The Essentials of Essential Oils

Essential oils have become central to the wellness category. Here’s everything you need to know for stocking this hot commodity in your store.

Essential oils are positioned to become a profitable addition to your beauty business. The category is expected to experience steady growth over the foreseeable future. A revamped interest in oils can be attributed to the ongoing shift towards all things health and wellness in beauty. According to a report from Grand View Research, the U.S. essential oils market is predicted to reach $7.34 billion by 2024, with a compound annual growth rate of 9 percent.

Perhaps this increased demand is because of the relaxation benefit essential oils offer to counter today’s busy lifestyles. For example, they can allow users a moment to turn their attention inward with a simple sniff, almost like an on-the-go relaxation solution. Essential oils have been shown to stimulate scent receptors in the nose, resulting in a chemical response from the brain’s limbic system, which may impact emotions, according to the National Institute of Health. They can literally change how we feel!

To find out all the essentials on oils, we tapped the vice president of sales and marketing for Essential Wholesale & Labs, Val Sanford, and Scentered cofounder Lara Morgan. Here, they share the ins and outs of potency, the add-ons that make the most sense, storage, usage and more.

WHY WELLNESS IS DOING SO WELL
“As the growing trend in essential oils indicates, general wellness is an exciting and growing category of skin- and self-care,” says Sanford, who attributes the newfound attention on oils to younger consumers’ spending habits. “This is, in part, driven by millennials and their commitment to more natural options and, in part, by the internet’s role in increasing the approachability of natural skin care, including the growing trend of DIY skin care.”

If you’re considering stocking oils, highlight just how accessible they are in order to reach this attractive market. “Beauty store owners should emphasize the ease and safety of using natural products, many of which are organic and easily attainable,” she advises.

“People now realize the need for daily practices that attend to their overall mental and physical health.”

–Lara Morgan, cofounder, Scentered

The interest in the wellness category is palpable. This has stemmed from, in part, a need to unwind as the world grows seemingly more chaotic by the day. “Life is a nonstop barrage of noise and stress,” Morgan says. “There isn’t a person among us who can’t use a bit of a break a few times a day.” The cosmetics industry has extended its influence to wellness in general, as people turn to beauty as a means to not just look good but feel good.

“Consumers once looked at wellness as an indulgence and a luxury (like a spa vacation or a long hike). People now realize the need for daily practices that attend to their overall mental and physical health,” Morgan explains. This thought process led to the founding of Scentered, an essential oil line in the form of travel-friendly balms. “We created Scentered to bring people a convenient, portable and, yes, luxurious, way to take a moment to themselves. We also offer a simple, three-step ritual to go along with the Scentered experience: Stop. Inhale. Reset. We think this ritual epitomizes wellness today–straightforward, accessible, portable and fast,” she says.

SELECTING YOUR SUPPLIER
To make sure you’re picking the right essential oils for your business (because there are many to choose from), pay attention to potency. “First and most importantly, essential oils must be 100 percent the oil of the specified plant, or 100 percent pure. There should be no additive–just the pure oil,” Sanford says.

To avoid carrying a brand you might regret later on, make sure to read between the lines. “If a supplier states that an essential oil is ‘soluble in water,’ they have added other ingredients (after all, we know that oil and water don’t mix), or perhaps they have added a carrier oil to the essential oil, diluting it. Expensive essential oils such as jasmine and rose are often diluted with a carrier oil to make them more affordable,” she explains.

If you aren’t sure of the details, don’t be afraid to ask your supplier to provide proof of the oil’s quality and origins. “Determining the purity of an essential oil can be a daunting task, so choose suppliers who are ready and able to offer documentation and certificates of analysis,” Sanford advises.

Once you’re confident in your supplier, find out the method of extraction used to create the oil, which is more important than you may think. “If that isn’t stated, it’s worth wondering why,” Sanford says. It’s up to you to ensure your supplier is completely transparent in their process.

There are three main types of extraction: distillation, cold pressing and the use of solvents. “Certain plants can only be harvested with certain extraction methods. If the wrong method of extraction is employed, your essential oil won’t work as anticipated.”

Morgan adds, “The best essential oils are harvested from the first extract–they are the most potent and least diluted. However, it is impossible to know just from looking at an ingredient list if the oils used are the first, second or third extract. So, the best thing to do is ask the brand or look at their website.”

"The best essential oils are harvested from the first extract–they are the most potent and least diluted."

–Lara Morgan, cofounder, Scentered

It’s also important to note that “essential oils on their own can be very volatile and often too strong to be applied undiluted to skin, hence they are partnered with carrier oils or butters,” Morgan explains. Stock carrier oils, such as cold- pressed argan, rosehip, sweet almond, jojoba, apricot kernel and coconut oil, and carrier butters, like shea butter, to provide customers with plentiful options and to plump up your product base. For most adults, a 2 percent dilution is ideal–so recommend adding 1 drop of essential oil per each teaspoon of carrier oil (or 12 drops per 1 ounce).

