Essential oils, natural, but not without risks

Essential oils are increasingly used in so-called cosmetics "naturalAnd we keep talking about their benefits to the body and skin ... maybe even a little too much!

By hearing and reading many things about their beneficial effects, one would be almost tempted to use them everywhere, all the time and for everything: medicine, skincare, nutrition, etc. This is also what is done by many people and this is the whole problem of essential oils.

First of all, it must be known that the oils are very concentrated and contain more than a hundred constituents. This allows them to have some undeniable and scientifically proven benefits, but it also makes them powerful therapeutic products, which should not be used anyhow! With these benefits come risks not to be taken lightly: if one exposes oneself too regularly to a substance, it can lead to chronic effects on the body, even if it is not very toxic.

The first thing to know about the risks concerning essential oils is their character allergen.

Allergies to essential oils are common. They can be innate or developed by daily use. It may even be your case without you knowing it, especially if you are already allergic to certain fruits, spices or nuts. By using them too often, you run a real risk of sensitization: they can reveal hives, irritations, itching or redness through use. There is a list of sixteen cosmetics allergens that should be listed on the packaging of products containing essential oils.

This is one of the most sensitive points about EOs: lack of information on labels. There is no specific regulation on the labeling of essential oils. That's why you will often find only registered100% natural". This gives us no information about the origin or the actual composition of the product. However, this information is important since the composition of an HE, and therefore its effects, depends on the place of origin of the plant.

Added to this is the fact that, in reality, there are few studies on the toxicity of essential oils. Most of the articles on the subject are based on cases of allergies or poisoning identified "by chance" and not on rigorous tests.

Another thing to know is that some essential oils (especially those derived from citrus) are photosensitizing. Using them before exposure to the sun can lead to sunburn or brown spots that are irreversible. In addition, some essential oils contain dermocaustic substances, that is to say, which causes burns of the skin. So at best: they are avoided, at worst: it is imperative to use sunscreen after.

But the risks do not stop there, the essential oils are also very volatile. When used, vapors can be deposited in our respiratory system which can be harmful for people with asthma or lung disease. The simple breathing of essential oil vapors can cause an asthma attack in some users.

Another problematic aspect of the regular use of essential oils is the dosage. Some professionals recommend using them at a concentration of 2.5%, but these dosages are difficult to achieve at home. How to know what concentration is put on our face when we add a drop of essential oil to our moisturizer? This is why, for safety reasons, you will avoid the daily use of essential oil to avoid allergic reactions, skin sensitization or worse.

In general, there are 8 categories of toxic effects of essential oils:

      • abortion: risks for pregnant women and fetuses
      • allergenic: may cause allergic reactions
      • dermocaustic: can cause skin burns
      • hepatotoxic: can cause liver damage
      • necrotizing: can cause tissue necrosis
      • nephrotoxic: can cause kidney damage
      • neurotoxic: can act on the nervous system
      • photosensitizing: sensitizes the skin to the action of the sun's rays
      • vesicant: can severely irritate skin and mucous membranes

These risks do not affect all essential oils, but research work is necessary before buying any essential oil.

We will therefore prefer a use occasionalwho, unless you are allergic, will not hurt you and may even bring you benefits. The main thing is to be aware of the risks you are taking and not to use them daily or too much. It is for all these reasons, and to be more respectful of your skin that you will not find essential oils in products SAVAN


Ron, Guba. 2000 Toxicity myths The international journal of aromatherapy, 10 vol.

Narelle Bleasel, Bruce Tate, Marius Rademaker. 2002, Allergic contact dermatitis following exposure to essential oils, Australasian Journal of Dermatology 43, 211-213.

Mr. Schaller, HCKORTING 1995. Allergicairborne contact dermatitis from essential oils used in aroma therapy, Clinical and experimental dermatology 20: p143-145.

Anton C. de GROOT, J. Willem WEYLAND. 1992, Systemic contact dermatilis from tea tree oil, Contact dermatillis 20: p279-280.

Deglise, Fabien. 2006, Essential oils: underestimated risks, [viewed on 19 April 2019]

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