Patch Testing Essential Oils for Sensitive Skin

Essential oils are highly concentrated and can sometimes cause irritation and are generally diluted before using them on your skin.

Even when diluted essential oils can cause reactions to more sensitive skin types and so carrying out a patch test before using the oil in certain circumstances is recommended.

When to carry out a patch test?

It is worth carrying out a patch test before using essential oils on your skin in the following situations:

  • if you have very sensitive skin,
  • if you are generally prone to allergies,
  • if you have very young or aged skin,
  • if your skin is diseased or injured.

How to carry out a patch test:

  • Mix a very small amount of the blend you intend to use. (See blog post on blending for safe blend strengths).
  • Using the inside of the forearm, apply a couple drops of your blend to the pad of a band aid and keep the bandage on the skin. After 48 hours remove the bandage and check for irritation.
  • If the skin under or around the bandage becomes red, swollen, itchy, or develops blisters, that is a reaction and you should avoid skin exposure to the blend you tested. 
  • You can remove the bandage as soon as you become aware of a reaction, you do not need to leave it on for the full 48 hours.

Note: It is generally accepted that lavender and tea tree essential oils can be used neat on the skin, and they are very useful to apply to minor first aid situations, like small burns, cuts, spots, bites, but again it is worth carrying out a patch test if you have any of the above mentioned conditions.

Diluting essential oils in a base oil (eg. Olive oil, Almond oil) is ideal as they themselves have many nourishing properties that your skin can also benefit from.  Generally they are full of vitamins and fatty acids that help keep skin healthy and vital.  They also help the essential oils absorb into your skin more easily.

You do not need to dilute essential oils when using them in a burner, diffusor or for inhalation, in fact using a base oil in a diffusor may damage it.

Taking care of your hands

Be delicate, tender and gentle with your hands.
Be delicate, tender and gentle with your hands.

A few years ago I noticed my hands getting a little bit cracked and battered, I have very sensitive and soft skin and it was starting to split around the finger tips from all the bottling and pouring I do at work.  I had experienced this on and off before, but this time I was a little more conscious that it was showing me I hadn’t been taking care of them.  I had stopped using moisturisers on my hands years earlier, as it is an area I’m prone to getting eczema on, and many contain perfume, alcohol and other potential irritants.  But, now they were shouting out for some nourishment, so I made up some simple moisturising creams and ensured there was one in my bathroom, and one at work, so each time I washed my hands throughout the day I gave my hands a little love. I was absolutely amazed that within 2 days, my hands had literally transformed, completely soft and smooth again.  Such a simple addition to my daily routine and of course the action of massaging a lovely cream with essential oils in was another nurturing moment in my day. It was only a short moment after a trip to the bathroom or washing up so it certainly wasn’t taking up a lot of time in my day, but the difference made a huge impact on my day and the way I look after my hands, especially the way I do things with my hands, like unscrew caps, and shut doors, I generally just want to be more careful and gentle with them.

Here are a few blends that I particularly like for the hands; I have specified the number of drops for adding to 100ml container of cream, if you have very sensitive skin then half the amount of drops.

Protective and soothing blend, so great for sensitive skins.

Benzoin 10 drops, mandarin 20 drops and chamomile 6 drops

Deeply nourishing blend, so perfect for very dry, cracked hands in need of some serious care.

Myrrh 16 drops, palmarosa 10 drops and rose 8 drops

Cleansing and anti-microbial blend, great for really mucky hands.

Lemon 10 drops, lavender 20 drops and thyme 5 drops

For various sized pots of cream you can refer to the following blog post link for the amount of drops to use: Blending Instructions or make your own cream using my recipe in the following blog post on Cream Making.

I love playing around with different creams and flavours but even choosing a lotion you fancy from the supermarket will make all the difference to your lovely, well used, hands and fingers.

Top tips for taking care of your hands:

ALWAYS use washing up gloves when washing up, even if it’s just one cup or spoon, as putting your hands in and out of water especially with washing up liquid in can dry them out! My favourites are from the brand Bizzybee and the ‘satin touch’ type feel absolutely gorgeous inside, it is a real treat putting my hands in them.

