Santa, take note. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing better than giving (or getting) the gift of a truly beautiful, natural smell. I was thinking about this whole gifting thing, and how the holidays are a great time to help spread the clean beauty experience to the women we love. But aromatherapy—instead of say, face wash—is a particularly great place to start because you’re not telling people to replace anything in their current routine, you’re just adding a new element and helping expand their senses.
I mean, who here remembers the first time they fell for a natural smell over a synthetic one? I often go back to my early experience…
At any rate, I’ve gifted my share of natural beauty products, and can say with confidence that—while a small vile of Hope Gillerman or Tata Harper or a Lotus Wei energy mist may not have the wow factor of a new iPad—these gifts have had the most longterm impact. And here’s how I know: Every time I have given one of these magical formulas, the receiver has continued to buy it themselves. (And in my case that often means Canadians who have to jump through hoops, beg me to send them re-ups, or pay all kinds of shipping to get their hands on this stuff.)
And if scented oils and mists feel too pricey or risky—natural scented candles like these and these, or room diffusers like these, or the more affordable and awesome Essence of Vali products are all wonderful too.
Here’s why I think aromatherapy is so perfect to give…
1. It’s thoughtful and personal.
You have to choose carefully when it comes to smells. So even if the person is not into naturals or aromatherapy, you need to have a sense of what kind of scents appeal to them. (Though if you’re totally stumped I’ve included a list of crowd-pleasers at the end of the post.)
2. It’s powerful.
This stuff works, and science concurs. Most everyone in your life is probably stressed out, and smells like jasmine, rose, and lavender are proven to help people calm down. Is anything better than that?
3. People don’t get it for themselves.
Some people prefer getting practical gifts, but I do think there’s something really nice about giving a gift you know will be enjoyed that someone would never think to get for themselves.
Now for the cheat sheet. According to one study these are the top 10 most universally beloved smells: 1. lime (fruit) 2. grapefruit (fruit) 3. bergamot (similar to an orange in scent) 4. orange (fruit) 5. peppermint 6. freesia (flower) 7. amyl acetate (a molecule that smells like apples and bananas) 8. cassia (similar to cinnamon) 9. mimosa (flowering tree) 10. fir (tree)
Are you gifting any wellness products or DIY concoctions this year? Is aromatherapy on the list?
P.S. In slightly unrelated gifting news… If you’re a mom, or gifting one, obviously clean kids’ products are a boon. But I wanted to engage in some shameless nepotism here, and point the mom set to my sister-in-law’s awesome illustrated poster site South and Summer. She’s created these very cool posters inspired by the toys of our childhood, and I just think they’d make a great gift for parents who like design and have a hard time finding cool kid’s decor. You’re welcome!
Flower grid image from the Lotus Wei site.
“Does anyone actually use aromatherapy every day?!”
I was asked this very reasonable question the other day at work. My answer: “Have you ever been in my office?”
I get it, though. Even for those of us who embrace integrative medicine, use organic beauty products and regularly get stuck with tiny needles, aromatherapy can seem a little frou-frou: an indulgence, a touch cosmetic. For a long time, that’s how I felt. Sure, I always had some cheap lavender by the bed. An old friend called it my “sleep juice” because I’d developed a habit of dabbing a little on the skin under my nose before retiring, but that’s as far as I went. I suspected aromatherapy might be a very useful tool, if only I could remember to use the stuff.
Since then I’ve developed a more sophisticated relationship with essential oils. If you haven’t done the same, I’d like to encourage you to.
That’s because aromatherapy can, I believe, kill a cold in its tracks, transform your stressful day into a productive one, help you unwind after work, gear you up for important meetings, and, much more simply, make you feel happy. It also has the added benefit of helping those around you, too, without them even realizing it.
