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Why you can't you use Essential oils in water?

If only I had a fiver for every time I've been asked "Can I use Essential oil in water"

Because sometimes, people are reluctant to spend their hard-earned moolah on a bath oil, and think they can use the essential oils they already have.


So I ask. . . Have you ever made salad dressing?  When you make salad dressing, you add oil and a water-based liquid like vinegar or lemon juice. Or Bergamot juice if you're feeling flush and adventurous. You add a few other things and then you shake it, shake it baby. (Twisting and shouting is optional, unless you have Gordon Ramsay there?)  You shake it, then leave it for a bit and when you come back, it's separated.


Because Oil and water don't mix. And, as you might have guessed from the name, Essential Oils are oily They are also incredibly intense and concentrated medicinal products. Some of them can even burn you. Dropping essential oil on top of water, even if you use a portable liquidisery thingy will not mix the oil in the water; it will remain distinctly separate, and disparate. An 'oil in water' emulsion will not spontaneously and magically occur. Chemistry and physics don't work like that. Shame, and very annoying, but so much in life is, I find. To mix oil and water you need an emulsifier of some sort This is because water molecules are polar. This means that one end has a negative charge, and the other has a positive one.


Just like a battery. Except without those helpful little markings. Those charges let the molecules form hydrogen bonds and attach to any other molecules that are polar, like other water molecules. So you get H2O. Two lots of hydrogen to one lot of Oxygen. Easy peasy. Who said chemistry was hard? But, oil molecules are not polar, so they can't form hydrogen bonds.


Even if they wanted to. Which they don't seem to. When you put oil and water together, the water molecules stick together like glue, and the oil molecules all squish up together in a distinctly separate clump. Like teenagers of opposite sexes at a disco. What you see is two distinct layers. Floating oil on water To get them to mix, or to make an emulsion, you need an emulsifier. That's alcohol, in the case of the shy teenagers, but to go back to our now-separated salad dressing, you can use something like mustard, mayonnaise or egg yolk. These will bind the two disparate substances together. Sort of. If you are absolutely insistent that you want to use your essential oil for your compresses, then you can try mixing it with full-fat milk. Too much faffing about for my liking, so I use a bath essence, which contains Sulphated castor oil (Organic, natch) which is an oil treated to mix with water. This is also known as Red Turkey oil, and is the only oil which will mix with water. Using this means that your water is softened, scented and medicinally useful, as you can tailor the oil you choose for your compress to the time of day, your mood, and your current skin condition.

  • Sage is great for oilier skin, for calming down those pesky female hormones

  • Moor Lavender is fab at night, having soporific properties, is generally calming on both mood and skin redness and softening the water for sensitive skin

  • Lemon is good for summer time, as it's cooling, but also lovely and awakening of a dull dreary morning, when you'd really rather not bother

  • Rose is the queen of Flowers, smells divine, and is suitable at all and any times. A bit like champagne. . .

But don't put champagne in your compress water. That would be wasteful. Drink it instead. So the short answer to "can I use essential oils instead, because I've got those and it's cheaper?"  It's still no.

Not because essential oils aren't wonderful - they are - but because it's wasteful.


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