ALWAYS use gardening gloves when gardening.

ALWAYS be delicate, tender & gentle with your hands.

This is a beautiful article that helps us recognise what gentleness feels like in our body and asks Why is Gentleness Important?

Why is gentleness important? photo care of Unimed Living
Why is gentleness important? photo care of Unimed Living

How To Make Your Own Natural Face and Body Cream

rose creams

Below are the notes from one of the workshops I regularly run, with instruction on how to make your own completely natural face and body cream, with out any chemicals, emulsifiers or preservatives. Please ask any questions as these notes are designed to go with a practical session, but they should be clear enough for you to re-create your own version of this yummy cream yourself…

Organic Face and Body Cream, Workshop Notes

Introduction

During the workshop we will go through the process together of making your own completely  organic, natural face and body cream, without using any chemicals, emulsifiers or preservatives.

cream 3

When the cream is ready, and you have your own pot to take away, you can choose to mix in essential oils or not, and if so, you can choose one or a few different essential oils to mix in, and a blend strength that suits its intended use (up to 1% for the face, and up to 5% for the body). See blend strength chart in my previous blog for more details.

If you decide to make your own cream after the workshop, then you can follow the recipe used, but you may like to vary the ingredients a little according to your skin type, or to get a specific effect.

Just be aware that you need to keep the ratios of different types of products the same -so keep the amount of water, oil, butter and wax products used the same.  There is room for a little variation here, you just need to be aware that if you use more water products, the cream will have a thinner consistency, and if you use more solids then it will be thicker in consistency, so you can tailor this to your desire too.

The recipe we will use is for a simple cream involving no chemical emulsifier.  Most cosmetic creams will use an emulsifier of some kind -usually emulsifying wax.  This is because to make a cream, you need to mix oil and water together, two substances that don’t like to mix with each other.  An emulsifier kind of thickens the two and makes them like each other.  They are made from chemicals, and cannot be natural or organic. So this recipe is a little tricky, as it involves mixing the ingredients carefully so they don’t split.  But, with patience and care, it is possible (it is in fact similar to how mayonnaise is made).  You will need to use a fairly good blender, whereas with an emulsifying wax you can usually just whisk the ingredients. The recipe does include beeswax, and this has some naturally emulsifying properties which helps the process.

Ingredients:

  • 200g Floral Waters/ Herbal Infusions –  or blend of both.
  • 70g Butters/ Wax – I like to use 35g of Shea Butter & 35g of Coconut Oil.
  • 130g Base/Carier/Vegetable Oil – I use a blend of different oils including Olive, Apricot, Avocado, Macadamia, Rosehip (see my range of carrier oils for inspiration).
  • 10g beeswax

Optional Extras

About the ingredients:

Waters:

Floral waters

There are 2 versions of floral water, you can use the water that is produced during distillation of an essential oil, or you can use a handmade version, which is spring water mixed with an essential oil, left for a week or 2 and shaken intermittently, and then filtered.  They are similar in action to essential oils but much gentler. Rose water is available to buy from my webshop.

Infusions

An infusion is just like making a cup of herbal tea (a proper cup of herbal tea that is not made from a dried up old bag of dust).  You place your choice of herbs in a tea pot (or cup) and pour boiling water over the herbs (make sure the water is ‘spring water’ and not from the tap to avoid contaminating the cream).  One heaped teaspoon (double the amount if using fresh material rather than dried) to 175ml of water is a standard therapeutic infusion. If using a cup, make sure you cover it to keep the volatile oils from escaping with the steam. Leave to steep for 10 minutes, and strain before use (any little bits of plant material will contaminate the cream).

Oils:

Carrier Oils (base oils)

These are cold pressed from the fruit nut or seed of a plant, for example olive (fruit), almond (nut) or sunflower (seed).  Make sure you use good quality oil that has not been refined, as the refinement process will have destroyed many of the nutritious qualities of the oil.

These are some of my favourite base oils to use on the face:

  • Avocado ~ rich, nourishing, hydrating.
  • Rosehip ~ one of the best base oils for helping scars to heal.
  • Apricot ~ gentle & suitable for all skin types.
  • Macadamia ~ rich, nourishing –has a gorgeous nutty scent.

