Essential oils and drug claims in cosmetics

I am very skeptical about the effectiveness of essential oils in skincare products. For me they act like fragrance, only appear to be natural. But i do believe all kinds of scent can play with our moods. For example lavender can make us feel calm, citrus scent is energizing, creamy scent like chocolate or vanilla make us feel hungry. Any strong scent can give us a headache... But thats just about it.

Yesterday, one of my family members tried an essential oil based product on her son (2yo) who was having cough with phlegm. After rubbing the product on his chest, the son coughed out lots of phlegm. It was like magic! Was it a coincidence, or did the product really work? The product is a cosmetic, but with lots of drug claims. I suspect it's the rubbing motion that was responsible for the magical moment? But these kinds of product reviews sometimes make me question my view on essential oils. Maybe they do work? Or maybe just olive oil or any other massage oil can give the same result? It's the rubbing that works? Or maybe the scent of the essential oil blend makes us wanna puke phlegm?

I always think of topical cosmetic products to work by getting absorbed into the epidermis or forming a layer on the skin. But the scent of the product can affect our experience of using the product too.. How far can it (the scent) affect us / our brain?

What is your opinion on skincare products with essential oils and drug claims (help reduce cough, phlegm, etc)? Yes, they are wrong for using drug claims, but i'm interested to know how far essential oils aromatheraphy can affect us.. All those claims on aromatheraphy, are they real?

Hope you can share your opinion on this. Thank you.


Comments

  • GraillotionGraillotion Member
    edited May 28
    Well...I am developing a product (for pain) that has 15 modes of action, 6 of which are essential oils.  So far...my testers have disrupted my life (retirement), willing to crawl across broken glass....begging for more of the product...hehehe...they were only supposed to test it...not become addicted.

    I have a loved one that suffers a chronic pain, and I felt there was no need for this, so have developed a product (in conjunction with the most brilliant mind on this forum), with never really a dream of selling it.  It has only been the response of the testers...that is making me second guess if I should market it.

    In my product and opinion, the essential oils are in the product, primarily to enhance the placebo effect, and create the aura of good medicine.  A number of other ingredients are proven performers, but do not create the placebo effect I need for maximum product acceptance.  So long and the short...I think SOME EO's can have some effect....ie: clove EO can help with pain... Wintergreen puts the mind in the mode of....this is gonna work!  :disappointed:  Some I simply use as a source of a component I am looking for...like camphor.

    When developing something that is supposed to address something the likes of pain, NEVER underestimate the value of the placebo effect... It is powerful medicine!

    But once you get into things like Bird's Nest Extract....I think I need some special boots... hehehe.
  • abieroseabierose Member
    Here's an article on WebMD:

    https://www.webmd.com/baby/is-it-safe-to-use-essential-oil-in-babies

    Here it states that Eucalyptus, along with a few other essential oils, should NEVER be used on infants. It also states:

    "Don’t use peppermint oil on children less than 30 months old. Peppermint oil may increase the risk of seizures in younger children."

    Peppermint oil has helped ease the pain of my frequent headaches, however I would NEVER use ANY essential oil on my toddler. Dont get me wrong...I'm all for natural alternatives to things... but like WebMD says, "You should always err on the side of caution when it comes to your baby."
    I think about how strong Peppermint essential oil is when I use it and common sense says it would not be ok for my toddler πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

    Additionally, there are companies that sell "essential oils" on Amazon that ARE NOT essential oils at all...for example, Strawberry Essential Oil...I learned that one the hard way...and it turned out to be the one thing in my face cream formula that was causing an allergic reaction.

