Aromatherapy isn’t only for spas, health food stores and alternative medicine practices. Turns out you can reap the same health and mood benefits when you use beauty products that contain essential oils — and increasingly, beauty brands are offering up aromatherapeutic options. We spoke with Barbara Close, founder of Naturopathica and therapeutic herbalist, to get the lowdown on aromatherapy and how you can make it work on the beauty front.
To start things off, Close took us to task for believing the popular misconception about aromatherapy that it’s a simple matter of smelling nice fragrances. “It isn’t as much about scents as it is about the quality of your ingredients,” she says. “Therapeutic properties can only be achieved through the use of genuine essential oils, not synthetic ones.”
What’s the difference? Close further explains that essential plant oils contain chemical compounds that affect the limbic system of the brain when inhaled, producing a range of effects. The fakes, although they may smell lovely, just don’t offer these benefits. How do you tell when a product contains the real deal? “Look for the Latin name of the plant on the packaging and a notation of 100 percent pure,” she advises.
Another key caveat: Don’t apply pure essential oils directly to skin. Make sure they’ve been diluted in a carrier oil or other formulation.
Close reveals some leading essential oils and what they do:
- Lavender: Recognized for its fresh, rich, herbal aroma, lavender helps promote relaxation and sleep to balance the emotions and serve as a powerful antidepressant.
- Peppermint: Popular for its energizing, refreshing aroma and cooling sensation, this oil helps to increase alertness, relieve nausea and ease headache pain.
- Pink grapefruit: The crisp, sweet aroma of citrus oils has mood-lifting benefits, providing renewed energy and direction.
- Balsam fir: A fresh, evergreen and woody aroma promotes alertness and clears congestion of the mind and body.
- Blue eucalyptus: This antiseptic oil has energizing and refreshing properties. It’s also widely used for cold and flu preparations to fight congestion.
- Rosemary: This oil has a long history of culinary, medicinal and even religious use. It helps reduce anxiety and can even improve concentration. Clinical studies have shown memory improvements in Alzheimer’s patients who were exposed to rosemary on a daily basis.
- Roman chamomile: This sweet-smelling oil helps ease stress and is prized by herbalists for its relaxing and antispasmodic properties.
- Sandalwood: This rich, woody-scented oil has been favored in religious ceremonies for its ability to focus the mind.
- Bergamot: This oil’s sweet, citrusy scent has warm, spicy undertones. It’s purported to help relax, relieve tension and promote positivity.
Our aromatherapy picks:
1. Decléor Aromessence Neroli Oil Serum
Not only does this hydrating oil leave skin silky and radiant, but it’s also infused with sandalwood and neroli essential oils, which can promote focus and better moods. (Skinstore, $73)
2. Beekman 1802 Honeyed Grapefruit Sugar Scrub
Goat milk, jojoba oil and sugar crystals combine to leave skin super smooth while the sweet citrus scent boosts your mood. (Beekman 1802, $39)
3. RITUALS Hammam Secret Home and Body Mist
This fresh, invigorating blend of eucalyptus and rosemary can be spritzed onto the body, sheets, curtains or even into the air for an instant lift. (RITUALS, $25)
4. Tata Harper Love Potion
Think of it as aromatherapy for your love life. This cocktail of jasmine, orange peel, ylang-ylang, rose, violet leaf and other essential oils purportedly does everything from boosting confidence and allure to awakening amorous emotions. (Tata Harper, $80)
5. Naturopathica Lavender Honey Balancing Mist
Lavender helps calm and purify while honey hydrates. Plus, it smells absolutely luscious. (Naturopathica, $28)
6. By Terry Liftessence Oil Elixir
This luxe dry oil combines six rose extracts to hydrate and nourish the skin’s moisture barrier. Rose oil has soothing anti-stress properties and is, of course, famous for its romantic fragrance. (Blue Mercury, $140)
7. Jurlique Calendula Redness Rescue Restorative Treatment Serum
Renowned for its soothing abilities, calendula is an ideal pick for sensitive skin. Keep this serum on hand to hydrate, calm and tone down redness. (Jurlique, $54)