Macerated oils

An infused oil is carrier oil that has been ‘infused’ with the goodness of a herb or flower for example marigold/calendula or St. Johns wort. Generally the plant material is immersed into a carrier oil e.g. olive or almond oil, and either left naturally to heat in the sun over a period of weeks, or heated gently in a bain-marie for a couple of hours.  The oil absorbs many of the plants properties and the leached plant material is strained out of the oil.

Butters

Again, these have been cold pressed from part of the plant, and include Cocoa, Coconut, Mango, and Shea.  They are solid at room temperature, and bring a creamy effect to the product and have a nourishing effect on the skin, usually high in vitamins and fatty acids.

Beeswax

This is what helps the cream to emulsify, try to find a good quality and trustworthy source.  It is also an emollient, very soothing and protecting for the skin.

Vitamin E – optional

This is a great natural preservative.

Essential oils – optional

Essential oils are normally steam distilled from various parts of plants such as flower, leaves, fruit, roots and bark. With citrus oils it is usually just pressed from the peel, and for some delicate plant material (usually flowers and blossoms) will use a solvent to gently extract the oil.  They have a strong scent to them, so are a lovely way to personalise your blend, but also have very potent healing properties that affect the body on a physical level as well as the way we feel.  Even though the cream is complete on its own, the essential oils will bring another dimension to the effect.

These are some of my favourite essential oils to use on the face:

  • Rose ~ hydrating, nourishing and deeply nurturing.
  • Lavender ~ cleansing, clearing, gentle, antimicrobial (see my blog post on Lavender for more details).
  • Benzoin ~ protective.
  • Chamomile (Roman chamomile)~ soothing, calming, delicate, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy, (see my blog post on chamomile for more details).
  • Myrrh ~ deeply healing, great for scars.
  • Mandarin ~ gentle, toning, light.
  • Geranium ~ balancing, feminine, supports hormones.
  • Neroli (orange blossom) ~ calming, gentle, soothing.

See my webshop for more essential oils that you may like to use.

Equipment

  • Scales
  • Bain marie/ double boiler
  • Measuring jug
  • A decent blender
  • Spatula
  • Pots or containers for finished product -make sure they are cleaned and sterilised by rinsing with some boiling water, and completely dry.

Instructions

Prepare the ingredient first, measure and weigh the amounts so they are ready to add in at the appropriate moment.

ingredients for cream

Melt all the solid oil base products by gently heating them in a bain marie or double boiler.  Then add the liquid oil products to this, you may need to heat it through a little more, as the cool liquids can cause the mixture to begin solidifying again.

When they are completely melted pour this mixture into a blender and let it cool down for a few minutes.  The melted mixture should become a little opaque in colour, but not to the point that it is beginning to solidify, see it has a buttery appearance:

buttery blending

Put the blender on a low setting and add just a little of the water based products at a time. You will see it become milky in appearance:

Milky blending

and eventually thickens to a cream:

Creamed

Take your time when adding the water and blending, as adding too much water initially will make it difficult to emulsify and it will be more likely to split.  If the cream splatters up the sides of the blender, use the spatula to get all the mixture in the bottom each time you add more water, so the entire mixture is evenly blended.

If you decide to add Vitamin E and essential oils to the cream, do this at the very end as you do not want to expose them to heat.  Pour the mixture into some little pots or jars.  Ensure they are clean and dry –I usually pour some boiling water into them to sterilize them first and then dry them.  Pour the cream as soon as it’s ready, as it will become thicker as it cools, and more difficult to get out.

As in the workshop, you can add essential oils at this point too–if you have several containers and you want to create different blends for each one, then it’s ideal.  I find it quite practical to use a chop stick to stir them through.

pot of cream

Shelf Life

Because this cream is very natural and does not contain chemicals or preservatives, it is likely to only last 2-3months.  I would recommend keeping it in a cool dark cupboard or in the fridge if you can.  It will usually only go off if it becomes contaminated somehow and this can often be due to bacteria in the water based ingredients.  Make sure you don’t use any water from the tap if making an infusion, use spring water. Ensure all equipment being used is sterilised.