    Anyway, that's just my opinion 😊
  • The long and the short on EO's....you probably can't put enough of them in there, while keeping the product skin safe....to do much good.  All the heavy lifting in my pain cream is done through more traditional ingredients.
  • abieroseabierose Member
    The long and the short on EO's....you probably can't put enough of them in there, while keeping the product skin safe....to do much good.  All the heavy lifting in my pain cream is done through more traditional ingredients.
    This is a good point. I've tried using Peppermint oil diluted with a carrier oil for my headaches but it just isn't effective...I have to use undiluted Peppermint oil, directly on my forehead, neck, or wherever the pain is coming from and try my best not to get it in or even near my eyes πŸ˜«πŸ˜… 

    With that in mind, I could probably make the assumption that most, if not all, commercially available cosmetics that use EO's are only using them in very little amounts...as claim ingredients..
  • jemolianjemolian Member
    I'm not really fond of EOs or Fragrance oils in facial products since they can give me headaches from smelling them. I'd rather use them in rinse off body products in lower amounts. 

    There are people looking for EO / Fragrance free products since they are more prone to issues, so there's a market for both. 

    @Graillotion
    Luckily the bird nest extracts products are still more Asian prone and not trending in the west yet, but who knows.  :D
  • PhilGeisPhilGeis Member, Professional formulator
    Chemicals can have effects - in "essential oil" or otherwise.

     e.g. vicks VapoRub  https://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=53518
  • raiyanaraiyana Member
    Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts.

    I live in Asia and yes, Bird's nest extract has been popular for as long I can remember. We have it in drinks, skincare products, supplements and food.

    I do agree with you @Graillotion . The power of placebo effect! And I believe the experience of using a product can vary too. You can love it one time, and hate it another time.

    With everything in this world, the dose makes the poison. Same with essential oils, too much can harm you, too little does nothing. I still dont believe essential oils can work when applied topically (maybe they do more harm than good, or they work by "sensitizing" you). But I'm being more open minded about how the aroma of essential oils can affect us, and most of the time (at least for me) artificial fragrances dont come close to essential oils.

    abierose said:

     This is a good point. I've tried using Peppermint oil diluted with a carrier oil for my headaches but it just isn't effective...I have to use undiluted Peppermint oil, directly on my forehead, neck, or wherever the pain is coming from and try my best not to get it in or even near my eyes πŸ˜«πŸ˜… 

    @abierose , hehe.. maybe you dont have to "apply" that peppermint EO on your skin. just open the bottle and smell it!  :D
  • raiyanaraiyana Member
    PhilGeis said:
    Chemicals can have effects - in "essential oil" or otherwise.

     e.g. vicks VapoRub  https://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=53518
    Thank you for sharing this.

    "VVR is a petrolatum-based ointment to be either applied topically to the chest, throat, and back or added to hot water and the aromatic vapours inhaled. When used topically, the actives are evaporated by body temperature and inspired. The main therapeutic effects are the feeling of relief from nasal congestion and relief from cough."

    So these "medicated" topical products work by inhaling the aromatic vapours to get "the feeling of relief", not by rubbing them on the skin. Or just open the bottle and smell the product would work too. Dont have to apply on chest, throat, and back.
  • MargaretMargaret Member
        I think that any scent (plant or human-made)  can be associated with something that may have happened in your life whether it was pleasant or UNpleasant.
        Though lavender E.O. is supposedly 'calming', my hubby HATES it, he says it burns his nose (on the inside). So for HIM, the marketed claim of lavender being calming is false. 
        For ME, the smell of cow poo brings back a pleasant memory of visiting relatives in Hungary, as a child (in a barn. No, the people didn't live in a barn, they had a couple of cows). So, whichever compounds in the poop give cow caca the characteristic scent, those bring ME pleasant memories. I wonder if that can be marketed as successfully as lavender EO 😁? 
       Sometimes we can smell the cow doodoo when we are on the deck (we are about 3 kms from a dairy), and I say, "Ah, cow poo smell!" and I'm happy (and weird).
  • MicroformulationMicroformulation Member, Professional Chemist
    The Essential Oil theoretically "could" work wonders. However, as far as drug claims go, you can't make a single one based upon these uses, at least in the US.

    markfuller@microformulation.com Microformulation.com Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications. BS.Pharm Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University.
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist

    This is an interesting question. I'm only referring to the rules in the US as set forth by the FDA.

