Sunday, June 18, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Aromatherapy Beauty Guide Using the Science of Carrier & Essential Oils to Create Natural Personal Care Products

I don't give very many book reviews. But every now and then, a book of exceptional value catches my attention and I so very much want to share these rare shining opportunities with you!

Anyone who reads my blog knows that my passion (and my work) is about toxin free products. Indeed, that is the sole reason for the existence of eScential Wellness, my company. As you already know, all of my products are crafted free of the Toxic Ten (or the Dirty Dozen or the Mean Fifteen...all similar lists.) My products are based on science and they work.

That being said, there are those of us who just love to create for ourselves, too. Sure, you can buy MY products, but, sometimes you want to personalize your own. Do you like my NaturOil but want a different scent? Or a favorite carrier oil that I don't use? The only way to get exactly what you want is to do it yourself.  

What to do? Here is your answer! Our own Canadian Danielle Sade has written a definitive text on how to make your own personal care products! And what an excellent volume it is! She covers everything you need to know, in basic, easy to read and understand language. Starting with what skin is, and how it works, to what carrier oils and essential oils are and can do, she provides oodles of recipes for you to follow, but, also provides such a terrific, easy to understand explanation of how to put things together that you can even "tweak" these to get exactly what you want.

Danielle provides information on making your own cleansers, toners, creams, moisturizers, serums, lip care and so much more. She has 30 years of experience teaching aromatherapy and product development. Nothing makes me happier than to say she is also Canadian!!! There is not a better book on the market.

If you are one of those with an interest in making your own products, you can buy Danielle's book at here:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Selling Cosmetics (and more) legally in Canada

What I have learned on this journey! All of eScential Wellness products are duly registered with Health Canada. ANY cosmetic product (which is a product meant to be sold for the purpose of making some portion of you "look" better) has to be registered with Health Canada. The forms look daunting, but, once you get at them, not so bad. You have to supply the ingredients, in what percent they are present in the product, and the purpose of the product.

Because this responsibility (of registering) rests with the producer of the product, and not the retailer, what you are going to find as a consumer is that many, many, many products available on the shelves of your favorite Health Food Store are not, in fact, being sold legally.

I'll be honest. I'm not sure how this would affect you as a consumer. If for some reason you were to have an adverse reaction to a product, I have no idea how this would affect your ability to receive some kind of compensation. The producer, we have to assume, with any luck, has insurance if not Health Canada registration. The retailer is not held responsible. So don't expect the store to do much for you, except to return the product to the manufacturer and rely on them to make things right.

How can you tell if one of your favorite products is registered? Well, most registered products do not display a registration number. Nor are they obliged to. I will confess that eScential Wellness is so proud of working with Health Canada and doing things according to Canadian law that the number is available both on the website, and, on the label.

But the big giveaway is often the wording on the label. The difference between drug and cosmetic is in the wording. A cosmetic cannot use any medical term on the label, nor claim it improves a medical condition. If the product does use these words, it is termed a drug (or, at least, a natural product) that requires a Natural Product Number to be issued. This Natural Product Number (NPN) is always displayed somewhere on the product. Acquiring a NPN is both enormously time consuming, and expensive. eScential Wellness, wanting to do things right, is pursuing NPN's for a handful of products.

So, if your favorite Eczema product or Rosacea product uses these words on the label, but does NOT display a NPN, isn't registered as a cosmetic, either. Because the cosmetic people will not issue a number for what is considered a drug. What's the difference? As mentioned earlier, a cosmetic makes you "look" better; whereas a natural product makes you "feel" better, or "fixes" a condition. Plus, no mention of medical terminology (cosmetics don't "heal" or "cure." They cannot be "anti-inflammatory" or improve a condition such as sunburn, or diaper rash, or rosacea.)

Gets tricky, doesn't it? eScential Wellness was even obliged to remove ALL testimonials whereby happy product users described their own experiences, but, not knowing the legal requirements of course, said that Baby Bum Butter took take of their child's diaper rash, for example. Or, that their Headache went away. Although eScential Wellness was not making claims, apparently, users aren't allowed to, either.

You can't even attribute medical terminology to the ingredients. So, listing aloe vera gel as an ingredient, for example. You cannot say it is "anti-inflammatory." Or that Baby Bum Butter, which is a mixture of friendly oils and waxes, "forms a water resistant barrier." And so on.

The rules are often arbitrary, and, often confusing. Unfortunately, what the rules do NOT provide for is a level playing field. Whereas eScential Wellness has met the challenge, the vast majority of my competitors are out there, selling products using terminology and claims that I cannot use.

As always, it's Buyer Beware. Who knew?

Monday, May 9, 2016


Warm weather is coming, and, we all want to smell nice. (Don't we?) Conventional deodorants may be effective, but there are plenty of questions regarding their safety. As usual, there are few answers, but, plenty of questions about ingredients.

