which is unflavored is fine. If you do not wish to use alcohol you can also use floral waters with an essential oil solubiliser. The other option is to make solid perfumes with a plant wax and apply to a pulse point.
Essential Oil Aroma Notes
Essential oils are classified according to their ‘note’ in perfumery, which relates to the rate or speed of evaporation of the essential oil. This method of classifying oils this way has been around since the 19th century. The aim of creating a synergistic and aesthetically pleasing blend is to include oils from all of the notes in perfect harmony with eachother.
The notes are described as follows:
- a. Top notes (15-20% of blend:
•First impression, light
•Leads you into the blend
- b. Middle notes:(20-30% of blend)
•Give roundness, complexity and fullness
•Considered the heart of the fragrance and gives ‘body’ to the blend
- c. Base notes:(50-55% of blend)
•Act as fixative
•Rich and heavy which emerges slowly and lasts the longest
This is a brief table covering common oils and their aroma groups.
|FloralNeroli, rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, palmarosa, lavender||MintyPeppermint, spearmint, geranium||OrientalGingergrass, ginger, cardamom|
|WoodySandalwood, cedarwood, pine||Medicinal/camphorEucalyptus globulus, spike lavender||HerbaceousClary sage, thyme, marjoram, rosemary|
|EarthyPatchouli, vetivert||SpicyGinger, cardamom, allspice, cumin||CitrusLemon, lime, mandarin, bergamot, grapefruit|
Blending table guidelines
This table is a very brief guide as to what blends with what. However there are no ‘absolute’ rules- if you like it then go for it!
|Floral +||Spicy, citrus, woody, oriental, earthy|
|Woody +||Blends with anything|
|Spicy +||Floral, citrus, resins, oriental, earthy|
|Minty +||Citrus, woody, herby, resins, medicinal, camphor|
Finally just a couple of safety pointers- pure essential oils, absolutes and aromatic extracts are highly concentrated substances and generally always diluted on the skin. For products being applied to the face 1% is a typical dilution (total of all essential oils). For body applications 5% is the usual. However if you are blending for perfumery, where a small amount only is applied the concentrations can be as high as 20% but you would need to check for skin sensitivities.
Aromatic Adventures is devote to all things aromatic- advise, training, products, global resources. We offer a home based aromatherapy learning package. www.aromaticadventures.com (launching Jan 2012)
Dr. Wendy Maddocks-Jennings (DHlth Sc, RN, Aromatherapist)