Infused Oils vs. Essential Oils

What's the difference between an infused herbal oil and an essential oil and why don't we use any essential oil in our products? 

When we started out as a skincare company, we used essential oils in our products. It's common practice not just among tallow skincare companies, or even skincare, but there's an abundance of products on the market today with essential oils on their ingredients labels. 

At first, it seemed like an obvious choice. Essential oils smell amazing, effectively masking any other odors in the product's ingredients, you only need a small bit of them per batch, they are relatively shelf-stable and easy to work with. Overall, they were definitely the easy way out when it came to formulating a great-smelling product. We used them for over a year because of this convenience. 

However, as we studied more about herbalism, we ran into a bit of a controversy concerning the oils. There was a divide among renowned herbalists concerning these potent little plant oils that struck our interest. After much research and consideration for ourselves, we eliminated them from our personal routines and then began researching and running trials to figure out how to eliminate them from our entire product line as well. 

We respect that everyone has their own perspective on the proper use of essential oils, so we won't elaborate too much, but here are a few key reasons we chose to go another route. 

First, we couldn't justify the massive amount of plant materials that are wasted to make such a small quantity of essential oils. In our opinions, God designed plants in a way that would be accessible to us in their simplest forms, not requiring us to get our hands on hundreds of pounds of herbs.

We value looking to the simplest forms of herbal applications first. Why use a peppermint essential oil on an upset tummy when a warming glass of peppermint tea could do the trick? Why cook with oregano oil when you could simply cook with the fresh or dried herb? So we applied this to our skincare as well. Was there a way we could draw out the plant's benefits, and aroma, with just a handful of herbs in our own kitchen? Yes!

This is where infused oils come in. Herbal infused oils are made by filling a jar with the fresh or dried herb and simply covering it with a carrier oil, such as olive or jojoba oil. The herb and oil meld together over the course of a month or more as the oil extracts the soluble plant constituents, including traces of essential oil!

Second, the essential oil captures only about a third of the plant's properties, whereas an infused oil captures constituents that aren't found in the essential oil, giving them a broader spectrum of applications. Additionally, some plants, such as calendula, don't have an essential oil in them but are amazing herbs for skincare. Infused oils can utilize these additional herbs and make them accessible for topical application.

Third, because essential oils are so concentrated many people find that they have sensitivities to them. When I was on my honeymoon, I had a reaction to lavender essential oil (which is generally considered safe and mild) and had a huge rash on my leg for the remainder of the trip. I'm not alone, though, many people are sensitive to them without even realizing. Generally, when a label says "no artificial fragrances" people who are sensitive to fragrances trust that they will be a good choice, but this isn't always the case. Herbal infused oils can be used by these people without inciting a reaction (unless, of course, you're actually allergic to the specific herb). 

Fourth, because essential oils are used in SO many products - we're talking shampoo, toothpaste, soap bars, candles, cleaning products, diffusers, as preservatives in FOOD, and more - we're laboring our bodies with a toxic overload. Even if the oils are diluted properly in each product, they add up quickly. In this day and age, our bodies have enough toxins to deal with, we feel it's best not to add anything else to that workload. But first, we need to understand what an essential oil is. 

An essential oil is known as the "essence" of the plant. It's job in the chemical makeup of the plant is to attract pollinators and deter pests, this is why they attribute so strongly to the smell, taste and color of a plant (making them fun little plant essences to collect) but also why they are so strongly antimicrobial, killing away precious bacteria in your gut flora - a balance which we greatly value as part of overall good health. Many studies have been done to establish them as an alternative to antibiotics, because their strong bactericidal abilities.

If we're crafting a product for daily topical use, this is not something we want to be introducing as an ingredient. We prefer to offer up a milder herbal application. Essential oils were originally introduced for their use in aromatherapy, and we highly recommend using them only in settings where a licensed aromatherapist is giving you informed instruction on how they are to be applied.   

However, it's easy to understand why everyone is using them in their products. It's the easy way out to impart a scent and accomplish some other tasks, not only for the tallow butters but for soaps and candles as well. Herbal infused oils simply do not have as strong a scent as an essential oil will, for obvious reasons. Some people appreciate that the scent is not so overwhelming, but some are used to using products that are saturated with artificial fragrances or essential oils and may have to adjust to something more neutral. We decided collectively this is a learning curve that we were willing to take on in favor of keeping these concentrated fragrances out of our products. 

Our hope is that you can be confident that Texas Tallow products safeguard your health by providing the most non-toxic, carefully formulated skincare options for daily, long-term use. 

4 comments

I feel that essential oils are a cheat in making natural or commercial products like adding extra ingredients to a store bought mix and taking credit for all the ingredients and calling it original. infused oils are more honest.

joyce coley August 03, 2021

This is an awesome post. Very interesting and confirms my doubts about the essential oil craze.

LeeAnn February 01, 2021

All good points to consider. I’m working toward a more whole-food diet, and essential oils aren’t “whole” at all. I have a large collection (over 40) and I use them instead of drugs. I’m thankful to not have any sensitivities or external reactions.

However, you bring up a good point about the strong anti-bacterial properties.. I take a digestive blend of essential oils when my intestines aren’t feeling well from eating gluten or dairy. They help ease symptoms a lot, but I feel like my food sensitivities have gotten worse since taking them. Maybe they’re killing off my probiotics and worsening the cycle of not being able to digest certain foods? Food for thought.

Julie February 01, 2021

Thank you for posting this. I am going through the exact same transitions with my tallow based products for the exact same reasons. It’s amazing how used to strongly scented products we all are. Essential oils are do potent. Good luck with the transition!

Hannah January 04, 2020

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