First up is that darn aluminum. Unfortunately, labels don't always tell the whole story. There are so many aluminum derivatives. Labels may try to "fool" you by listing the ingredients as, say, "bauxite," which is aluminum. Or "alum salts" which is -  you guessed it - a form of aluminum. Aluminum is used to block perspiration. And it works. It is not usually found in deodorants, but, rather, antiperspirants which are designed to stop sweating. Maybe not a good idea.  Toxicology results show high levels of aluminum in the brains of patients who died from Alzheimer's. No conclusive evidence can link these higher aluminum levels to deodorant use.

According to OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the States,  exposure to high levels of aluminum can cause speech disorders, dementia, and other neurological disorders. Again, there is no conclusive evidence showing aluminum salts are absorbed in large enough amounts to cause these neurological problems. Personally, I will avoid aluminum until they can prove to me that it is safe, however. I like to err on the side of caution.

Aluminum salts are, however, definitely linked to contact dermatitis - redness and irritation of the skin, in some people.

Breast cancer is another disorder that is thought to be possibly connected to the use of parabens in deodorant. Parabens are preservatives commonly used in deodorants and antiperspirants. Studies are again not definitive. Parabens mimic hormones, which may increase breast cancer risk. Six different parabens were measured in the biopsy samples taken from women with breast cancer. High levels of parabens were found in the area near the armpit, which is where most breast cancers are found.  But - no conclusions could be reached. 

The National Cancer Institute did find a link between women who started shaving and using deodorant before age 16, however.  This group developed breast cancer at a younger age than women who started shaving and using deodorant at a later age.

What to do? can discontinue using deodorant all together. Or, try a toxin free deodorant like the one eScential Wellness offers. No aluminum. No parabens, or synthetic fragrance. Free from The Toxic Ten!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Spring Cleaning: Dust & Vacuums

I'm in the midst of giving my annual Green Cleaning workshops. eScential Wellness is all about Toxin Free, so, Green Cleaning is a natural extension of what I believe in and practice.

I've been reading and updating articles on cleaning, and, discovered some interesting facts about dust! No matter how fastidious we are, you can't escape it. We generate dust from dead skin, fungi, mold, carpet fiber, pet dander, decomposing insects, food particles and soil from our shoes. Cooking and room fresheners put particles into the air that land on our floors and counters. Dust enters through open windows, and from home furnishings, as well as cleaning products which release chemicals into our inside air. So, vacuum it up, right? Turns out the vacuum is part of the problem.

Home furnishings made before 2005 probably contain many chemicals; including fire retardants that have since been banned in the U.S. (because they had some links to breast cancer.) The Silent Spring Institute released a study that found 66 endocrine disrupting compounds in dust.

Exposure to these have been linked to problems with motor skills, learning, memory, hearing and behavioural changes; especially in developing children. Hormone disruptors have links to cancer, brain dysfunction, memory loss, fatigue and infertility. And that's not a complete list.

So let's vacuum! Unfortunately, one study (in Environmental Science and Technology) looked at 62 different vacuums (all types, sizes, models, some had special filtration systems to prevent particle escape) but, every single one released dust and bacteria back into the home. Vacuuming is not perfect.

How can we make vacuuming more efficient? Here are some tips:

(1) Make sure your vacuum is less than 10 years old. These are more efficient.
(2) Ideally, get one with a HEPA filter, as these are best at capturing, and retaining, dust.
(3) Wash your vacuum filter in a sink full of water, rather than just shaking the dust out of it. It is better cleaned, and, dust does not get back into the household air.
(4) Vacuum your couch and throw cushions. The fabric traps dust and animal dander, and the vacuum can remove these as well as some fire retardant dust (if the furniture was made before 2005.)
(5) Hand dust hard surfaces with a damp rag, as dust will adhere to the cloth and not be just recirculated by being pushed back into the air
(6) Minimize particles brought into the home by placing a doormat both inside and outside the door, and remove shoes on entering your home
(7) Toss the toxic cleaning products and use your own, homemade, bio-safe and eco-friendly products. Recipes are abundant on the internet!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Science of Healing Thoughts

This title was handily provided by an article in the magazine, Scientific American. Science journalist Jo Marchant brought her considerable research and writing abilities to look into the idea that our mind is, in fact, capable of effecting great changes in our physical body.She noted that, unfortunately, most efforts of practitioners seem designed only to have us hand over our money. But serious science is now providing evidence that not only can our mind help keep us healthy, it can actually promote healing. Yes. Really.

There has never been any doubt that thoughts can cause physical reactions. Think of the nervous public speaker....before getting in front of a crowd, your heart rate accelerates, your hands sweat. Just thinking about the task ahead changes the body. So it's not a big leap to think that the potential for healing does exist.