    By the FDA legal definition of cosmetics they are only supposed to be products that are "applied to the human body...for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance."  They are not supposed to work as drugs meaning they should not "affect the structure or any function of the body of (people)".  

    Whether a product is a drug or a cosmetic depends largely on its intended use. And intended use is determined in three different ways.  

    1.  Claims made by the product - If you make a drug claim (like prevents inflammation or stimulate collagen production) then the product is a drug.

    2.  Consumer perception of the product - even if you don't make a claim about your product, if there is a general consumer perception that the product is a drug, then it's a drug. This can be found out by asking consumers what they expect a product to do. 

    3.  Product includes an ingredient with a well-known therapeutic use. So, for example you can't include sunscreens in your lotion and not label it as a sunscreen.

    Based on these guidelines, you can't make any drug claims.
    But also, you can't even imply your product is going to have a drug effect.
    And even if you don't do that, if the consumer thinks your product is going to work like a drug, then it is also illegal.

    Maybe essential oils (or more specifically chemical components of the essential oil) have drug effects. If they do, unless you are going to file an NDA (new drug application), it doesn't seem like it would be legal to sell the product.

  • abieroseabierose Member
    @raiyana I wish just smelling it would work for me!! It's actually the cold/hot/Peppermint feeling on my head that helps ease the pain 😊 this doesn't work by itself to cure my headache but in conjunction with an NSAID or other pain relief medication...along with being able to rest in a quiet, dark room 😁 basically it just eases the symptoms. 
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    Highly volatile essential oils such as peppermint, but more so, menthol, camphor ... the reason they work in pain topical products is that the evaporation of the oils creates a cooling effect on the skin and it tricks the brain into focusing on the cooling effect and less so on the pain.  The effect is primarily sensorial and psychological, but real.

    It also conditions the brain to associate the smell of the oils with "healing" ... As for other essential oils, yes, they do contain components that could have therapeutic effects, but again, the scent is more important in signaling to the brain certain "effects or sensations" more so than the EO sitting on the skin.

    As for EO in skin care products other than pain management products, they generally do not perform any useful function other than scenting the product, and most are actually not really good to put on your skin ... lot of allergens and they can cause photosensitivity, especially the citrus EO's.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • raiyanaraiyana Member
    Thank you very much everyone for sharing your thoughts on this.

    some interesting things i realized from this post:

    1) cooling essential oils trick the brain to focus on that cooling effect. like putting ice pack on the forehead to ease headaches. 

    2) cosmetics should never make any kind of drug claims, and that include consumer perception of the product. personally i think a "whitening serum" or a "tummy trim lotion" are just not right. i remember i have a friend who used a tummy trim lotion and she lost a few cms in just hours. The product feels hot on the skin to promote sweating.

    3) there will always be good demand for cosmetic products with therapeutic claims. in my country, cosmetics can't make drug claims just like the FDA. but these products are everywhere and small companies are making big money from selling them. if the authority gets them, no problem, they will set up a new company with a different brand name. and the cycle goes on and on.... :# 
  • AbdullahAbdullah Member
    raiyana said:
    I am very skeptical about the effectiveness of essential oils in skincare products. For me they act like fragrance, only appear to be natural. But i do believe all kinds of scent can play with our moods. For example lavender can make us feel calm, citrus scent is energizing, creamy scent like chocolate or vanilla make us feel hungry. Any strong scent can give us a headache... But thats just about it.

    Yesterday, one of my family members tried an essential oil based product on her son (2yo) who was having cough with phlegm. After rubbing the product on his chest, the son coughed out lots of phlegm. It was like magic! Was it a coincidence, or did the product really work? The product is a cosmetic, but with lots of drug claims. I suspect it's the rubbing motion that was responsible for the magical moment? But these kinds of product reviews sometimes make me question my view on essential oils. Maybe they do work? Or maybe just olive oil or any other massage oil can give the same result? It's the rubbing that works? Or maybe the scent of the essential oil blend makes us wanna puke phlegm?

