Should you formulate with essential oils

Here was a question sent in by our readers about formulating with essential oils.

I’m not a chemist but I have been formulating cosmetic products for my wife for a short time and have been getting a lot of information from Paula Begoun. I recently ran across some critiques of Paula and wondered if you could shed some light on her opinions from a Chemists point of view.  Paula is very much against using most essential oils in cosmetic products and she cites various studies to back up her opinion. My question is, regarding essential oils, is Paula interpreting the evidence correctly?

I’ve looked very hard to find a Chemists point of view on her opinions but all i can find are people who sell essential oils complaining about her. Is there a consensus view in the scientific community on Paula Begoun?

Here is a link to her websites article on Lavender oil.

Your website looks to be a great source of information and Im very glad i found it. I’ve just started exploring it and so far it’s already been a great help.

Thank you for the service you are providing.


Your question is a little bit complicated to answer directly because I don’t exactly know what you are really asking. If you want to know whether essential oils safe to use in cosmetics? The answer is yes. They are safe to use. Paula seems to suggest they aren’t or perhaps that they shouldn’t be used because of what they can do to skin.

There are certainly reasons for concern. The primary problem is that essential oils contain ingredients to which some people will experience allergic reactions. If you are a person who reacts to those ingredients then you should avoid those essential oils in your products. However, only about 4% of the population show any allergic reaction to ingredients in essential oils so most people don’t have to worry about it.

Benefits of essential oils

But the more important question is whether essential oils have any added benefit in cosmetic. They are used to create fragrances and they are good for that. But for skin, essential oils do not provide a superior moisturizing benefit than standard ingredients like mineral oil or petrolatum. From a formulation standpoint the only reason to put essential oils into a formula (if not for fragrance reasons) is for marketing reasons. To do this, you create a standard skin lotion then put a tiny amount of the essential oils in the formula so you can call it out on the package. It will have no effect on the formula but is compelling to consumers. Essential oils used in this way are perfectly safe.

So, I don’t know if I answered your question but hopefully, you found the opinions of a formulator useful.

Perry, 44


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