“[Aromatherapy] can be a powerful way to relax or energize an individual,” noted Pamela Dalton, an internationally recognized expert on environmental odors and a member of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA.
The average consumer is increasingly more familiar and comfortable with the idea of scent as a soother and mood-lifter, thanks in part to greater use of fragrance in everything from shampoo to dish detergent to candles. But therein lies a problem, say aromatherapy proponents. While products promoting sophisticated scents and essential oils have helped increase awareness of the “aroma” aspect of aromatherapy, it has also diluted its therapeutic powers.
According to Mr. Harrison, lack of regulation and standards allows wiggle room in which any use of fragrance can be labeled “aromatherapy” or essential oils. “This has kept the true use, the therapeutic use, of essential oils hidden from the consumer,” he said.
“A lot of companies market that they are producing aromatherapy-based products; however not all of them are using only essential oils for their products,” added Kayla Fioravanti, vice president and chief formulator for Essential Wholesale/Essential Labs, Clackamas, OR. “Companies want to jump on the aromatherapy bandwagon and use the marketing power behind the term.”
“We do see there are products putting aromatherapy on the label and that is a bit misleading,” agreed Cindy Willette, director of marketing at Decléor in Darien, CT, a unit of the Paris-based firm. “Aromatherapy is about essential oils. Some so-called aromatherapy products aren’t using oils,” she said, noting that the cornerstone of Decléor has been the use of 100% essential oils.
Ms. Fioravanti, a certified aromatherapist, stressed that when a company misuses the term aromatherapy, it not only hurts the reputation of the company, but it also affects a consumer’s experience. “It is common for an aromatherapy based product line to include scents like green tea, strawberry, pomegranate and other scents that are only available as synthetic fragrances,” she said. “Many consumers mistakenly think aromatherapy doesn’t work when they buy a product that is marketed for aromatherapy but has no therapeutic value due to the use of aroma chemicals in place of essential oils.”
Ms. Willette also pointed to the knowledge gap, especially the one that exists across the Atlantic. “In the U.S., aromatherapy is not understood as well as it is in Europe where it is understood as a science; as a good complement to other means of well-being and healthcare,” she said. And although there is more interest in holistic methods for well-being, U.S. consumers must understand that aromatherapy is about “more than just lighting a candle.”
The key, say all aromatherapy experts, is education. And they believe despite the proliferation of pseudo aromatherapy products that consumers are catching on to the concept.
“The consumer is becoming more aware that essential oils are not a fragrance ingredient, and instead, offer medicinal qualities and properties—they are therapeutic,” said Mr. Harrison. “At this juncture the consumer is aware of the most basic uses of essential oils, such as stress relief, headache, detoxification, anti-inflammatory and, maybe, wrinkle reduction.”
New & Noteworthy
For 2009, aromatherapy rollouts appear to be addressing a bevy of issues.
Decléor’s Aromaessence products aim to relax and rejuvenate through a variety of SKUs—from serums to balms. According to the company, its researchers allow Decléor to correctly proportion and combine several pure essential oils, in order to accurately obtain the effect required. All Aromaessence products are made up of three to nine different essential oils associated with a base of plant oils for “optimum affinity” with the skin. For example, the brand’s Aromaessence Baume De Nuit Rose D’Orient offers all the benefits of a “made to measure” aromatic night care treatment by soothing irritation and relaxing the facial features with the essences of damask rose, roman chamomile, petit grain and neroli oil, among others. The brand also recently released an anti-aging skin care collection with the essential oils of magnolia, iris and sunflower.
Pangea Organics, Boulder, CO, follows a similar format with its Massage & Body Oil collection. The range features three aromatherapeutic blends that are said to calm the nervous system, improve circulation and tone the skin. According to the company, each oil is specially formulated for the mind and body together to relax, rejuvenate, restore and balance the body back to perfect harmony. The collection features oil blends of Pyrenees lavender with cardamom for rejuvenation, Italian white sage and geranium for restoration and malagasy ginger with lemongrass for sore muscle relief.
This summer, popular holistic brand Dr. Hauschka rolled out an aromatherapy bath kit—
a convenient, chic metal tin containing trial sizes of its lavender, lemon, rosemary, sage and spruce bath oils. According to the company, this kit is an easy way to experience the therapeutic benefits of each bath.
For a full range of aromatherapy benefits, Avalon Organics, part of the Hain Celestial Group, Melville, NY,recently rolled out its Grapefruit and Geranium line of shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and shower gels. The range contains organic grapefruit extracts to invigorate hair and skin, while organic geranium leaf extract awakens the senses, the company says. The Grapefruit and Geranium formulations join the brand’s best-selling line of Lavender products. Regarded as one of the most versatile therapeutic botanical essences, lavender has been revered for ages, celebrated for its effectiveness in treating wounds, burns, stings, bites and more.