    I always think of topical cosmetic products to work by getting absorbed into the epidermis or forming a layer on the skin. But the scent of the product can affect our experience of using the product too.. How far can it (the scent) affect us / our brain?

    What is your opinion on skincare products with essential oils and drug claims (help reduce cough, phlegm, etc)? Yes, they are wrong for using drug claims, but i'm interested to know how far essential oils aromatheraphy can affect us.. All those claims on aromatheraphy, are they real?

    Hope you can share your opinion on this. Thank you.


    How does this product smell? 
    Like lavender? Thyme? Or something else?
  • raiyanaraiyana Member
    @Abdullah It has strong but acceptable minty scent. Cant smell the lavender though. I like the smell ;)
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    edited May 29
    EOs applied to skin are bioavailable to about 50% (they penetrate skin easily and pass into the bloodsteam) and to a good part are excreted by breath (quite unique behaviour). Some EOs have medicinal properties pretty much like 'chemical' pharmaceuticals and 'drugs'. Unlike many standard drugs, they don't have one defined molecular target and one scientifically proven mode of action. But neither do Aspirin and Tylenol ;) .
    Multi-component mixtures are simply very difficult to grasp scientifically, that doesn't mean they're not acting 'scientifically' or only work by placebo effects.
    However, antipsychotics, according to the latest investigations, act primarily as placebos and, though we know to which receptors they bind and which neurotransmitters they affect, we don't know how and why they truly work (if they work at all... patient-doctor relation is more important according to above mentioned investigations).
  • abieroseabierose Member
    Highly volatile essential oils such as peppermint, but more so, menthol, camphor ... the reason they work in pain topical products is that the evaporation of the oils creates a cooling effect on the skin and it tricks the brain into focusing on the cooling effect and less so on the pain.  The effect is primarily sensorial and psychological, but real.
    πŸ’―. This is absolutely correct. 
  • AbdullahAbdullah Member
    @Pharma how about fragrance oils? 
    Do they also penetrate skin easily and pass into the bloodsteam and excrete by breath? 
  • MicroformulationMicroformulation Member, Professional Chemist
    @Pharma "Some EOs have medicinal properties pretty much like 'chemical' pharmaceuticals and 'drugs'. Unlike many standard drugs, they don't have one defined molecular target and one scientifically proven mode of action. But neither do Aspirin and Tylenol."

    Way back in 1984 when I attended Pharmacy School, they sure made us learn the mechanisms of action for these two drugs.
    markfuller@microformulation.com Microformulation.com Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications. BS.Pharm Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University.
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    ...Way back in 1984 when I attended Pharmacy School, they sure made us learn the mechanisms of action for these two drugs.
    Acetylsalicylic acid has more than the two mechanisms you probably learned about and way more in vivo effects than what was thought twenty years ago. When it comes to paracetamol: We still don't know how it works, seriously. One of the oldest drugs still in frequent use, one of the most prescribed ones too, one use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and one of the most stimple molecules in the realm of synthetic drugs... and we don't know where it binds and what it does to our body. You explain that to me :wink: !
    And now you imagine that science trying to elucidate the mode of action of a mixture of 100 different small hydrocarbons aka an essential oil...

  • abieroseabierose Member
    @Pharma I remember reading that statement on some drug literature years ago...that the "..mode of action isn't quite understood..." or something along those lines...and thinking, is this real? That "they" really don't know how or why this drug works? How can they know it's really safe? But after taking a few classes (online and just for personal enrichment) I learned that we really don't know much about the human brain at all...it is so complex and so difficult to study that we really probably only understand maybe 2% or less of it..? Anyway, brains are awesome, lol πŸ˜†
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