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Essential Oils in Handmade Soap, Bath, Body and Spa Products.

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Essential oils are a significant part of creating handmade soap, bath body and spa products. The scents from botanicals and additives alone are not enough to make beautiful and aromatic products. Essential oils are the most expensive ingredients you will buy, but they are one of the most important. Don’t buy cheap oils or extracts as you will be disappointed.

Blend essential oils in a glass container before adding them to you handmade soap or bath body and spa products. Experiment with different blends of fragrances. Make sure that you keep a log of what you have done so that you can repeat the blend again later.

Essential oils and Fragrance Oils can be added to melted soap base. You can even use both oils in the same batch of soap if you like.

Essential oils are highly concentrated and are extracted from natural plant and flower sources, they are in fact the very essence of the plant itself.

Some Plants will produce more than one type of essential oil. For example, the bitter orange tree produces three distinct oils. It produces neroli, or orange blossom from the beautiful fragrant flowers; petitgrain from the leaves and twigs; and bitter orange from the almost ripe fruit.

The most common method of extracting the essential oils is via steam distillation but can also be extracted by cold pressing or with solvents. Steam is passed through the plant material, soaking up the essential oil as it goes through. This very aromatic vapor is then passed through a series of tubes that are surrounded by cold water, which acts as a condenser. The condensed, distilled floral water is collected with the essential oil floating on top. The essential oil is then siphoned off.

The remaining floral water is a very useful by product, which has a delicate scent that is less intense then the oils. Floral waters are a very useful addition to your handmade soap, bath body and spa products.

Please read through this list before designing your own recipes. In general you will need 2-3% essential by weight of your base oils and can be used like fragrance oil, but you should use only 1/3 of the amount. For example if your recipe recommends 3% fragrance oil you will only use 1% essential oil. Although peppermint needs a bit less, and some light, highly volatile oils like citrus oils need a bit more. Only experience will tell you how to fine tune your recipes, keep a log book of your recipes, writing down your results, and you will become a master.


Although essential oils have many therapeutic benefits, some are contra indicted and this list is not intended as a definitive guide.

Essential oils are powerful, pure and natural ingredients. If you have any sensitivity, are pregnant, epileptic, have liver damage, have cancer, suffer from high or low blood pressure or any other medical problem. Please consult your medical practitioner or a qualified aromatherapy practioner before use.

Do not allow direct skin contact with undiluted essential oils always dilute your essential oils with a base or carrier oil. Keep away from children and pets and never take any essential oil internally. Always keep essential oils in well labeled dark glass bottles and store in a cool dark place.

Always do a patch test when you are going to use new essential oils to check for sensitivities. Place a drop or two mixed with a carrier oil on the inside of you arm and cover with a band aid for 24 hours. If irritation occurs wash immediately.

Attributed Qualities of Essential Oils

Many essential oils have specific effects and qualities attributed to them. Here is a small sample of some of the most basic attributes; there is some debate among researchers on whether the benefits of aromatherapy are from the aromas or the other properties of the oils or if they need to be used in conjunction to give the overall effect.

Peaceful and relaxing: Lavender, sandalwood, honeysuckle, chamomile, Ylang Ylang, Tangerine, Rose, Lemon verbena.

Energizing: Rosemary, peppermint, lemon, lime, jasmine, and honey.

Stimulating and Uplifting: Bergamot, orange, jasmine, rosemary, lemon verbena, mints, sage, pine.

Antiseptic: Tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint, lavender.

Focusing, head clearing: Frankincense, peppermint, grapefruit, cinnamon, chamomile, lavender, orange, ylang ylang

Romantic, exotic, aphrodisiac: Ylang ylang, rose

Now that you know what attributes the Essential Oils have you can add the appropriate Color to your bath body and spa products and make a stimulating soap bar or relaxing bath salts.

Fragrance Blending

Blending your own scents to create enduring and lasting fragrant blends is not difficult if you follow a few basic steps.

