Friday, December 28, 2007

Li's Quick Eco Tips And Actions: Reusable Totes/Bags (Environmental Information)

*edited to add information at the end of the entry

About seven years ago, I started saving all of my plastic and paper bags from shopping to be a little more eco-friendly (I was reusing them as trash bags and storage bags). After only a couple months, I could not believe how many bags I had accumulated in such a short amount of time--and most of them were from food shopping! Since it was a lot of waste, I began using reusable canvas/fabric totes and bags when purchasing something to be more eco-conscious. When my health took a drastic turn a few years ago, I got out of the habit of using my reusable totes/bags but in the last year I've gotten back to doing this simple but effective eco-friendly habit.

What are the advantages of using reusable totes/bag?

Less waste (which is good for the planet and in the long run good for you!).

Less pollution and usage of resources (since less trees have to be cut down, and no materials and energy are produced in making new/more plastic and paper bags).

Durable bags (no more ripped paper bags and broken spaghetti sauce!).

No plastic discarded in the environment (animals can choke on plastic).

Some stores currently offer incentives if you bring your own bag: Whole Foods will refund you 5 cents for every reusable bag you use; Trader Joe's will often have raffles where if you use a tote you have a chance to win a gift certificate for free food. And I don't know if they still do it or not since I haven't been to one in a while, but Shopper's used to give you 3 cents for every bag you reuse. Check your local food stores to see if they have similar incentives.

Any disadvantages?

You have to remember to bring them (it helps to keep them in a place where you won't forget like by the door or in the trunk of your car). You'll need to get at least a few (since for food shopping you need several bags especially if you are buying food for many people). You may have to buy some (but if you try you may be able to get some for free, and even if you have to buy, they aren't that expensive).

Where can I get a reusable tote/bag?

I have a wide variety of totes, some of them I got for free and some of them I paid only a few dollars (they range in price anywhere from $1 to $15 or more, but are generally around $3-10). You can usually get free or inexpensive tote bags at:

Festivals: You can get totes/bags from some festivals, like D.C.'s National Book Festival or Green Festival. This year at the Green Festical you could get two free basic canvas bags from two different organizations, and another vendor was selling (nicer) bags for only about $3 or so dollars. I didn't go to this year's National Book Festival but during (two) previous years they offered a free tote (that had the NBF logo on it).

Events: I've attended events in school (during my undergrad days) where they've given away free bags.

Jobs:I've also gotten free totes from places I've used to work at.

Stores: During the holidays some department stores will offer free totes or bags from (non-natural) cosmetic/perfume or clothing companies.

Whole Foods now sells reusable bags. My sister got a really nice lined, zipped bag they were selling for for $3 that I think she mentioned she got for free since she bought over a certain amount of food. I got a nice green bag (not as nice as hers but still durable) at my Whole Foods for 99 cents. So I'm guessing different Whole Foods in different areas have different promotions (my sister and I live in different areas).

Many craft stores sell totes for really cheap, for only a few bucks (and supplies to decorate them too!)

One of the nicest bags I have is a celtic/pagan design bag I got in college for under $10 at a local clothing store. I got this bag about nine years ago and it's only now beginning to fall apart (but easily fixed with thread and a needle, if I ever remember to fix it!)

Companies or organizations: Companies and organizations may have totes with their logo on it. They either may give them away free at an event, or you can buy them at a decent price to support their organization.

What if I forgot to bring my reusable totes/bags to the store?

If you are only buying only one or a few (easy to carry) items items (and it isn't raining) then ask for no bag. But if you are buying a lot and forgot then no sweat: you can still reuse the plastic or paper bags you get from the store. Once a month I purposely leave my bags at home when I go food shopping since my recycling/trash company requires us to place mixed paper/newspaper and cardboard in paper bags, and since I recycle I need paper bags! (Your community may be different). I also still reuse plastic bags for trash etc when I get them. And when I had a kitty (rest in peace Kitty!) I used bags to clean up his litter. Some stores recycle plastic bags too (many grocery stores, and yes, even places like Walmart).

