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From aromatherapy to cosmetics: How can cosmetic formulators benefit from essential oils?


Andrea Mitarotonda1,*, Susan Curtis2, Frances Johnson3
*Corresponding Author
1. Neal’s Yard Remedies, Research & Innovation, Gillingham, United Kingdom
2. Neal’s Yard Remedies, Natural Health, London, United Kingdom
3. Neal’s Yard Remedies, Natural Health, Gillingham, United Kingdom


The use of essential oils has been known for thousands of years. In recent times, the idea of “green” has been spreading across many fields of our life, from politics to urban design, from food to cosmetics.
Essential oils are regarded by many as a way to naturally perfume their cosmetic formulae, but a deeper look into their chemistry will reveal a degree of complexity that has generated a variety of scientific studies aimed at understanding the benefits they can deliver.
Used as primary ingredients in Aromatherapy, essential oils can also be of interest for Cosmetic Formulators.
Literature shows the enormous yet not fully understood nor exploited potential of essential oils in skin and hair preparations, from anti-bacterial to anti-ageing properties.
In this article the Authors will explore how, going from Aromatherapy to Cosmetics through the understanding of their complex chemistry, essential oils find a wide array of uses.


Essential oils have been used for health and beauty purposes since ancient times.
Documents show that Egyptian women used essential oils extracted from flowers and pine trees to enhance their aspect: Cleopatra was an avid user of perfumes.
The use of essential oils for perfuming of the human body was later adopted by the Greeks and the Romans: women used to infuse their baths with the oils extracted from Jasmine and Ylang Ylang flowers, not only for their scent, but also to relax both physically and mentally (1).
In nature, essential oils play an important role in the protection of the plant acting as preservatives against various microorganisms (bacteria, viruses and fungi) and as insecticides.
Some essential oils, with their odour and flavour, may also reduce the likelihood of the plant being eaten.
On the other hand, other essential oils are used to attract insects on the plant thus favouring the dispersion of pollen or seeds.
Essential oils are synthesised as secondary metabolites in the cytoplasm and plastids of cells (2) of predominantly aromatic plants (3) and stored in secretory cells, ...

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