STORING AND SELLING OILS
Now that you’ve decided to stock essential oils, what other tools do you need to carry for a complete offering? “Diffusers are a standard companion, as they permit the oil’s scent to permeate a room. Oil warmers have a similar effect, but without vaporizing the liquid,” she says. Both methods offer the same benefit; it’s just a matter of customer preference.

To improve the ease-of-use, consider carrying pipettes, amber glass bottles and orifice reducers for the mouth of the bottle, which all make dispensing the oils easier. “Selling unscented bath salts is also an easy way for your customers to enter into the DIY trend,” Sanford says. These options allow for customization–clients who want to begin with essential oils have a selection of methods to choose from.

Once you’ve taken the plunge, maximize the shelf life of your oils by mindfully storing them. Most oils last up to several years, so you won’t have to constantly restock unless they are selling out. Vendors usually provide expiration dates so you have an idea of the timeline; however, be strategic about their in-store placement.

“Essential oils should be kept away from heat and light. That means using dark, amber glass bottles and keeping those bottles cool. These oils are volatile and oxidize over time, so keeping them refrigerated to avoid temperature fluctuations or extreme heat will help slow that evaporation,” Sanford says. For retailers, this means storing excess stock in a refrigerator or investing in a temperature-regulated display case or box.

How long your oil lasts is also highly dependent on the oil itself. “Citrus-based oils tend to have the shortest shelf life, so be sure to refrigerate them,” Sanford explains. However, patchouli, oak moss and sandalwood are rare in that they last a very long time and improve with age–but don’t expect that from most essential oils.

As good as they may smell, do not allow your customers to ingest any essential oils. “Essential oils are very potent and must be used properly,” Morgan stresses. “One should do ample research before ingesting them; it is not something we can advise on. Even topical use should be researched unless, like our balms, the application has been rigorously tested,” she adds.

Stocking essential oils is an easy way to expand your store into the health and wellness categories. It’s a beauty store must-have that will allow you to grow your offerings, while also attracting a new kind of consumer altogether. “Now is the time to grow your stock of essential oils,” Sanford says. “Be ready to supply the crowd-pleasers: lavender, citrus, mint. But, you can also introduce other delicious oils and oil blends to suit a variety of tastes.”

Ultimately, essential oils are growing in popularity so quickly because they are easy to use, versatile and effective, Sanford summarizes. And the journey to finding the best kind for you and your clients is all part of the fun. “Finding the perfect balance of oils for your store’s needs can be an exciting and educational process,” she says.

THE BEAUTY OF SELF CARE
“There is a changing shift in daily wellness and just about everyone is looking for a fast and easy way to take better care of themselves,” Morgan says. Essential oils address this need and can be used as a tool for daily mindfulness. At their core, oils are a reminder for customers to breathe deeply and concentrate on how they’re feeling. A large part of the appeal of essential oils is that they allow customers a moment of introspection during a day typically spent focused on others. They signify that time spent on one’s self is indeed worthwhile.

As a retailer, if you are able to encourage essential oils as part of your customers’ beauty routines, you’re providing them with more than they may initially realize. This is easy to do considering the spectrum of essential oils and what they help treat. For instance, if your customer suffers from fatigue, recommend eucalyptus and a vitamin C serum for their energy-boosting proper- ties. If they suffer from sleeplessness, suggest lavender oil with a night cream to promote relaxation. The options for positioning essential oils are endless. Taking this into consideration, the essential oil sector is no doubt ready to transition from beauty outlier to requirement over the next few years. “Ultimately, if we can make every breath better, we succeed,” Morgan says.

ESSENTIAL OILS CHEAT SHEET

Popular essential oils and the benefits they provide.

  • Chamomile: Helps ease anxiety, insomnia, menstrual cramps
  • Eucalyptus: Helps boost mental clarity and energy; helps relieve congestion
  • Geranium: Helps ease PMS, hormonal imbalances, nerve pain
  • Ginger: Helps relieve nausea, pain, digestive distress; physically warming
  • Lavender: Helps ease anxiety; helps in the healing of burns, wounds, insect bites
  • Lemon: Helps boost energy, helps detoxify and cleanse
  • Patchouli: Helps to improve mood; helps relieve depression symptoms
  • Peppermint: Helps relieve nausea, muscle soreness, headaches; helps boost energy
  • Rose: Helps ease anxiety and PMS; softens skin
  • Rosemary: Helps boost energy Sage and mental clarity
  • Sage: Helps ease anxiety, menstrual cramps, labor pain
  • Tea Tree: Provides antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antimicrobial action
  • Ylang Ylang: Helps improve mood; helps relieve depression symptoms