Bath & Body Works is also utilizing uplifting essential oils in its new Bright Blossoms Optimism collection. According to the company, this range of aromatherapy products was designed to lift the spirit and instill a sense of optimism. It features an energizing blend of jasmine, tuberose, maté absolutes and uplifting essential oils like lemon and orange to create an instant mood-enhancing experience for an optimistic outlook. Consumers can choose from an “Instant Aromatherapy” essential oil to rub on the wrists to an exfoliating body scrub. Bright Blossoms Optimism is part of Bath & Body Works Aromatherapy Line, which features several collections such as Stress Relief, Sensuality and Sleep.
On the topic of sleep, the Body Shop’s Deep Sleep Dreamy Pillow & Body Mist could be the answer for insomniacs everywhere. This quick-drying mist-spray is packed with a soothing medley of chamomile, jujube date, geranium, juniper and patchouli essential oils to promote tranquility for a deeper, restful night of sleep, according to the company. Applied to the pillow or body, the mist is said to employ a special encapsulation technology that allows bursts of active fragrance to be released throughout the night to aid more satisfying Zzzzs. One With Nature, a mineral soap marketer, also uses lavender essence in one of its formulations for a relaxing effect.
In contrast, everyone needs a pick-me-up now and again. That’s why Origins is happy to reintroduce the Gloomaway Collection, bath and body treats designed to brighten your day and liven your spirits. Back by popular demand, the collection features grapefruit essential oil paired with field mint and sweet orange. Discovered more than 300 years ago on the tropical paradise of Barbados, grapefruit essential oil is used today by aromatherapists to calm nervous exhaustion and produce an uplifting, joyous and balancing environment, according to Origins.
Finally, with the launch of its newest fragrance variation, Lush’s vanilla is sure to be the new chocolate (a classic). The aromatherapy-based range of bath and body products starts with the smooth, velvety and delicious base of vanilla, blended with tonka bean and jasmine. According to Lush, vanilla evokes comfort and a sense of calm for some while creating the feeling of confidence for others—making it a “win-win” ingredient for the company.
Finding the right ingredients is imperative. Aromatherapy experts say it takes great skill to craft effective products.
“There is an art to formulating with essential oils,” noted Mr. Harrison. “The formula must be well structured—stability-wise and therapeutically-speaking, and the resulting fragrance must be appealing to the consumer; a difficult task with a mainstream consumer whose smell vocabulary is based on ‘synthetic naturals.’ Most consumers have never smelled real essential oil or lavender, sandalwood or rose. Most products miss the mark on formulation and essential oil perfumery. It’s a new art that requires an experienced aromatic/botanical formulator. This is far outside the realm of most cosmetic chemists and also, most aromatherapists are not skilled product formulators.”
The Next Big Thing
Natural and organic fragrances and aromatherapy product sales in the U.S. are predicted to increase nearly 7% in 2009 and an additional 9% in 2010, said Sundale Research, a market research firm based in Bay Shore, NY. And, according to industry insiders, the basic benefits of scent alone are enough to propel the usage of aromatherapy oils into the marketplace more and more.
“Though aromatherapy and essential oils may appear to be stuck in a same-old-same-old syndrome, I don’t see this as a bad thing,” said Mr. Harrison. “Aromatherapy does not fade into ‘old trend’ territory. Instead it has continued to maintain and grow at an ever-cresting pace, and garners revitalized attention year after year. I have often stated that those of us who work with essential oils never feel jaded or bored with their use, as they persist in their ability to surprise and impress with their results. Using an oil in the same old way can suddenly create a ‘next big thing’ use for that particular ingredient. There is so much potential there.”
The sensitive skin sector is another place where aromatherapy oils may find room for expansion. According to Essential Labs’ Ms. Fioravanti, “Consumers who develop allergies to synthetic fragrances do not want to go fragrance free, but are being forced out of the synthetic fragrance marketplace by their own allergies. With the increasing numbers of synthetic fragrance allergy suffers, aromatherapy based products are in the perfect position to serve those under-serviced consumers.”
Ms. Willette of Decléor highlighted skin care SKUs as well as the youth market as rising opportunities for aromatherapy marketers. “More and more, aromatherapy is making its way into forms of skin care such as creams and lotions,” she said. “Additionally, the younger generation is so much more in tune with nature and is sensitive to what they are bringing and putting into their body. There are those in their 40s and 50s who didn’t worry about this at all. Teens are more open to learning about aromatherapy.”
In the end, knowledge is power when it comes to aromatherapy, according to Marc Zollicoffer, Aveda’s global massage educator, whose company has a popular line of Chakra-balancing body mists. “The future of aromatherapy may be greater understanding as it gains popularity, and greater appreciation for high integrity aroma products.”