Where can I learn more about this topic?

National Geographic had an interesting article about plastic bags, paper bags, and reusable bags from 2003 on the advantages and disadvantages of plastic bags and reusable totes.

Some statistics on the issue from the Sierra Club.

Some cities like San Francisco have already banned plastic bags in some stores and other cities like New York City are considering making it mandatory to recycle plastic bags. Article from the New York Times, July 2007, which contains a good summary on worldwide recycling of bags.

The Green Guide (part of National Geographic Society) has an excellent article on suggestions on cutting down bag use. The Green Guide also offers an excellent free e-newsletter :) (Note: the article is from Jan of this year, and San Francisco has already implemented a ban, but this article has a lot of great tips in it so is worth reading!)

Article about San Francisco's ban on plastic bags from the San Francisco Chronicle. The ban is only for large super markets and large chain pharmacies.

To find out where the closest recycling facility to you, check out

My sister posted a great idea in the comments about crocheting or knitting your own bag! On a kind of related but not really related side note, my sister is the bomb at knitting; for the holidays she knitted me a Slytherin scarf (and she's made me a lot of other beautiful scarfs, hats, gloves, and socks over the last few years). (We love Snape!). So if you are an awesome knitter like my sister is, you can definitely make your own bag! Handmade stuff not only rocks but is very eco-friendly! :)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Aromaconnection Blog (Aromatherapy Information/Resouces and Environmental Resource)

One awesome blog that I've come across is the Aromaconnection Blog. The Aromaconnection Blog is the brainchild of many noted and distinguished people in the aromatherapy/essential oil and plant conservation fields: Rob Stitt and Marcia Elston (owners of Samara Botane, a well respected essential oil/aromatherapy company), Marco Valussi (from the InfoErbe website, an Italian botanical database), Robert Tisserand (one of the pioneers of aromatherapy, founder of the Tisserand Institute and Tisserand Aromatherapy), and Tony Burfield (from and the AromaResearch list). I've only been reading this blog for a few weeks but it is an excellent resource for aromatherapy students & aromatherapists, environmentalists, and those interested in plant conservation or economic botany/ethnobotany (all of my interests, yay!). Some of the topics that the authors have covered include new research in aromatherapy/essential oils & botany & the natural perfume industry, plant conservation, organic issues, and cultural & ecological sustainability. It is a wealth of (good, reliable, and authentic) aromatherapy and botanical knowledge, and an excellent representation of a wide range of viewpoints including science, alternative, traditional, and cultural perspectives. There are also a lot of links to other great resources on their blog (including a link and a very nice review of my blog. Thanks Rob and all at Aromaconnection!)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Essential Oils: Rose geranium, rose, petitgrain sur fleur, bay, ylang ylang, using essential oils neat, and absorbency (Aromatherapy Information)

*Edited to add another link for a petitgrain sur fleur source. Also to fix my description of what ylang ylang smells like to me because I accidentally typed the wrong grade (mixed the two grades up)!

Some random FAQ about essential oils that I've answered on different forums over the last five months (with extra information added, of course :) )

What is the difference between the two kinds of rose geranium essential oil?

There are a couple species of 'rose geranium' used in aromatherapy (I put geranium in quotes because they aren't actually true geraniums but are from the Pelargonium genus), including Pelargonium roseum and Pelargonium graveolens. The common names are often used interchangeably between these two species: meaning sometimes the essential oil from Pelargonium graveolens is called rose geranium, bourbon geranium, or geranium (and the whole plant has been called sweet scented geranium, among other names). And I've seen Pelargonium roseum also called geranium and rose geranium. When most aromatherapists mention rose geranium they usually mean Pelargonium graveolens, though some aromatherapists consider both species to be rose geranium. Aromaweb has good essential oil profiles on both species.

