Essential oils are growing in popularity and for good reason – these gifts of nature offer countless beauty and wellness benefits, along with mesmerizing fragrances to soothe our senses. However, the growing demand has mushroomed tons of synthetic products and chemical look-alikes that try to mimic essential oils. Chemicals and synthetic oils are usually cheaper and, unfortunately many sellers deceive unsuspecting customers for a quick profit by peddling these as pure essential oils. Here are a few tips to identify if the oil you are seeing in the market are pure:
Take a whiff – If testers are available take a few deep breaths and try to analyse the aroma. More often than not, synthetic oils will have a characteristic mineral oil or organic solvent smell (similar to petroleum). Sometimes, there may even be a mild alcohol smell (similar to synthetic perfumes). If you feel any of these smells, it is likely that it is not natural. This method works better for experienced essential oil users who can identify a few oils that they have used earlier.
Check the packing – Essential oils are volatile compounds that can get damaged by sunlight and heat. Genuine essential oils should always be packed in dark-glass bottles. Most essential oils will react with and dissolve plastic. If the packing is plastic or transparent, the product is chemical based in all likelihood.
Read the label – Does it say “essential oil” clearly? Does it say 100% essential oil – or is it a blend? Are the ingredients mentioned clearly? Is the scientific name of the product mentioned? Do they mention the country of origin of the oil? Are there any other certifications mentioned? Is the batch number, expiry, etc. mentioned?
Check prices – Essential oils vary a lot in pricing depending on the plant used. If you see all oils priced the same, it is very likely a synthetic preparation. Authentic suppliers will surely have different prices for different oils. It is a good idea to know which oils are usually cheap and which ones are expensive – with this knowledge one can quickly check the oils in a store. Beware of falling into the trap of very low prices – remember, essential oils are natural products that come from distilling a large quantity of flowers, bark, leaves, etc. They are not very cheap – some oils like Rosemary, Eucalyptus, etc. are cheaper but the more exotic ones such as Rose, Jasmine, Helichrysum, Verbena, Melissa, Chamomile, etc. are rare and very expensive.
Oil does not mean greasy – Unlike the name, essential oils are not very oily or viscous. Some oils such as Sandalwood, Vetiver, etc. are naturally thick, but most others are thinner then water. If for example, you have a lavender oil that is oil-like, it has most likely been blended in some vegetable or mineral oil. You can always do a quick paper test – a pure essential oil is volatile and should evaporate leaving a faint aroma after a few hours. However, if there is any vegetable oil it will leave a greasy stain on the paper.
Know the brand – Try to know more about the brand. Many cosmetic and beauty brands have started adding a range of essential oils – avoid these! For these companies, essential oils is a small part of their product portfolio and they are usually outsourcing or simply trading essential oils just to capitalize on their existing brand. Look for a brand that focuses on essential oils and understands the product and the industry. Check how wide a range they have – if the varieties are limited to a few popular names, essential oils are probably not their focus. Finding a specialist brand that you can trust can solve the problem of avoiding fakes forever.
Test – Lastly, as a customer do not hesitate to get the product tested. Some countries have government labs that will even do the testing for free if you have a complaint. Though it requires effort, this is a sure shot way of knowing the quality and purity of your oil.