Chemophobia is a fear of or prejudice against chemicals, and we see this mindset run rampant in the aromatherapy community - among professionals and enthusiasts alike.
When you understand that essential oils are comprised of chemicals - some of which can be harmful in inappropriate doses - it becomes confusing to see claims about wanting to be "chemical-free" or "avoid toxins." The latter is esp. confounding as toxicity, as we have repeatedly discussed, is determined by dose.
This applies to both natural and synthetic substances. Some naturally occurring substances are toxic or even lethal in much smaller doses than some synthetic substances.
When it comes to what we use on our skin, we have to worry both about toxicity and then also potential reactions. The good news is, when it comes to essential oils and cosmetic ingredients, their recommended use takes these things into account.
So, that being said, why do we constantly see cosmetic ingredients demonized?
And they are demonized. On an almost daily basis in any given aromatherapy group on social media, we see a movement toward people wanting to make their own skincare to “reduce exposure to toxins” or—again, our favorite—go “chemical-free.” Now, making your own skincare is fine as long as you’re doing it right and responsibly. And if you don’t want to use certain ingredients, that’s really not a problem (again, assuming it’s being done right). But what is not okay is the misunderstanding of the substances you may not choose to use.
Again, like was previously said, there are recommended usage rates for a reason. And if you’re going to sit there and slather your skin in essential oils that contain potentially toxic ingredients (such as carcinogens) but give them the credit due that the threat only exists at certain dosages, then you really should consider that many of the synthetic cosmetic ingredients you may be avoiding deserve the same consideration. Because the threat, or lack thereof, truly does not exist for one and not the other.
Observation? Multiple times a week, I see evidence on social media of people who are wanting to “reduce toxic exposure,” etc. actually doing more harm to themselves using poorly constructed, DIY, natural skincare.
And contrary to popular belief, just because something is natural doesn’t mean that the body knows what to do with it. Cyanide is natural and the body certainly has a moment of outright panic when exposed to harmful doses. The same is true of essential oils and other natural and synthetic ingredients. Nothing is risk-free. But for all of these, if you stay within the appropriate ranges, your risk is minimal.
It's time for a blanket dismissal of synthetic cosmetic ingredients to stop. The truth is that they more often than not offer superior aesthetic qualities that greatly benefit our desired goals in skincare. While it's true that some people may have reactions to various ingredients, this is to be expected. Nothing is exempt from this possibility.
But that's okay when you think about it. Because if you are already using essential oils, you are already aware of this kind of risk. And like with essential oils, when you appropriately understand what you are using, this is minimized.