Using your cream

Having made the cream from scratch, and knowing all the wonderful ingredients that go into it, it can help me to be a little more focused on my skin care routine, to be more appreciative of this time with myself.  It’s particularly lovely to massage gently around the jaw, and to take this time to let go of any tension held in this area.  In doing this I become more aware of the tension held in other areas in the face –including cheeks and eyes!  I also use the cream on my neck across the top of my chest, massaging just under the collar bones which delicately allows me to become more open around the chest area, I can feel the difference in my whole body especially my posture, when I do this. Basically, just enjoy and appreciate using it on any part of your body.

Here are some ingredient variations for inspiration when designing your own versions:

Rich, hydrating and nourishing, for dry and mature skin

  • Rose floral water
  • Avocado, macadamia
  • Coconut, shea
  • Rose, frankincense, myrrh

Gentle and soothing, for sensitive skin

  • Neroli floral water, chamomile infusion
  • Apricot, camellia oil
  • Coconut
  • Neroli, Chamomile, Mandarin

Eczema, delicate itchy and damaged skin

  • Lavender floral water, chamomile infusion
  • Evening Primrose, starflower/borage oil
  • Coconut oil, shea butter
  • Chamomile, lavender, benzoin

Light and balancing for young, oily, combination skin

  • Geranium floral water
  • Grape seed, apricot oil
  • Coconut oil, shea butter
  • Geranium, lemon

Creams for Sale

I make versions of these natural face and body creams at regular intervals, so if you would like to buy one CLICK HERE to view the bespoke products on the webshop.

Feel free to request specific ingredients, or preferred effects (eg. very hydrating or very gentle) as I am more than happy to design it to your requirements.

Lavender and Chamomile for Hay fever

white lavender
I had a lovely email from a friend last week who was inspired by a previous blog (‘Lavender, Essential First Aid) to use lavender essential oil when suffering symptoms of hay fever.  I asked if I could post it here since it was so timely for me, as I’m sure it will be for others, so thank you Catherine Jones for sharing your experience.
‘I felt to share how lavender oil is helping me right now, as it has taken me by surprise.  I have hay fever, and so have very itchy eyes, an itchy & runny nose, and my face is generally congested and reactive all over. I don’t have any drugs yet, and last night I felt to try dabbing some cool wet cotton wool on my eyes to calm them down. I added a drop or so of lavender oil, and it made such a difference. I used it a few hours ago, pretty much all over my face, but paying attention to the area around my eyes, and across my cheeks, and down the gall bladder lines from nose to chin. It was amazing. I often use lavender in things, but it had never occurred to me that it might ease an allergy. Right now I am not sneezing, nor itching, and I am breathing freely. ‘
Chamomile
Her message inspired me, as I was experiencing similar symptoms at the time, and I have since tried the same technique using roman chamomile essential oil, as it is specifically good for allergies and particulary soothing and calming.  For more details on chamomile essential oil see ‘Soothing Chamomile for Skin Conditions’.

Soothing Chamomile for Skin Conditions

Chamomile

I had a request to write a blog on skin conditions from a friend recently, and when I began to consider this, I immediately thought of chamomile, so I decided to focus this particular post on using chamomile essential oil to treat a variety of skin conditions, although there are many other oils that are incredibly useful, I will bring focus to them another time.  There are two main types of chamomile essential oil one is called Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) which is the oil I would recommend here for use with skin conditions, it has a fresh, smooth, appley, summery scent.  The other type is known as German or Blue chamomile (Matricaria recutita) which is more intense, inky blue in colour and incredibly anti-inflammatory.