As far as I know, most of the rose geranium or geranium hydrosol produced is from Pelargonium graveolens (from what I've seen, but I could be wrong since I haven't tried every single hydrosol vendor yet!). Many essential oil vendors often only sell Pelargonium graveolens essential oil, but some sell both species. Note: Plants (and their products) produced in different regions or seasons or by various manufacturing/processing methods can smell very different, even if it's the same species. For example I've sampled lavender essential oil from at least six different countries and from different seasons and they all smell very different from each other, though they are all the same species (Lavandula angustifolia). Geranium essential oil produced in different areas, seasons, etc can smell extremely different from each other.

I love rose. Is rose geranium a kind of rose?

Rose and rose geranium are two different species. Rose is usually from the damask rose (Rosa damascena), and rose geranium isn't a rose at all or a true geranium even but it's a Pelargonium species. Another rose species that is used in aromatherapy is the white rose: rose alba (Rosa alba). But it is rarer and harder to produce than the damask rose (it has even less essential oil in it than the damask rose) therefore it is even more expensive than (damask) rose essential oil. In my opinion, rose alba is more floral and fruitier in scent than the damask. Damask rose smells floral with herbal notes and a hint of fruit notes to me. A third rose species used in aromatherapy: Rosa centifolia.

What is and where can I buy petitgrain sur fleur essential oil?

Regular petitgrain (Citrus aurantium) is made from the leaves of the bitter orange tree. Petitgrain sur fleur essential oil is produced from both the leaves and the flowers of the bitter orange tree. It is a good sub for the very expensive neroli essential oil, which is produced from only the flowers. It smells like a very light neroli but with more herby notes in it.

I only know of a couple places that sell petitgrain sur fleur essential oil. I got mine at Enfleurage. Theirs may seem a little pricey, but it's organic (so will of course be more expensive) and it is heaven on earth! Sunrose Aromatics also has it (but it's conventional not organic so it's a little cheaper). I haven't tried theirs yet, but with every order, you can request samples and their samples are very generous. But they charge a handling fee in addition to shipping, so if you are only buying a few things s&h can get expensive. So be sure to ask for samples to make it worth it :) I think both places do wholesale in addition to retail. White Lotus Aromatics also has it but I haven't ordered from them yet, but they are supposed to be a good company. I think they have a minimum and may only be wholesale (not sure yet, need to check on that).
Another place that sells it is Samara Botane. I haven't bought from them either but they are a well respected company that is often cited as a good essential oil company in aromatherapy and natural skin care books.

What is the difference between Bay Laurel and Bay Oil Rum Dominican Essential Oils?

They are two different species. Bay laurel is Laurus nobilis and Bay Oil (Rum) Dominican is Pimenta racemosa. Aromaweb had good essential oil profiles (listed as Bay and Bay laurel)

What is the difference between Ylang Ylang #1 and #3?

Ylang Ylang is a tropical flower from a tree. There are different grades/fractions--like how olive oil has different pressings. The different grades refers to when in the distillation process the essential oil was removed and all the grades smell different. The different grades include extra, #1, #2, #3, and complete. I've used #1, #3, and complete, and I've smelled extra once. I've never used or smelled #2. The different grades smell different because they vary in chemical composition. #1 smells floral and kind of like candy to me! while #3 smells slightly floral but also has a lot of heavy notes. A lot of people say that ylang ylang is a good sub for jasmine in perfumes, and I never believed it or agreed, until I tried complete (which is when the distillation is run until the end without removing any grades, or all the different grades after distillation are mixed together). I now believe that complete would be a good sub for jasmine (but though it can be used as a sub for the floral sweetness of jasmine, it of course doesn't smell the same. It's like comparing coke and pepsi, or cow milk and soy milk, how many people say there is no difference, but most people can tell). Most people suggest extra or #1 in perfumes, but I like complete. Ylang Ylang from different distillers can smell very different from each other, even if it's the 'same grade' since different distillers pull the fractions at different times.

Can I use essential oils neat or should I dilute them?

