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!

Lavender

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!

References

Bickers D, Calow P, Greim H et al 2003b A toxicologic and dermatologic assessment of linalool and related esters when used as fragrance ingredients. Food & Chemical Toxicology 41:919-942

Cassella S, Cassella JP, Smith I 2002 Synergistic antifungal activity of tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oils against dermatophyte infection. The International Journal of Aromatherapy 12(1):2-15

Cavanagh H, Wilkinson J 2002 Biological activities of lavender essential oil. Phytotherapy Research 16(4):301–308

Cherng J-M, Shieh D-E, Chiang W 2007 Chemopreventive effects of minor dietary constituents in common foods on human cancer cells. Bioscience, Biotechnology & Biochemistry 71:1500-1504

D’Auria FD, Tecca M, Strippoli V et al 2005 Antifungal activity of Lavandula angustifolia essential oil against Candida albicans yeast and mycelial form. Medical Mycology 43:391-396

Edwards-Jones V, Buck R, Shawcross SG et al 2004  The effect of essential oils on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus using a dressing model. Burns 30:772-777

Gattefossé RM 1993 Gattefossé’s aromatherapy.  CW Daniel, Saffron Walden

Ghelardini C, Galeotti N, Salvatore G et al 1999 Local anaesthetic activity of the essential oil of Lavandula angustifolia. Planta Medica 65:700-703

Goiriz R, Delgado-Jimenez Y, Sanchez-Perez J et al 2007 Photoallergic contact dermatitis from lavender oil in topical ketoprofen. Contact Dermatitis 57:381-382

Gould MN, Malzman TH, Tanner MA et al 1987 Anticarcinogenic effects of terpenoids in orange peel oil. Proceedings of the 78th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research 28:153

Guba R 1998/1999 Wound healing: a pilot study using an essential oil-based cream to heal dermal wounds and ulcers. The International Journal of Aromatherapy 9(2):67-74

Hartman D, Coetzee JC 2002 Two US practitioners’ experience of using essential oils for wound care. Journal of Wound Care 11(8):317-320

Henley D et al 2007 Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oil. New England Journal of Medicine 356: 479-485

Herz R 2009 Aromatherapy Facts and Fictions: A Scientific Analysis of Olfactory Effects on Mood, Physiology and Behavior International Journal of Neuroscience 119(2): 263-290

IFRA 2009 Standards, including amendments as of October 14th 2009. International Fragrance Association, Brussels. http://www.ifraorg.org

Kerr J 2002 The use of essential oils in wound healing. The International Journal of Aromatherapy 12(4):202-206

Kim HM, Cho SH 1999 Lavender oil inhibits immediate-type allergic reaction in mice and rats. Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmacology 51:221-226

Kunicka-Styczyńska A, Sikora M, Kalemba D 2009 Antimicrobial activity of lavender, tea tree and lemon oils in cosmetic preservative systems. Journal of Applied Microbiology 107:1903-1911

Kunicka-Styczyńska A, Sikora M, Kalemba D 2011 Lavender, tea tree and lemon oils as antimicrobials in washing liquids and soft body balms. International Journal of Cosmetic Science 33:53-61

Lis-Balchin M (Ed.) 2002 Lavender: The Genus Lavandula. Taylor & Francis, Inc.

Meneghini CL, Rantuccio F, Lomuto M 1971 Additives, vehicles and active drugs of topical medicaments as causes of delayed-type allergic dermatitis. Dermatologica 143:137-147

Opdyke DL J 1976 Monographs on fragrance raw materials. Food & Cosmetics Toxicology 14 supplement

Politano V et al 2013 Uterotrophic assay of percutaneous lavender oil in immature female rats. International Journal of Toxicology 32(2):123-129

Prashar A, Locke IC, Evans CS 2004 Cytotoxicity of lavender oil and its major components to human skin cells. Cell Proliferation 37:221-229

Sakurada T, Kuwahata H, Katsuyama S et al 2009 Intraplantar injection of bergamot essential oil into the mouse hindpaw: effects on capsaicin-induced nociceptive behaviors. International Review of Neurobiology 85:237-248

Sakurai H, Yasui H, Yamada Y et al 2005 Detection of reactive oxygen species in the skin of live mice and rats exposed to UVA light: a research review on chemiluminescence and trials for UVA protection. Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences 4:715-720

Sibel R et al 2009 The antimicrobial activity of high-necrodane and other lavender oils on methicillin-sensitive and -resistant staphylococcus aureus (MSSA and MRSA). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 15(3): 275-279

Soković M, Glamočlija J, Marin PD et al 2010 Antibacterial effects of the essential oils of commonly consumed medicinal herbs using an in vitro model. Molecules 15:7532-7546

Vakilian K, Atarha M, Bekhradi R et al 2011 Healing advantages of lavender essential oil during episiotomy recovery: a clinical trial. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 17:50-53

Yang SA, Jeon SK, Lee EJ et al 2010 Comparative study of the chemical composition and antioxidant activity of six essential oils and their components. Natural Product research 24:140-151

Zu Y, Yu H, Liang L et al 2010 Activities of ten essential oils towards Propionibacterium acnes and PC-3, A-549 and MCF-7 cancer cells. Molecules 15:3200-3210

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  • http://GiveLoveCreateHappiness.com/ Wendy Irene

    The other great thing about lavender is that it is deer resistant We have lots of deer at my home and I’ve been planting lavender. Not only does it look and smell amazing, the deer don’t like to eat it :)

    • http://blog.honest.com/ Honest

      Thanks for sharing, Wendy! I bet your yard reminds you of living in France!

  • Sarah DeKeyser

    Thank you so much for having cited real references to back up your statements. I find it so rare to be able to track down a source of someone’s stance these days. I value being able to dive in on my own and read that information 1st hand. Bravo on a well thought out and researched article on one of my favorite thing…Lavender EO!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sami.drake Sami Drake

    I keep a little brown glass spray bottle of 8oz of water with 10-15 drops of pure essential Lavender oil in our kitchen and our RV nothing has ever worked better for burns spray immediately then thru out the day until sting is gone will not blister only proof you had a burn is a little red mark, I swear by it.

  • http://GetCurvyNow.com/ Claire Mier

    I find this to be a great news. I mean I’ve been using lavender oil on my pillow as to help me sleep better, but I didn’t know much about the other benefits of it.

  • Holly Otto

    8 drops of Lavender oil and 1 tablespoon white vinegar
    and a dash of disnwashing soap mixed in a spray bottle works great for keeping spiders and ants away too :-)

  • Leatha Goldsmith

    Use it almost daily in bathwater – add to Apple Cider Vinegar, Peppermint, Bergamot and it keeps my skin in greater health. I can even get out in the sun these days with no adverse effects from Lupus. I have a problem with allergies to so many lotions, sunscreens etc I stopped using them altogether and only use the bath with my oils. It has helped SO much!

    • http://blog.honest.com/ Honest

      Leatha, we’re glad to learn that lavender has proven helpful for you and that you’re seeing the healthy benefits. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with the community—we appreciate learning how things, or in this case essential oils, are used by others.