Skin conditions can be unpleasant, annoying and stressful, I experienced eczema as a child and again more recently as an adult, so I have a strong relationship with the issues surrounding this condition.  Many other conditions that affect the skin, for example psoriasis, insect bites, rashes such as those caused by measles and chicken pox, will show the same or similar symptoms, and it is the symptoms that chamomile is particularly appropriate for alleviating.  Chamomile is very soothing and calming on a physical level and really helps with symptoms like itching, inflammation, pain, weeping, redness, irritation.  Chamomile also soothes and calms your disposition. It has a strong anti-inflammatory action and anti-allergic action, so it is ideal for things like bites, spots and rashes. The symptoms themselves in turn cause a feeling of stress and discomfort and general irritation, so chamomile is perfect to help calm and soothe these internal feelings as well as the outside physical ailments.  Chamomile is also very gentle, and does not have any contraindications, so this makes it appropriate for use on delicate skin, that may be damaged or sensitive, and for young children.

One very annoying symptom of skin conditions is the itching sensation, and of course the worst thing to do is to scratch, yet scratching seems to be the only thing to bring relief.  Alas, the after effects usually mean your skin is left in a much worse state.  I remember being able to resist the urge to scratch more easily during the day,  but in the night, I wouldn’t really be conscious enough to have control, and I would scratch until I drew blood.  One of my best pieces of advice here is to cut your finger nails down to the absolute minimum which will help minimise damage.  I did consider scratch mitts, but the lack of finger nails really made a difference.

Many skin conditions can leave the skin very dry, so it is important to keep the skin hydrated, hydrated skin will bode better under a scratch attack than dry.  Drink plenty of water to keep the skin hydrated from the inside out.

Treatment & Application: I would recommend applying chamomile essential oil diluted in either a simple cream, lotion or in a plain aloe vera gel, as they are easy to apply, address the hydration issue, and can feel soothing and cooling in themselves when massaged into the affected area.  See my recent blog on ‘Blending Every Day Products with Essential Oils’ for details on mixing and the appropriate number of drops to use when blending yourself, my recipe for making your own natural cream, or see some recommendations for products below.  Make sure you use a base that is very natural and avoid harsh products with nasty chemicals, as they can sting, or cause the skin to react and make it worse.  A cream can be applied to large areas of damaged or affected skin, or just dabbed onto spots or bites.  I would recommend using this for acne when it is very sore, red and inflamed, although treating first with lavender or tea tree would be more suitable because of their powerful anti microbial and cleansing effects, chamomile would then be ideal to apply afterwards for it’s more soothing gentle action.

An important point to note is that a lot of skin conditions that are not caused by an obvious outside influence (a wasp sting, nettles or allergies) are caused by stress.  Stress is a word that can literally mean anything, so it needs to be looked at on a personal level, some might experience stress in traffic on their journey to work, or when trying to get the lid off a jar that is really stiff; some may be dealing with a life crisis for example the death of someone close or a relationship breakdown.  What ever the situation is, the body can still be reacting in the same way, and often it can be several months after the upheaval that the skin condition arises.  It may be worth keep a diary so you can become more aware of your symptoms, and notice what has an effect on them.  Although there may be many things that effect it such as foods, or products that your skin comes into contact with, there is usually an emotional issue which is the root cause.

It wasn’t until I was having a conversation with a friend that I made the emotional connection.  I was struggling to manage eczema at the time and she asked me a question about an uncomfortable subject for me at the time -relating to a difficult relationship.  Whilst I was speaking, she said to me “Do you realise that you started scratching when I asked you about…..”   It was a real ‘ah ha’ moment, and has now become a great marker for me, as whenever I begin to scratch my skin, I know that I must be feeling stressed about something, and having that awareness helps me to question what is going on.  When I notice this, I know I need to be more gentle with myself, and look at what is happening in my life to make me feel stressed or overwhelmed.  I also like to make time to massage a little chamomile cream into the area on my body that is itching.  At the moment I often get an itch and a little patch of eczema on various parts of my hands, so I have a bottle of chamomile cream by my bed, and massage it into my hands at night, which helps calm and prepare me for sleep too.

Whilst putting this post together, I have been chatting to a few people about skin conditions, and a conversation arose where we discussed how the sea and sun often helped to clear up eczema and psoriasis, but of course the sea and sun also usually mean holidays, and inevitably less stress!

chamomile_jpg

If you are not confident blending your own essential oils into a base of cream or aloe vera gel, or it isn’t convenient, then you can contact me to order a bespoke cream: laura@essesntialoilsandyou.co.uk