Scents are categorized into scent groups, knowing these groups will help you to decide how to blend your scents, and lets you know how your blend may evolve; for example you may want a mandarin from the citrus group with a light spicy undertone of ginger from the spice group.

The following is a partial list of essential oils and the scent group to which they belong to give you an idea of how they work.

Scents are also categorized into notes like a musical scale, these notes help to make a scent rounded, full bodied, and long lasting. All your perfumes and fragrances are made up of these notes; they are broken down as such top notes, middle notes and bottom notes.

Top notes: also known as high notes or the main scent – this is the key or predominant scent in your blend and is the first aroma that your nose detects and is the first scent to fade.

Middle notes: also known as the blender(s) – this is the additional scent(s) that is added to enhance the main scent; this is the second scent(s) that your nose will detect and also the second to fade.

Bottom notes: also known as contrasting scents – The scent(s) are used to liven up the blend and are the last scent(s) that your nose will detect, it is also the longest lasting scent(s) in your blend.

You will find that not all scents fall into one specific note category and can be used as other notes when blended with different scents.

Essential Oils

Bitter almond (Prunus dulcis): This oil has a characteristic marzipan-like scent. It is extracted from the kernels of the bitter almond tree.

Basil(ocimum basillcum): A spicy, sweet green scent with a fresh balsamic undertone. Avoid during pregnancy.

Benzoin (styrax benzoin): a viscous, orange brown liquid with a rich, sweet balsamic scent extracted from the trunk of the styrax benzoin. This essential oil is really a resin and acts as a good fixative to other oils, particularly citrus, use only in tiny amounts.

Bergamot (citrus bergamia): a light, fresh, fruity scent with a hint of sweet spice. This essential oil is extracted by cold expression of the peel of the under-ripe fruit. Bergamot contains fuocoumarins which are phototoxic and cause sensitization and skin pigmentation when exposed to direct sunlight. Always use FCF bergamot which is furocoumarin free.

Black pepper (piper nigrum): Extracted by steam distillation of the dried and crushed peppercorns, this oil has a very dry woody and spicy scent. It is an irritant in large doses, but a couple of drops are all you need to spice up your blend before the peppery scent becomes too dominant.

Carnation (dianthus caryophyllus): a lingering rich, honey like scent with a hint of spicy cloves. It is extracted from the fresh flowers of the low growing perennial. This is a lovely perfume all on its own and is reported to be an aphrodisiac, but is very expensive.

Chamomile, German (matricaria recutica): a strong, sweet, herbaceous scent. The steam distillation of the flower heads produces thick inky blue oil.

Chamomile, Roman (Anthernis Nobillis): a very relaxing oil with a fruity sweet, herbaceous scent. This oil is similar to german chamomile but without the blue color.

Cinnamon, leaf (cinnamomum zeylanicum): a warm, spicy, lightly harsh scent. The oil is extracted from the leaves and twigs of this tropical tree. Always use leaf oil rather than bark oil, although even cinnamon leaf oil can be a skin irritant if used in large quantities. Add carefully and at a light trace as it may make your soap seize.

Clary sage (salvia sclarea): Closely related to the garden sage, it has a sweet nutty slightly dominating herbaceous scent. Clary sage is a soothing oil good for inflamed skin. Don’t use, while drinking alcohol as it can exaggerate the feeling of drunkenness.

Clove bud (Syzgium aromaticum): a sweet and spicy liquid with a fresh, fruity top note. This essential oil can cause mucus membrane and skin irritation. Always use clove bud oil, not clove leaf. Only use this oil in very small amount about 1% or less in your recipes. A little will go along way.

Eucalyptus, blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus): a thin, clear liquid with a very distinctive camphoric scent. This oil is distilled from the leaves and young twigs. It is a useful, medicated oil with strong antiseptic properties and is good you oil skin. DO NOT take internally as even a tiny dose of a couple milliliters has proved fatal.