It is not recommended that essential oils exceed a total of 1 to 2% in most products (except perfumes and a couple other types of blends) since too high of a concentration of essential oils can be irritating or in some cases toxic or have the opposite effect. Note: the concentration refers to the total amount of essential oils, and not 1 to 2% of each essential oil. It is always better to add less than more.

I do not recommend using any essential oil undiluted on the skin. Occasionally you can use lavender and tea tree--but this is only for short term emergencies (like a bug bite or a fungal infection, so only for a few days, and no more than 1 drop at a time) and should not be used daily over long periods of time. This is because essential oils are highly concentrated substances--1 drop is akin to several ounces or pounds of plant material (depending on the plant). In high amounts certain essential oils may be irritating, toxic, have the opposite effect, or can even be fatal (if orally ingested). Aromatherapy is not just about scents, but like herbs, most essential oils have medicinal properties as well (they contain hundreds of chemical components that in plants are responsible for not only scents but are substances against diseases, insect repellents, etc). Personally even for emergencies like a bug bite or a fungal infection, I'd recommend diluting the oil, since these conditions are usually around for more than just a couple days (if you use lavender neat for a long time, there is a great chance you can become sensitized to it). Please take care when using them, and be sure to research any herbal product well before use (I recommend reading essential oil profiles from at least three or more good references). There are a lot of fake aromatherapy products out there and many companies may cite unsafe essential oil usage (since there is no real regulation of aromatherapy in the US). Be safe! :)

Can using different ingredients (when crafting) affect the absorbency and effectiveness of essential oils?

It depends on what ingredients you are using. Different ingredients have different absorbency rates, and some ingredients do not absorb at all. But overall, if you are using well absorbing ingredients then no, it shouldn't affect the effectiveness of the essential oils since they are very potent substances. Carrier oils are not only used to dilute essential oils but they also slow down their absorbency. Diluting essential oils in carrier oils is a good thing because carrier oils help prevent against toxicity from using too much essential oil, essential oil irritation, and allows for the essential oil to safely be spread over a large amount of skin. Carrier oils are absorbed by the skin, just more slowly than essential oils, so the skin will still eventually absorb the essential oils and you also absorb them by breathing them in. One reason I am against using mineral oil and petroleum jelly in skin care products is that it just sits on top of the skin and is not absorbed by the skin--meaning it is probably preventing any nutrients or other substances, like essential oils, in the cream or lotion you are using from being absorbed too. Plus mineral oil and petroleum jelly have no nutrients or vitamins!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Li's Quick Eco Tips and Actions: Introduction and Benefits of All Natural Cosmetics (Environmental Information/Natural Cosmetics)

This post has been edited, and also appears on All Natural Beauty's website under the shortened title "Li's Quick Eco Tips: Benefits of All Natural Cosmetics"

One thing I've noticed in my thesis research (public perception of mammals and conservation) is that people in my local community seem to be aware that environmental issues exist and generally support them. But I think that many people are not aware of how much their actions have on the environment or may not know what they can do to be more eco-conscious or perhaps think it is too hard to live a more environmental-friendly lifestyle.

So I've decided to start writing more about simple and small eco-friendly changes that people can make in their lives. I live in a highly urbanized area (though I live in the suburbs, over a million people live in my county) and I am somewhat on a budget (grad student here!) so I really understand what it's like to try to be more eco-conscious, but because of many reasons (money, time, personal issues, daily living, etc) it can seem hard to do!

Everything we do has an impact. By living our lives in a certain way (such as refraining from using certain products) or by choosing environmental-friendly alternatives, we can make less of an impact, and live our lives in a more sustainable manner: not only for our own benefit, but also for the planet’s benefit.

Since I craft a lot of herbal and aromatherapy products (and my love of the Earth and conservation is tied directly to my passion for using herbs and herbal ingredients) I thought I'd start with the subject of using all natural cosmetics.

Why Use All Natural Cosmetics?