In a nutshell, her research led her to the supported idea that our thoughts influence our immune system. Thus, how we perceive the world can influence the status of our immune system, leaving us better prepared to deal with future threats.

In addition, there is no doubt that the well known "placebo effect" does exist. But why does it? And under what conditions? Expectations seem to play a big role, but are likely not the only contributing factor.

Another effective technique in which the mind changes physical perception is to engage the brain in an alternate activity. It seems the "distraction" re-focuses the brain on the task at hand, and, leaves people in pain, for example,  perceiving less pain.

The fascinating thing about these scientific studies is, to me, that they open our own minds to new ways of doing things: new ways of treatment, new possibilities for improvements and cures for a multitude of physical conditions where none currently exists.

The larger article in the Scientific American magazine can be found here;

Or, if you are taken with the topic, you might want to locate Marchant's book, "Cure."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Frankincense is a Natural Anti-Depressant

Frankincense resin has been used in religious and ceremonial practices for literally thousands of years. There are many references to the burning of frankincense resin, and, its ability to achieve a spiritual state of being. Frankincense is still used in religious ceremonies today, and is often thought of as an aid to meditation.

Keep in mind that we are talking the burning of the resin, here, not the essential oil of frankincense.

Research scientists decided to look into these anecdotal effects, and see if there was any science behind the claims. Universities involved included Johns Hopkins University, and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

To see if there was some truth to these historical assumptions, the researchers were able to isolate the main component of the frankincense resin, a compound called incensole acetate. Again, keep in mind that this compound is found in the resin, but not in the essential oil. They administered this compound to mice. They then determined that this compound, in mice, affected the area of the brain that helps in regulating emotions. On a more scientific level, it activates the protein TRP3. This protein is found in animal brains, and is known to play a role in how the skin perceives warmth. The affect on the mind, however, is a strong anti-depressant, and also lowers anxiety. It can be so dramatic that a person may feel incredibly relaxed and at peace. As an aid to meditation, it may leave one so simply at rest that a person could just be mindful of the world around them. A more or less meditative state!

In spite of such a long history of frankincense affecting the mind, not until now has anyone studied it's ability to do so scientifically. Depression is the largest cause of disability in the United States, and, an enormous number of people suffer from anxiety. Now that we know a compound in frankincense resin has promise in improving these disorders, we can hope that a natural treatment will follow.

If that weren't enough, it seems that frankincense can also play a role in reducing nausea, lowering fever and high blood pressure, minimizing coughs, and even repelling some insects.

What a find!

To read the entire article, click here:

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Making Sense of Grade and Quality Designations of Essential Oils

There is a lot of misinformation about the "quality" of essential oils. The internet seems to provide as many definitions and explanations as it has websites on the topic. Unfortunately, most of this is just clever marketing designed to make you believe that "their" essential oils are the best, or purest, or highest quality on the market. 

Let's deal with the easy part first. An essential oil designated as "certified organic" means the plant from which the essential oil came was grown under certain conditions and standards, and, that these conditions were monitored and checked out by an independent third party. The United States and Canada have different respected bodies, but, they pretty much all meet the same criteria. Some examples of reputable designations are Ecocert and Oregon Tilth, as well as USDA Organic. There are others. These agencies monitor the activity of the growers and ensure that their standards are met. Getting these designation involves monitoring, and, consequently a hefty fee for the service provided.

Other terms that are used to describe the conditions under which the plants are grown include "wildcrafted", "unsprayed", and "cultivated without chemicals". In all fairness, some of these products are indeed of an organic nature, but, without the designation, you have no way to be sure that the organic standards are met. Getting the organic designation is expensive, and small growers, who are often the best kind, may not be able to pay the large fees required for official designation and stay competitive. Although these products are very attractive, you have to accept that the growers definition of organic and yours may be different. The oils from these plants are not regulated, and therefore, not able to be certified.

Now for the more complicated designations. You will hear various companies talk about their oils being "therapeutic grade", "pure" grade, "aromatherapeutic" grade, "perfume" grade, or designate their oils with numbers. Some of these terms are trademarked, and offered only by a certain supplier. But, there are NO unified definitions for any of these terms. They are a marketing tool only. To quote Steve Borden, a Compliance Officer for Essential Wholesale and Labs (an excellent supplier of many aromatherapy items in the United States):

 "I am not aware of any regulatory agency that defines, monitors, or enforces any such standards. Provided that there is no false advertising involved, a seller is just as free to market their products with these descriptions as consumers are to be attracted to them. So if you are buying a Lavender I, II or III you need to understand that this is strictly a marketing ploy by the supplier to sell a similar product at a potentially higher price.  There may be little to no difference in the chemical makeup or aroma of that oil.  Don’t be fooled by these terms, either an essential oil is pure unadulterated or it is adulterated.  It is either certified organic or it is not."

So, there you have it. Like so much else in life, purchasing essential oils is definitely a "buyers beware" kind of deal.