Eucalyptus, Lemon (Eucalyptus citriodora): This essential oil is similar to the eucalyptus blue gum, but with a strong, citronella, lemony like scent. This oil again is highly toxic DO NOTtake internally.

Frankincense (boswellia thurifera): Warm, rich and sweet. A wonderful oil and a must for festive recipes. Frankincense is derived from the gum.

Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides): buttery rich, floral, and jasmine like scent. This is a dark, oily liquid obtained by solvent extraction from the fresh flowers. A lot of gardenia oil is now synthetically produced, so check before you buy.

Geranium (pelargonium graveolens): a greenish olive liquid with a rosy delicate scent extracted from the leaves, stalks and flowers of the rose geranium plant. This is a very feminine oil that combines well with most other floral, citrus and spice oils.

Ginger (zingiber officinale): This is a warm, woody, yet spicy scent with a slightly green top note. The oil is extracted from the dried ground up roots. Ginger is a very warming oil and is good for muscular aches and pains.

Grapefruit (citrus x paradise): this is a greenish liquid with a fresh, tangy citrus scent and is extracted by cold expression of the fresh peels. Grapefruit essential oil fades quickly when added to soaps unless combined with deeper notes to anchor it. However the scent does last a bit better when added to liquid soap preparations. Like all citrus oils it can oxidize quickly.

Helichrysum ( Helichrysum angustifolium): This is also known as Immortelle. Distilled from the fresh flowers, it produces a rich, sweet honey scent with a delicate tea like undertone.

Honeysuckle (Lonicera caprifolium): a creamy sweet oil with a fresh, floral, spicy note. This is a beautiful oil but very expensive, if you would like to use this oil use in conjunction with honeysuckle floral water to make the cost less.

Hops (humulus lupulus): as well as being the major ingredient in beer, hops are also a traditional remedy for insomnia; this oil has a rich, spicy sweet scent that blends well with citrus and spice oils.

Jasmine (Jasminum officinale): an evergreen vine with delicate star shaped, highly fragrance flowers. This is an intensely rich and sweet oriental, floral fragrance.

Juniper berry (Juniperus communis): This essential oil has a cleat, crisp, slightly woody scent. This oil should not be used by anyone who is suffering from kidney disease or during pregnancy.

Lavender, true (lavandula angustifolia): A sweet, floral, herbaceous and woody. This is an unmistakable scent and an eternal favorite; it is a very relaxing, cooling and healing oil.

Lavender, spike (Lavandula latifolia): this is similar to true lavender but with a more penetrating, camphoric herbaceous scent.

Lemon (Citrus limon): this oil is cold pressed from the fresh peel and produces a light fresh citrus scent. DO NOT use on skin that is going to be exposed to direct sunlight right after use as this oil is phototoxic.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon Citratus): this has a fresh, grassy, lemony scent. Use this essential oil with caution as it can cause skin irritation.

Lime (citrus aurantifolia): this is a fresh, sharp, fruity scented oil. This is more penetrating and less prone to fading than other citrus oils.

Litsea cubeba (Litsea cubeba): this is a fresh, fruity, lemon sherbet like scented oil.

Mandarin (citrus reticulate): this is the lightest and most delicate of all the citrus oils with an intensely sweet, almost floral like scent.

Marjoram, sweet (Origanum majorana): this is a warm woody slightly camphoric oil that should be avoided during pregnancy.

Mimosa (Acacia Dealbata): a dark viscous liquid with a deep woody, floral, with a slightly green scent. It acts as a good fixative with other lighter oils.

Myrrh (commiphora myrrha): this is a mellow slightly spicy balsamic scent. Use with frankincense as the two have gone hand in hand for over 4000 years.

Myrtle (Myrtus communis): this is a pale yellow liquid with a scent somewhat like eucalyptus. It is a clear, fresh, camphoric and sweet scented oil.

Neroli (citrus aurantium): this is a light, sweet and intensely floral fragrance.