Some Skin Benefits and Advantages of All Natural Cosmetics (skin care and hair care):

The skin absorbs at least 60% of what you put on it. According to the Environmental Working Group, most of the ingredients used in cosmetics have not been evaluated by the FDA (the FDA only regulates some colors and really toxic ingredients like mercury in cosmetics). EWG’s cosmetic database is a great resource where you can look up cosmetic ingredients and a wide range of products to assess their safety. Though many synthetic ingredients used in small amounts are non-toxic, in large amounts many are known to be potentially irritating or toxic, and it is generally unknown what the long term effects of using small amounts of these ingredients every day for years can have on human health.

As a long time crafter I can tell you that most of the non-natural ingredients used in cosmetics (with the exception of synthetic lab derived actives) are either fillers, emulsifiers, texturizers (used to improve the texture of the product), fragrances, or synthetic preservatives: all designed to make the product look and smell good but do little for the skin. In my opinion, none of these ingredients, with the exception of the preservatives*, are necessary since they do little to improve the health of your skin (there are many natural ingredients that can be used as emulsifiers, fragrances, and texturizers, most of which also provide skin benefits). (*Note about preservatives: for your own safety, preservatives must be used in products that contain water such as creams and lotions. However, I personally choose not to use most synthetic preservatives because many of them are potentially toxic and irritating. There are only a couple synthetic preservatives that I would actually use on my skin, but I prefer using natural preservatives. Please see below for more information on synthetic versus natural preservatives.)

Many natural ingredients are healing for the skin, since they contain numerous vitamins and nutrients. They can improve the health of the skin (if the product is properly formulated) and actually nourish the skin (the skin can absorb the nutrients).

Natural cosmetics usually contain much higher amounts of actives than conventional products (no fillers!).

Many synthetic ingredients can cause skin allergies or skin conditions. Some of the symptoms I had when I became allergic to many conventional ingredients and products eight years ago include breathing problems (from synthetic perfumes), hives, acne, and headaches. But if you are allergic to a particular plant please do not use it on your skin, as allergies to plant and natural ingredients are also possible. Be sure to do skin allergy tests on the inner elbow with any new (natural or synthetic) ingredient or cosmetic you use.

If you use aromatherapy and herbal products, they may help heal skin conditions (such as rashes), and have some medicinal and psychological uses* (such as helping soothe depression and anxiety) and spiritual properties. Be sure to research ingredients well before use. (*Note: Please see the "A Few Things to Consider..." section for more information about plant medicinal uses.)

Some Ecological and Social Advantages of All Natural Cosmetics:

They are 100% biodegradable, so no toxins down your drain and into the watershed (many other species are sensitive to many synthetic chemicals, which in some severe cases--such as the usage of synthetic chemicals that mimic estrogen--can cause mutations in certain species).

Products and ingredients that are organic* support good farming practices, and are much more sustainable in the long run. Using organic, cultivated without chemicals (ingredients that are usually organic but not certified yet), or ethically wild-harvested goods also reduces the use of toxic pesticides. (*Note: Just because something is natural does not necessarily mean it's organic).

Using products made with ethically wild-harvested and fair trade ingredients* ensures that ingredients are produced in a sustainable manner, and that other cultures and the Earth are not exploited in the process. Some companies also work closely with the communities that produce the goods. When done in a non-exploitive manner it supports the local economy, often generates income for women and people in poverty, and in some cases may help conserve local natural resources. (*Note: Be sure to check the credentials of fair trade or ethically wild-harvested products to make sure they are truly fair trade or ethically wild-harvested).

Many truly natural cosmetics are made by small companies, stay-at-home moms, or are women-owned. By buying products from these companies you are supporting small businesses, families, and women in business.

Some natural companies donate part of their proceeds to environmental or social organizations.

A few businesses are owned by herbalists and aromatherapists, who not only have a deep respect of the Earth, but who are also active in educating the public on plant conservation issues (which is often a neglected conservation topic). Many people don't realize that some of the most active environmentalists and conservationists are those in non-traditional plant related fields like herbalism or aromatherapy.