I’m getting pretty deep into researching how aromatherapy really works and when I’m done, I’ll share that. For now, I’ll share the six products, from three lines, that I use every single day:
We’ve discussed this one before. As much as it is, in fact, an irritability zapper, this is also my daily perfume. There’s no getting around it: People freak out when they smell it. It’s impossible to describe, but it’s complex and gorgeous and unlike anything I’ve ever smelled. A lady on the train stopped me the other week—it’s the only way I can handle commuting on the jam-packed 4 train at 8 am—and asked me what I was wearing. I dug into my giant bag and produced the little vial to show her. Her eyes went wild while she smelled it, so I invited her to put some on. She did, and then pulled out a notebook to write down its name. “You made everyone on the train happy just by coming on this car!” I melted…and I kind of think she was right.
When I use it: Before I get on the subway in the morning, before hot dates, before important meetings.
How it makes me feel: Like…myself? In a good way.
We wrote in the book that we’d wear this as perfume, too, if it weren’t for its completely unsubtle narcotic properties. This stuff knocks me out, inducing sleep as deep as a baby’s. I like to shake a few drops onto my hands, cup them over my nose, then take 10 very deep breaths. I try not to do this every night, lest it stop working at some point. I gave this stuff to a colleague when she was going through a terrible breakup and she swore up and down it worked. I’ve subjected boyfriends to it, too. I’ve yet to find someone upon whom it does not cast a sleepy spell.
When I use it: Only the second I’m ready to sleep. It works usually within 10 minutes.
How it makes me feel: Couldn’t tell you. I’m asleep, remember?
3. Hope Gillerman Travel Remedy. Hope Gillerman is, I’m convinced, the standard-bearer for high-quality, potent EOs that work almost medicinally—and I’m not just saying that because she’s my next-door neighbor. She’s a natural healer, and I first met her a couple of years ago when she gave me a complimentary Alexander Technique treatment. That was so cool! Even cooler, for me at the time, was the aromatherapy 101 class she gave me before the session. I left her office with the Stress Remedy, which I adore. But lately, my go-to is her Travel Remedy. I wrote about it recently, when I started using it to fend off a seasonal cold. I’ve also used her Muscle Relief on my achey bones (and the achey bones of skeptics): always works. And on my desk at work, I have her Tension Remedy. It’s invigorating and a little zesty, perking me up when I’m computer-tired or anxious about a big meeting. Works every time.
When I use it: All day. Travel Remedy when I feel rundown; Stress when I’m feeling unshiny and haggard from a tough day; Muscle after a killer yoga glass or boot camp; Tension on the go, during the work day.
How it makes me feel: I’ve already explained this, but let me add: The Stress and Tension remedies make me feel much more present, much more in the moment.
Your turn. What’s been your experience with aromatherapy? Anything you love or—gasp—can’t live without?
And for my next trick, I will interview myself about two new products from Intelligent Nutrients. (There are two more to come—so check back soon. But for now…)
What do they smell like?
Like the best Aveda product you ever tried, but better. IN, as you probably know, was created by the founder of Aveda, who sold that company many moons ago. Big difference here, of course, is that the fragrance is completely natural and organic—and smells way better as a result. It’s a mix of lemongrass, ylang ylang and geranium and I’m convinced they possesss aromatherapeutic powers. I also like to know that when I go in for a hug, my hair will smell nice. I don’t wear perfume every day other than my Lotus Wei Infinite Love stuff, which fades as natural perfumes should. So this does the trick there.
On a scale from 1 to 10, how good does your hair look when you use this stuff?
Acknowledging that these things are subjective (and relative), I’m going to go with 8. I’ve been using it almost daily for more than a month and I’ve been having really, really good hair days. Since summer is over and I’ve had lots of big work meetings lately, I haven’t been air drying as much as I did all summer. With very little effort and a little heat I’ve been accomplishing hair that’s not flat, not too bouncy, super shiny, and nice at the end of the day, too.
Do you like them better than the other hair stuff you’ve reviewed lately?
Yow. That’s like asking a mom to pick her favorite kid, which I’m more than happy to do because I’m not a parent (and a shampoo isn’t a child, and this analogy is completely falling apart). Anyway, yes. I prefer these products to the others I’ve reviewed recently—namely Acure and Yarok. But I prefer Yarok for air drying (see below) and I prefer Acure for the price, gentleness, and for everyday. So I still have those in my shower caddy, love them, and will replace them when they run out.
