If you’ve always wanted to use essential oils in your home or office or add them to your skincare routine, but weren’t sure how, please keep reading. I had the opportunity to quiz Cheryl Gan, founder and managing director of Singaporean local brand Hysses (formerly known as Mt.Sapola and pronounced hi-sirs), purveyors of pure essential oils, natural skincare and natural aromatherapy products. Cheryl who has grown the business from a single store in Singapore to 14 boutiques across the island and five in neighbouring Malaysia, over the last 10 years, was happy to share the benefits, and the best ways and store and use essential oils.
What are some of the benefits of using essential oils as part of a skincare regimen?
Many beauty and skin care products already use essential oils in their formulas because of the natural healing benefits these oils provide for the skin. Essential oils, when used correctly, can remedy a number of skin conditions from acne, redness, dryness, persistent scars to eczema.
Some oils are also natural astringents and toners, making the skin less oily while reducing the appearance of wrinkles and pores.
Can you suggest some oils for common skin concerns like dryness, ageing, excessive sebum production?
Most essential oils have antibacterial or antiseptic properties which make them useful for keeping away dirt and gunk from your face. Frankincense is great for acne-prone skin due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and is suitable for all skin types. In addition, its toning abilities help reduce wrinkles and pores, therefore encourages skin cell renewal. Other astringent oils include lemongrass, patchouli, rosemary.
Geranium is often used to regulate oil production and reduce breakouts – this also applies to scalps. Since it also promotes skin regeneration, it can help fade scars or dark spots.Other oils great for acne or oil-control: Grapefruit, Pine, Tea Tree, Ylang Ylang and other oils great for fading scars: Bergamot, Lavender, Lemon, Rosemary.
Rose is known for its amazing skin-softening and hydrating abilities. It can regulate hormones which allows accelerated healing of damaged/mature skin, while protecting the skin from photoageing. It combats dryness and first signs of ageing with wondrous results. Other oils suitable for dry/ageing skin: Jasmine, Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Sandalwood, Chamomile
Marjoram is a great oil to use to balance your skin tone or improve dull complexions due to its high levels of antioxidants. It also prevents facial wrinkles. Other oils great for skin-brightening: Mandarin, Bergamot, Lemon (typically citrus oils).
Lavender, probably the most versatile oil, is the go-to fix for most people as it is gentle and incredibly useful. Lavender essential oil relieves redness, itchy skin or eczema-prone skin with its calming properties. Not only that, it helps to soothe burns or scars. It is also possible to use this oil undiluted (such as for insect bites). Other oils great for treating eczema: Jasmine, Rose.
What is the best way for a first time user to introduce these oils into their skincare regimen?
First time users are recommended to start with gentle, non-photosensitive oils such as lavender, geranium, or frankincense. It is best to avoid photosensitive oils such as bergamot, lemon, or grapefruit as they become phototoxic when exposed to the sun. Add one drop of essential oil to one dollop of your face cream or lotion and apply every two days. Do not be tempted to add more oil – using more occasionally does not work better than using the recommended amount regularly. For everyday use, the general rule of thumb is to dilute your essential oil with a carrier oil or a lotion in 1 to 3 percent dilutions. Take note that you can suffer from essential oil overdose when not used properly.
Always perform a patch test to check if you have any allergies or sensitivities to your chosen oil. For face, apply your diluted mix to the jaw line and for the body, apply it to the inner cavity of your elbow to watch for reactions.
How can one extend the use of essential oils to promote a sense of calm and wellbeing at home or create an energised atmosphere at the office?
Some oils like Lavender, Chamomile, Jasmine, and Rose are natural sedatives and are often used extensively for creating relaxing atmosphere at home especially the bedroom making it conducive for a good night’s sleep. Ylang Ylang, mixed with other notes, is also a good choice. Woody scents like Sandalwood, Hinoki are also incredibly relaxing, thus enhancing quality of sleep to allow full repair during the night. Add any of these oils to a Mist Diffuser/Humidifier in your room. This machine also produces negative ions to clean the air and is great for asthma or allergies. Using a Nebuliser to diffuse essential oils is especially beneficial for people who have respiratory problems. And you can always use oils for a relaxing massage before bed.
In the office, Rosemary and Eucalyptus are great for enhancing memory, concentration and focus, allowing you to be alert and flex your mental muscles. Bergamot or Grapefruit oils will keep the mood in the office bright and cheerful. Mix with a hint of peppermint to inject some freshness! For your personal space, get hold of a mini nebuliser or carry a handy mini-massage oil to roll on your temples whenever you need a pick-me-up.
You source your oils from all over the world. Why go to such great lengths to acquire them?
The quality, scent, and yield of oil are significantly affected by differences in weather, land condition, and even farming methods. For example, Bulgaria is famous for its roses, producing 85 per cent of the world’s rose oil– with all its best roses grown in a place called The Rose Valley. The secret to its wonderful scent lies in the perfect setup of two uneven mountains forming a valley which allows the movement of cool and warm air. Paired with the climate and soil conditions, these roses are ready for picking from May to June. Anyone who attempts to grow same rose plant elsewhere will find that he or she will not be able to produce the quantity and scent quality that Bulgaria has, because of this unique set up.
Similarly, there are optimum times to harvest plants for essential oil extraction: Rose, between 5am to 10am, Lemongrass, between 9 am to noon. Knowledge and understanding of these conditions is crucial to acquiring the best quality oils. While our indigenous sources have the optimum environment for growth, global weather conditions also affect harvest quality – which is why Hysses travels all over the world to handpick the best ingredients each year.
Your advice on storing essential oils in a hot, humid climate?
Essential oils are very volatile so it is important to keep them as fresh as possible. Oxidised oils will do more harm than good on your skin! The most important tip is to always cap your bottles tightly. When essential oils come into contact with atmospheric oxygen, there will be negative chemical changes called oxidation. It degrades the oil, and is slightly toxic, increasing risk of an adverse skin reaction. The scent freshness also disappears because of this. Some citrus oils may even turn cloudy. So always ensure your bottle is tightly capped.
Oils should always be kept away from sunlight, thus they are usually sold in dark, amber glass bottles. Compared to blue or green-coloured glass, dark amber glass has proven to be the most effective in keeping sunlight away. Another way to ensure your oils are as fresh as possible, you can always refrigerate them!