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It’s Essential

By Sustainability Office on June 22, 2017
-Chaveli Miles ’19

Red Thyme and Sweet Orange Essential OilsWhile many scented products like air fresheners, laundry detergents, perfumes, and colognes may contain trace amounts of natural fragrance, they are largely comprised of synthetic fragrances made from petroleum known collectively as “petrochemicals.”

A consumer may never know how many petrochemicals are in their favorite scented product or how concentrated they are. Many companies trademark their particular scent and withhold information from their ingredient list. Synthetic fragrances have been linked to allergic reactions, hormone disruptions, even organ damage under long-term, continuous exposure. Many simply complain fragranced items give them a headache, myself included. In addition, air, water, and soil pollution are byproducts of the petrochemical and petroleum industries.

Synthetic fragrances may not be a good choice for your health or the environment, but you don’t have to go without scented products. For thousands of years people have used essential oils for their potent medicinal, aromatic, and even spiritual benefits. Essential oils are concentrated aromatic compounds in a hydrophobic liquid. They can be derived from the seeds, bark, roots, or flowers of various plants.

Many essential oils contain antibacterial and antimicrobial properties making them great for household cleaning products; yet, are gentle enough, when used correctly, to apply on your face and body. Essential oils by themselves are very concentrated and may be too strong by themselves. It’s best to dilute a few drops in a water/witch hazel solution, or a neutral “carrier oil” like grape seed or jojoba oil. Dilution also means that one bottle of essential oil can last for several years, making them a financially-smart option for college students interested in natural personal care and household products. It is easy to find essential oils and other natural ingredients right here in town at Hamilton Whole Foods.

Remember: If you are ever unsure of how to use a product in a safe way, consult your doctor for help and best practices.

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