How does your hair look when you airdry with these guys?
Not the best. Not terrible, but I don’t get the same lovely waves and volume I get with Yarok, for instance.
Does the shampoo foam?
No, not really. It gets you clean, though, obviously. The bottles look similar, which can make showering a little confusing if you’re pre-coffee. I frequently grab the wrong one first.
So does that mean you’ve been doing that weird thing where you wash your hair backwards?
Yes! IN’s founder was the first person to teach us this trick and, no surprise, it works wonderfully well with his products. My favorite trick these days is to lightly wash just my roots with a dime-size dollop, rinse, condition all over, leave on for a few minutes, then rinse again at the roots with another dime-size dollop.
Are they gluten free?
Do they cost an arm and a leg?
How excited are you to try this stuff? And are there other Intelligent Nutrients products you swear by?
Shampoo Ingredients: water/aqua, sodium methyl cocoyl taurate, glycerin,1 disodium coco-glucoside citrate, glyceryl oleate, cocoglucoside, behenyl alcohol, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, ethyl palmate,1 theobroma grandiflorum (cupuacu) seed butter,1 astrocaryum murumuru seed butter,1 citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) oil, cymbopogon citratus (lemongrass) leaf oil, pelargonium graveolens (geranium) flower oil,1 cananga odorata (ylang ylang) flower oil,1 sesamum indicum (sesame) seed oil, nigella sativa (black cumin) seed oil,1,2 cucurbita pepo (pumpkin) seed oil,1,2 rubus idaeus (raspberry) seed oil,1,2 vitis vinifera (grape) seed oil,1,2 vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry) seed oil,1,2 cistus ladaniferus oil,1 glycine soja (soybean) seed extract, elaesis guineensis (palm) extract, oryza sativa (rice) extract, adansonia digitata (baobab) oil,1 aleurites moluccana (kukui) seed oil,1 xanthan gum, citric acid, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, benzyl benzoate,1,3 limonene,1,3 linalool,1,3 farnesol,1,3 eugenol,1,3 isoeugenol,1,3 geraniol,1,3 citronellol,1,3 benzyl salicylate,1,3 tocopherol (vitamin e)
Conditioner Ingredients: water/aqua, ethyl palmate,1 behentrimonium chloride, behenyl alcohol, glyceryl stearate, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, pentaclethra macroloba seed oil,1 theobroma grandiflorum (cupuacu) seed butter,1 astrocaryum murumuru seed butter,1 cymbopogon schoenanthus (lemongrass) oil,1 pelargonium graveolens (geranium) flower oil,1 cananga odorata (ylang ylang) flower oil,1 nigella sativa (black cumin) seed oil,1,2 cucurbita pepo (pumpkin) seed oil,1,2 rubus idaeus (raspberry) seed oil,1,2 vitis vinifera (grape) seed oil,1,2 vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry) seed oil,1,2 cistus ladaniferus oil,1 glycerin, glycine soja (soybean) seed extract, elaesis guineensis (palm) extract, oryza sativa (rice) extract, adansonia digitata (baobab) oil,1 aleurites moluccana (kukui) seed oil,1 citric acid, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, benzyl benzoate,1,3 limonene,1,3 linalool,1,3 farnesol,1,3 eugenol,1,3 isoeugenol,1,3 geraniol,1,3 citronellol,1,3 benzyl salicylate,1,3 citral,1,3 tocopherol (vitamin e)
(1 means “certified organic”; 2 means “antioxidant Intellimune® seed oil complex; 3 means “aturally occurring component of organic essential oil blend”)
With a show of hands, we’d like to know who feels completely revolting in this weather. In the northeast at least, where both of us are right now, it’s positively steamy, with lots of humidity to go along with the almost-three-digit temps.
This is when we tend to turn heavily to body-face-hair mists to cool off and refresh our mood. We both carry mists with us wherever we go! Which is why this week’s deal is so sweet!