Do not underestimate the power of 'buying green'! By buying green you are letting different industries (such as those in business and politics) know that you want and support eco-friendly alternatives. More and more companies and organizations are beginning to implement greener practices (while some businesses are doing this for environmental reasons, others are doing this because they know if they don't, in the future they will lose money because more and more people are interested in buying only eco-friendly products). The organic and natural industries are rapidly growing; many businesses are jumping onto the green bandwagon (be wary of 'green washing'). In my thesis research the majority of people in my community stated that if a politician or political party supported conservation policies, they would view that politician or political party more favorably (and presumably vote for them). Many politicians know this. Your views and what you do matter and can greatly influence people and events!

Many people (including me) view using natural plant ingredients as a spiritual journey tied closely to the Earth. In many cultures and religions around the world (past and present), the medicinal, cosmetic, food, and spiritual uses of plants are connected to each other. It wasn't that long ago that this was also true in many contemporary mainstream western societies as well.

A Few Things To Consider When Buying All Natural Cosmetics:

Though I advocate buying all natural cosmetics, it is always better to consume less or only buy what you need. Choose quality over quantity.

Everyone has a different definition of what 'natural' is. Be sure to research ingredients well before use (there are a lot of borderline natural/synthetic substances that some people consider natural and others consider semi-natural/naturally derived or synthetic). Just because a label says it's natural or organic doesn't mean it is. For organic cosmetics, only products with the USDA NOP organic seal are truly organic. For cosmetics, unlike food products*, the word ‘organic’ is currently not regulated by the USDA. The USDA only regulates cosmetics products that have undergone certification and carry the USDA seal, and does not regulate cosmetic products that have not undergone certification. Also, there is no regulation of the word natural. Cosmetic products that are not natural or organic can legally place those words on their product--even if their product only contains only 1 drop of natural or organic ingredients! (*Note: In food products, the word ‘organic’ is regulated by the USDA.)

In addition to cosmetic uses, herbs and herbal products (such as essential oils) also have many medicinal uses. Aromatherapy and herbalism are not regulated by the government. In the United States, aromatherapists and herbalists cannot legally practice medicine (under the law), however, they often act as consultants to many different industries. Be sure to research herbs, essential oils, hydrosols, and other plant ingredients well before use. If you are pregnant, an elder, using conventional medicine, or want to use herbs and essential oils on children, please do extra research (as many essential oils and herbs can not be used on these people, and some herbs and essential oils may interact with conventional medicine. Ask an aromatherapist or herbalist that focuses on these subjects and a conventional nurse or doctor before use. Some nurses are also aromatherapists or herbalists in the U.S. (On a related note: In France, most aromatherapists are medical doctors).

100% natural products have a much shorter shelf life than conventional products
(usually 3 months to a year depending on the product and what is used to preserve them. Powdered mineral makeup will last much longer, nearly indefinitely). Don't stock up on 100% natural products, and also be sure to use them quickly. If you tend to take a long time to use products up (longer than a few months), try buying a smaller size or a sample (many small vendors offer samples or smaller sizes since you often can't return products from small online vendors), or you may want to consider using a product with synthetic preservatives (natural products preserved with a synthetic preservative will have a life shelf of at least a year if not longer). Though I personally choose not to use synthetic preservatives in most of the products I buy (since I prefer using completely natural products and many synthetic preservatives are potentially irritating or toxic), I usually use products up within a couple months of purchase. I especially want to emphasize that while many natural preservatives have extremely effective anti-bacterial and/or antiseptic properties (and some are antiviral and antifungal as well), they don't preserve products for as long as synthetic preservatives do. Natural preservatives are generally non-toxic if used in the correct proportions and many also provide skin benefits, so it's a trade-off.

