*** Please read this post in full if you have used our toothpaste or deodorant recipes prior to 26 March 2019 and added the “optional” essential oils to them. We have changed our approach to the use of essential oils in these two recipes. ***
Since 2017 we’ve been sharing our DIY zero waste toiletries recipes through our ‘Bare Essentials’ recipe booklet and workshops. These recipes use cheap, everyday ingredients that you probably already have at home: baking soda, coconut oil, cornstarch, sunflower oil and so on.
However, two of our recipes—toothpaste and deodorant—include the optional addition of a few drops of essential oil. In these two recipes, the essential oil performs a non-essential function of flavour and fragrance, respectively.
We say ‘non-essential’ because the functions of flavour and fragrance are really about addressing expectations about toiletries and cleaners generated by decades of suggestive corporate messaging. As a society, we’ve become so used to our bathroom and cleaning products tasting or smelling strong that we’ve developed unconscious presumptions about the effectiveness and appeal of products that don’t (a bit like scepticism of cleaning products that don’t produce oodles of bubbles).
So, we recognise that for some people, using essential oils to approximate these flavour/fragrance expectations helps their transition to homemade, low-waste alternatives.
However, it’s recently come to our attention that essential oils are potentially not as safe as we had assumed. So, going forward, we are changing the way that we approach essential oils on our website and in our workshops to reflect this new information.
We have written this post for anyone who has already been to our Bare Essentials workshop or used our online Bare Essentials recipes. Please take the time to read this post in full.
NB: the name “Bare Essentials” has nothing to do with essential oils and the use of the word “essentials” is just a coincidence.
In March 2019, during one of our Bare Essentials workshops, we suggested, as per usual, that you can add several drops of essential oil (peppermint/spearmint) to our toothpaste recipe, or several drops of something like lemongrass essential oil to the deodorant recipe. An attendee raised a question about safe use of essential oils, in light of an interview she’d heard that day on Radio NZ about dangerous essential oil overuse/misuse. We replied that we hadn’t heard the interview and so could not comment, but that we would never recommend ingesting/eating essential oils. We said that we would listen to the interview and follow-up.
The next day, we did what we said we would, and listened to the interview between Wallace Chapman and qualified Clinical Aromascientist Practitioner, Gillian Parkinson. The information Gillian presented about dangerous use of essential oils was concerning. It seemed like it would have implications for our toothpaste and deodorant recipes and we wanted to know more. So, we reached out to Gillian, who very kindly called us and chatted to us for over an hour.
Gillian opened our eyes to a whole body of information and research about essential oils that we had been totally oblivious to. Afterwards, we felt it was our responsibility to share this information through our networks, not only because we’ve referred to the option of using essentials oils in toothpaste and deodorants, but also because we’ve seen MANY online cosmetics/cleaning recipes that use essential oils too, as well as a wide range of natural cosmetics and toiletries for sale that contain essential oils in the ingredients list. We’re probably not the only ones out there unaware about the potential risks around essential oil use.
We will leave you to listen to the RNZ interview for greater detail, but the key points we gleaned from the interview and our communications with Gillian are as follows:
So, what does this all mean for our toothpaste and deodorant recipes that you may have been using after attending one of our workshops or seeing our online resources?
Before giving you a breakdown of our position, we want to emphasise that we are not professional qualified aromatherapists or aromascientists (professional essential oil practitioners). This means two things for us:
If you have any concerns about the above information, and want a safe environment to ask more questions, check out the Facebook page Aroma Safety or consider joining the closed group Le’Esscience – Essential Oil Safety.