Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why Essential Oils are Essential to Good Skin Care

Essential oils, also known as volatile or ethereal oils, have been used to improve skin quality for thousands of years. Indian Ayurvedic medicine has advocated aromatherapy skincare for more than three millennia, and essential oils have been discovered in King Tut’s Egyptian tomb. Essential oils continue to be highly prized today because of their ability to heal on physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual levels.Unlike the synthetic drugs and chemicals of modern pharmacology, essential oils are non-toxic and can not harm human tissue. This is due to their natural derivation as a concentrated, hydrophobic liquid containing aromatic compounds from plants. The term essential indicates that the oil carries the distinctive scent (essence) of the plant.Many common essential oils, such as lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus, are produced from distillation. In this process, raw plant material, including flowers, leaves, bark, roots, seeds, or peel is put into a distillation chamber over water. As the water is heated, the steam passes through the plant material, vaporizing the volatile compounds. These vapors flow through a coil where they condense back into liquid, which is then collected in a receiving vessel. Other techniques may also be used to collect essential oils. Most citrus oils are expressed mechanically through a cold press technique. Because flowers contain very little volatile oil for mechanical expression and their chemical components are delicate and easily denatured by the high heat used in steam distillation, their essential oils are often extracted with the help of a solvent such as hexane.When used to improve the delicate skin of the face, essential oils penetrate deeply into the dermis to stimulate cellular activity. This helps to regulate both overactive and under-active oil glands, stimulates skin cells to grow more quickly and be more vital, and supports the production of collagen and elastin. To avoid irritation or allergic reactions when they are applied directly to the skin, essential oils are first blended with a base oil such as olive, almond, hazelnut or grapeseed oil. Essential oils may also be included along with other active ingredients in skin care products to help boost overall efficacy. A typical ratio of essential oil to base oil or product is 1% – 5%, depending upon the essential oil’s purpose. However, essential oils can differ widely in quality, depending upon the plants from which they are derived. Oil obtained from healthy, organic plants is typically vital and potent, while oils produced from unhealthy plants, including those that have been over-treated with chemical pesticides and other products, is often less potent.

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