Preservatives (whether natural or synthetic) are extremely important ingredients to use in cosmetics. In general, waterless products (like balms and oil based serums) are much more stable and less prone to bacterial contamination than products that contain water. Most non-aqueous products may not need a preservative, but to be on the safe side, I highly recommend using one. For non-aqueous products, many companies usually use a blend of natural preservatives (such as essential oils) and/or antioxidants (like vitamin E). Products with water in them (such as creams, lotions, and ‘wet’ facial masks) are extremely perishable and prone to contamination. Preservatives are a must in water-based products. Make sure that water-based products have an adequate preservative system. For all natural creams or other water-based products in jars, use a clean spatula to spoon out your product (or at least make sure your fingers are very clean). 100% natural creams and lotions will only have a shelf life of a few months (in some cases, shelf life may be slightly longer depending on the preservatives used, and type of container). Many companies tend to use a blend of natural preservatives (like herbal extracts which contain alcohol, essential oils, or alcohol) and antioxidants (like vitamin E) to extend shelf life and protect against a wide range of bacteria. But not all natural preservatives have the same antiseptic ability, and different herbs will kill different bacteria (and some plant ingredients make very ineffective preservatives). Antioxidants only extend shelf life but do not kill or inhibit bacteria. If you choose to use 100% natural water-based products (preserved with natural preservatives), for your own safety, be sure to use it within a couple months of purchase.

It is not a good idea to store natural cosmetics in the bathroom (too humid, which will make them spoil faster).

Refrigeration of most natural products (when not in use) will extend shelf life. For some products the texture may change a bit in the fridge, however, this will not alter the effectiveness of the product.

All natural or nearly all natural products are more expensive* than drugstore brand cosmetics (but often cheaper than some department store brands, though there are a few overpriced natural brands in my opinion). However, since there are no fillers, you can often use less of a product to get great results. Also because they are 100% (or nearly all) natural, the products generally contain more actives in them than conventional products. (*Note: About the price of all natural and nearly all natural products. Natural ingredients usually cost a lot more than conventional cosmetic ingredients. And if the ingredients are rare or harder to obtain or if they are organic, they are even more expensive. For carrier oils, if they are unrefined, cold or expeller pressed (nutrient rich) oils they are usually more expensive than refined oils (that are stripped not only of odor but nutrients). It takes most conventional cosmetics only pennies to occasionally a couple bucks to produce their products, while it may take many dollars to produce a completely natural product (no cheap fillers and also the much higher cost of ingredients, and in some cases packaging—colored glass used in many essential oil products costs more than plastic). An example of the cost of a natural ingredient, rose essential oil: it takes thirty to sixty roses to make one drop of rose essential oil, hence the $1-2 per drop price tag (and why most rose scented products on the market are synthetic).)

If you are on a budget, just start out with a couple of basic products, or consider crafting your own cosmetics! Ingredients from herbal vendors are often cheaper and higher quality than ingredients found in stores (even with shipping). But if you can find things locally, I highly suggest buying them (saves on gas consumption). (But buying locally may be difficult in some areas, since it is easier to find many herbal ingredients in certain areas of the country than others.) Many recipes can be found on the internet, or you can get books at the library (if books aren’t available at your library, use the library’s interlibrary loan system), or a used bookstore. Amazon also sells many natural cosmetic, herbal, and aromatherapy books usually for up to 30% off. If you sign up for Border's reward card (in the stores), they send you coupons (through your email) nearly every week or so (from 10% to 30% off).

Last note: Just because something is natural does not mean it is safe, and just because something is synthetic does not mean it is bad. For example, certain essential oils used in high concentrations are toxic. In addition, I still currently use rubbing alcohol (91%) as one method to clean and sanitize my cosmetic glass bottles, which is a pretty safe substance as long as it's used in a well ventilated room (I also sterilize in the oven). Lastly, in some products, borderline synthetic/naturally derived ingredients, or synthetic ingredients may be preferable, such as using cetyl alcohol as an emulsifier in natural hair conditioners (since many other emulsifiers like many waxes won't rinse out of the hair easily), or using synthetic preservatives in an alcohol free, scent free cream or lotion (to my knowledge there is no completely natural way to preserve this).