by Magdalena Tomczak

Essential oils have been in my life as long as I can remember.

When I was little, my mom would help to soothe our stomach aches with a drop of peppermint oil on a teaspoon of honey and she would rub our backs, chests and feet with camphor when we had colds. At that point, of course, neither my mom nor I had a clue that such a thing as the science of aromatherapy existed, nevertheless I was reaping the benefits.

As an adult, more than 30 years ago, I was very lucky to come across a weekend course in aromatherapy given by a beautiful and very passionate teacher. He spoke of essential oils in a way that sparked excitement and curiosity which is with me until this day. That weekend, what struck me the most was how essential oils are deeply healing and how broad reaching they are into the human experience. I saw the layers of action and application of aromatherapy as absolutely fascinating and a little mysterious at the same time.

When I started working with skin care there was no question in my mind that essential oils were going to be part of both my treatments and also products which I created. You can say that over time I have developed a very personal relationship with essential oils and you may find what I’ll say to be ‘crazy talk’, but eventually I could hear the oils call to me when I worked with clients or while formulating. This is the beauty of working with live plants and their essence…the communication is real…if we listen.

Clients would often comment asking what it was that I just used, because they felt sudden relief, or tears fell down their cheeks or they saw beautiful colours or noticed their breath expand and sometimes an old memory popped into their mind. It’s rather magical that a tiny drop of essential oil can have such an impact and trigger such responses.

Personally I’ve had many experiences with essential oils which amazed me beyond my expectations.

The sacred oud essential oil once called me to anoint myself while I fell into the depths of depression, only to learn later about it’s use with dying and how it helps to transcend and transform. Its essence lifted me almost instantly and until now I think that I actually can’t fully comprehend what that drop of oud really did for me, but it was big!

This is the aspect of healing with essential oils that not many consider when thinking of skin care. But when skin care is formulated with an intent of bringing about healing to the recipient this is something to acknowledge and consider. Often the inflammation which expresses itself through our skin also has a seat within the mind. If we can find an essence that can effectively impact both the physical and the emotional, now we are talking about true transformation.

The action of essential oils directly on human skin isn’t any less interesting. Conveniently, essential oils (mostly in dilution) can be applied directly to the area needing attention and aid in treatment of skin pathologies and skin maintenance.

Here we can look at the biochemistry of essential oils and its impact on the physiology of the organ as well as of the tissues beneath it. Due to their molecular structure, essential oils have the ability to penetrate deeply into the layers of the skin. They obviously affect the surface of the skin but they also absorb into capillaries consequently becoming part of the whole being.

Essential oils present many therapeutic properties which are very useful in the treatment of the skin. And here are a few examples:

  • antiseptic: cleansing, protecting and treating acne-prone skin
  • astringent: toning the skin and treating oily skin conditions
  • cytophylactic: treating aging skin, blemishes and minor lesions
  • anti-inflammatory: calming redness and inflammation
  • rubefacient: causes dilation of the capillaries and an increase in blood circulation
  • lymphatonic: stimulates lymphatic circulation
  • regulating: improved sebaceous gland function and secretion
  • anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-fungal and so on…

Many essential oils present us with antispasmodic and relaxant properties which are very helpful with addressing tension buildup in the skin, facial muscles and connective tissue. This is a very important action of oils which impacts the overall health of the facial tissues.

When we formulate, by marrying lipid oils with herbal infusions and essential oils, we can create well-rounded, well-balanced plant-based skin care. Such formulas carry both living prana and nutrients needed to harmoniously regenerate, normalize and support our skin.

We still understand very little about the communication which takes place between the human body and plants. But anyone who experiences an increase in vitality in their skin after using a plant-based product or an action of pure lavender essential oil on a fresh skin burn has had a glimpse into that magic.

After living in the company of essential oils both as a professional and in personal life, I can say one thing with certainty – the spirit of the plant lives within the oil. And both essential oil energetics and the amazingly complex physical make up are worth careful study for the benefit of the public. Essential oils undoubtedly have an impact on our psyche and soma. It would be a great loss not to consider this fact when we work with essential oils in skin care treatments and in formulations.

Even though the study of aromatherapy has been explored for centuries we are still learning and know relatively little so it’s very exciting to be looking forward to new discoveries and continuous expansion in the field.

Aromatherapy is used in yogic practices to aid in meditation and chakra balancing. Some TCM practitioners incorporate essential oils in work with the meridians. Ayurveda uses aromatherapy in marma therapy and select aspects of pancha karma. Some holistic psychotherapists use essential oils to help their clients connect to distant memories and to heal deeply stored traumas. Some European hospitals use essential oils to calm down their patients and to keep the air free of pathogens. Essential oils are used for healing in massage therapy rooms and by clinical aromatherapists and naturopaths. Many people are now reconnecting with the beauty and healing which comes with the ancient ritual of burning sacred plants.

Aromatherapy has been with us for a very long time and it will continue to expand and grow. My deep wish for my profession is that aromatherapy will be studied by many more fellow skin care professionals and embraced into their practices for the multifaceted healing that it offers to our clients.

The science of aromatherapy is complex and ever evolving and the spirit of the plants is there to support us on our way to discovery. Our holistic skin care practices can be enriched by essential oils way beyond our and our client’s expectations.

I will leave you with a quote by Kurt Schnaubelt who holds a Ph.D in chemistry and is the founder and scientific director of the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy.

‘…essential oils arise from nature. Their activity is shaped by the ambient ways of the plant world. Essential oils do not act as weapons but as agents of interaction. They are the key ingredient of life itself, strengthening its fabric and preconditions.’