Continuing our series on product ingredients: essential oils.

With more and more individuals moving towards “green” and natural living, essential oils are playing a much larger role in the formulation of hair care products than ever before.

What are essential oils? Essential oils are concentrated liquids from plants containing the oil of the plant material from which they were extracted. They have been used in hair preparations for centuries to promote shine and enhance natural hair health.

Essential oils are most commonly mixed with some type of carrier oil in hair product formulations, as they are either too concentrated or will evaporate upon contact on their own. Because of their concentrated nature, essential oils should not used in undiluted form as some can cause severe irritation, or can provoke an allergic reaction.

Despite their benefits, it is important to note most essential oils carry what are known as “contraindications.” A contraindication is a condition in which application of a particular treatment or substance is not advisable, i.e., if someone is allergic to penicillin, we would regard that as a contraindication for penicillin use, since further use of penicillin on that individual would trigger an allergic reaction.

As an example: rosemary and sage are contraindicated in pregnancy and with high blood pressure, meaning that women who are pregnant or individuals with high blood pressure are advised not to use any preparation containing those essential oils.

Additionally, many essentials oils also carry what are known as “cautions,” which are similar to contraindications, but are not as severe in nature. For example, citrus oils, such as lemon and grapefruit, are photosensitive and should not be applied prior to sun exposure.

It is VERY important to note that you should not infer any essential oil is safe if a contraindication or caution is not listed. ALWAYS consult a medical professional to address any concerns you may have about the safety of any product ingredient!

Next week: carrier oils

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