We are especially fond of Essence of Vali’s—notably the DETOX one. It smells amazing with notes of grapefruit, lemon, cypress and juniper. And according to Val, it can also help “relieve fatigue and ease the effects of jet lag. Detox is great to use when you are off your normal schedule and are overindulging in food and drink.” Ahem!
(I’d also like to briefly highlight Vali’s sleep potion. I’ve come to rely heavily on it in the heat—it soothes my nerves and puts me in the perfect mode for a good night’s slumber. I also am convinced I sleep deeper when I use it before bed.)
This Friday deal is once again a site-wide discount—and a super generous one at that! Plus, EOV products are at such a good price point to begin with that you might take this as as opportunity to stock up. Just sayin’!
Here’s what to do: Just enter promo code NMDL at checkout for a 20% discount on anything you buy—whether it’s mists, massage oil, her amazing cult-hit perfume (so sexy, seriously) or the infamous sleep potion! If you have any issues with the code or the site please call tel:646-270-0605. Thanks!!!
As always, please let us know in the comments what you’re loving from the line.
Mais oui, according to a new study.
We told you a few weeks ago that thyme has been shown to be more effective than benzoyl peroxide—that skin-destroying ingredient that, in my opinion, totally doesn’t work if you’re over the age of 15. Many of you jumped with joy (which is to say posted comments about how awesome that is), and now we have even more interesting news: Rose essential oils can block the effects of stress on skin when inhaled—not applied topically.
This is the kind of research that gets me excited. As anyone with skin woes can tell you, the impulse to reach for a product to fix the problem is tough to beat. Unfortunately, as we’ve said many times, this doesn’t do much for you in a big-picture way. It’s the old “treating the symptoms, not the condition” thing. When it comes to just about everything, and especially our skin, this kind of spot treating (ha) does not work. Or if it does, it doesn’t work for long.
Rose has been shown—in a human and rat study—to significantly inhibit cortisol, the stress hormone that causes inflammation (which causes zits). It also blunted transepidermal water loss, which happens when your skin’s barrier function is compromised.
Or you can seek out a potion that contains rose and huff the stuff when you’re stressed. Here’s some things that are worth knowing about aromatherapy:
1. Not all oils are created equal. The tidy rows of bottles you see lining the counter at health food stores? Not what you’re looking for. To work, essential oils need to be super-concentrated and carefully crafted, and when they are, they are incredibly powerful for your mind, body and your spirit. Many of these plants and flowers have incontrovertible evidence supporting their use to heal us, but you’re not going to get these benefits unless you’re working with high-quality oils. That means organic, wild crafted and, ideally, made in small batches.
2. You can use them anywhere, anytime. I basically always have aromatherapy and flower essences in my handbag, as anyone who’s been to a bar with me can attest. (I like dosing people whether they ask for it or, as with our friend Erika, violently protest.) I also keep some on my desk at work, which many a coworker has gotten in the habit of popping by to borrow. This makes me happy.
3. Understand that they can seriously affect your mood. This is important! Essential oils should not be used willy-nilly. The sleep potions I use, for instance, feel almost narcotic when I take them (looking at you Hope Gillerman and Essence of Vali). But investing in high-quality oils can be an amazingly effective (and completely drug-free) way to reduce stress, sleep better, and even look better.
Different ways to use them:
—Drip a few drops on a tissue and hold it to your nose taking 10 deep, meditative breaths.
—Put a few drops on your hand and rub them together, warming the oil and releasing the fragrance. Cup your hands over your nose and inhale as above. Remember that oils are super-concentrated, and can irritate or even burn the skin if you use too much. You may be better off skipping this approach altogether, though I’d be lying if I said this isn’t what I usually do.
—Put four or five drops in the bath for a sinus—and stress—clearing bath.
—Bring it with you in the shower and apply a few drops to your hands, rub them together and pretend you’re at a spa.
—Dab a few drops on the corner of your pillowcase at bedtime.
Have you ever tried rose essential oils?