Here at the Honest offices, we get pretty geeky about our product formulations. Most people cringe at the idea of spending hours and hours poring over scientific studies, but we find it fascinating. And that’s how we end up creating products that are not only safe, but also super effective, too. We keep the nasty stuff out and find the best stuff to put in.
We spend a lot of time thinking about every ingredient that we include in our formulas, and wanted to share some of the exciting things we’ve learned about lavender (which is currently used in our Lip Balm and brand new Healing Balm). It’s a delicate little flower with some amazing super powers!
Here’s a little about what we’ve learned…
Lavender essential oils have been used both cosmetically and therapeutically for centuries and are considered to be some of the mildest of known plant essential oils. Since it’s been used for so long, there’s oodles of anecdotal evidence, but what do the scientific studies say? Although some of the data is still inconclusive, there does seem to be both scientific and clinical evidence revealing some pretty exciting stuff:
- Research shows that using lavender oil on the skin helps numb pain and heal wounds (cuts, sores, abrasions, burns, stings, etc.). It works wonders on the skin, alleviating acne, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, rashes, and stretch marks.
- Other probable benefits that need additional research include antibacterial benefits, blemish control, skin cancer prevention, and the ability to counter the damaging effects of UV radiation and inhibit allergic reactions. Awesome!
- In addition to the benefits to skin health, ample research has also confirmed that the scent of lavender produces calming, soothing, and sedative effects.
During our research, we also found various Web sites expressing concern over the use of lavender – primarily because of estrogenic properties and cases of contact dermatitis. So, we looked into that, too – and here’s what we found:
In 2007, several doctors released a brief report linking tea tree and lavender oil to male prepubertal gynecomastia (breast growth) because three boys who were using products containing these ingredients were diagnosed with the condition. Since then, the report has been mentioned widely online and has caused much confusion and, we’d say, unnecessary worry.
There were many flaws in this report including:
- This wasn’t an actual study and the conclusion the doctors made was based on an extremely limited sample.
- There was no analysis of the individual products the boys were using, so there’s no way to be sure it was actually the lavender oil or some other ingredient or contaminant (with more evidence of potential hormone disruption) like parabens, phthalates, or pesticides – all common in conventional care products.
- The report stated that once the boys stopped using products with these oils, the effects completely disappeared, so it seems as though whatever the culprit, it was more like a rare allergy than anything inherently toxic about the products.
What about other testing for estrogenic impacts? Well, there was a follow-up test that indicated a hormonal effect, but it was in vitro (test tube) testing which simply doesn’t translate to actual human exposure. (Also, it should be noted that over 4,000 components of plants have shown some degree of hormonal effect – that’s just the chemistry of nature and life!) Another follow-up study testing lavender oil as it might impact humans in real life exposures (using the model regarded as the “gold-standard in vivo test for estrogenic activity”) showed NO evidence of estrogenic activity.
And, what about contact dermatitis?
Well, skin allergies to lavender oil can happen, but it appears quite rare – and might possibly be due to oxidization (which happens when the oil is stored improperly). Considering that lavender is one of the most widely used essential oils and the cases of reported allergic reactions are so few and far between, we really don’t feel it should be considered an irritant. (Though, please consult your family doctor if you’re still concerned about it.)
All in all, the long list (and evidence) of benefits far outweighs the concerns of risk – and we’re excited to include it in some of our newest formulations!
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