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans): an aromatic spice oil with a warm balsamic fragrance. Like most spice oils it has a strong dominating scent and acts as a good fixative in soaps. Use this essential oil in moderation and with care during pregnancy.

Oakmoss (evernia prunastri): this is a very viscous and a dark green brown color. Oakmoss is an excellent fixative and blends well with other oils.

Orange, bitter (citrus aurantium var. amara): this oil is extracted like other citrus oils. It has a dry almost floral scent rather than a citrus scent.

Orange, sweet (citrus sinensis): Similar to the bitter orange but with a sweeter, fruity fragrance.

Palmarosa (cymbopogon martini): a sweet floral, like a rosy geranium like scent. This essential oil moisturizes and stimulates cellular regeneration, so is a very effective oil to put in your bath body and spa products.

Patchouli (pogostemon cablin): this is a viscous amber colored oil it is beneficial to dry and cracked skin. It was used traditionally to scent linens due to its rich, sweet earthy aroma.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita): this oil has a grassy, minty camphoric scent; it is a cooling stimulating oil where a little goes a long way. This oil is great in your spa foot products. Don’t confuse this with corn mint (menthe arvensis) and there are many kinds of mints but the mitcham mint is considered the superior.

Petitgrain (citrus aurantium): this has a woody, herbaceous, citrus scent.

Pine (pinus sylvestris): This scent is strong, dry, and disinfectant like so it will add a clean medicated feel to your blends.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis): this essential oils scent is fresh, minty, herbaceous and balsamic. Poor quality oils will have a more camphoric scent to them. The oil should not be used during pregnancy or by epileptics.

Rose Otto and Maroc (Rosa damascene and Rosa centifolia): This scent deep, sweet, and tenacious with a rosy-spicy, honey like note. There are only a couple species that are used to make this oil and an enormous amount of petals are needed to make a tiny amount of oil, which accounts for the high price.

Sandalwood (Santalum Album): this essential oil is extracted from the heartwood of thirty year old trees which produces a sticky, yellowish oil with a deep, soft, beautiful woody scent.

Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia): this is an anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial making this oil a powerful and healing natural antiseptic. This is an excellent oil for teenage skin and cleaning hands after playing in the garden. The scent is clear, medicated, and slightly camphoric, so is much more appealing in blends. On its own tea tree oil can be drying on the skin, so if you don’t have oily skin it is best counteracted by mixing with more moisturizing oils.

Thyme, lemon (thymus citriodorus): there are many types of thyme oil and not all of them are suitable for skin applications. Lemon thyme has a fresh, herbaceous and lemony scent.

Tuberose (polianthes Tuberosa): this has a heavenly, sweet tenacious scent. This is a very expensive oil.

Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis): a warm, woody, and musky scented oil. This is a highly relaxing oil that adds a mossy feel to your blends.

Vanilla (vanilla planifolia): this scent is truly recognizable as a sweet creamy scent.

Vetivert (vetiveria zizanoides): it is the root that makes this essential oil. It is a dark brown viscous oil with a deep smoky, woody and earthy scent to it. This is a highly relaxing oil and a good fixative in soaps.

Violet leaf (viola odorata): this is a dark green viscous oil with a delicate, floral, green leaf scent.

Ylang ylang (cananga adorata): the fragrant yellow, pink, and mauve flowers of this tall tropical tree produce this oil. The yellow flowers are considered to produce the best essential oil, with an intensely sweet yet creamy with a soft balsamic scent. Ylang Ylang is well known for its aphrodisiac qualities, though in excessive concentrations can cause headaches. Typically the flowers are distilled four times. The first being the superior oil is called ylang ylang extra. The three other successive distillates are called 1 2 and 3 respectively and each of the three grades has its own distinctive scent and characteristics.

I will be updating this list and adding other Essentail oils that are safe to use as soon as I get the rest of my notes together. Thank you for reading.

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