How essential oils are made
Nearly every second men’s grooming company explains that ‘essential oils’ are the main ingredients. Well, the good companies, anyway. We’re one of these good companies.
What is an essential oil? Where do they come from? Not only do our customers need the best quality products, they need also to know why our products are the best. Part of that is knowing the bare roots origin of the product you’re buying. Literally, bare roots.
The Groomed Man Co. are all for absolute transparency and educating the ones that love us. We have been working with industry leaders with over 3 decades of experience in essential oils since launching in 2014, and want you to know about how they’re made, and also so you’re aware of what you’re buying.
Essential oils can be extracted from the raw ingredient in 2 unique ways. Distillation, the same way our favourite whisky is made, and expression, by poking it a lot.
Distillation is the principle method of extracting essential oils. In fact, the extraction of aromatic oils by means of steam distillation, has been known for 5000 years. From the 5th century AD through to medieval times, a simple form of oil distillation was known and widely used. Mostly for fragrances and medicinal purposes- eg, oregano extract to aid digestion.
Persia, 900AD. Child genius Avicenna writes a multitude of papers, documenting the use of plants and herbs as natural remedies. He is also credited with fine tuning the distillation process to extract essential oils.
Lets use our good friend, Jojoba for this example. Imagine a big steel drum, the kind that’s casually on fire during the final battle scene of any 80’s action movie. In the bottom we have a little valve where steam is injected. Just above that there’s a grill (similar to your bbq) and this is where our Jojoba sits (in the case of Jojoba, it’s actually the seeds of the tree). The top of the drum tapers off to a tube about 5cm in diameter, turns 270 degrees back onto itself and then leads to a vessel of some kind.
The steam is injected into the sealed drum and rises up through the organic plant matter. Once there is enough heat and pressure inside, the volatile organic compounds are turned into vapor and rise up to the top of the drum.
The vapor rises, is funneled into the smaller tube and travels into the container at the end of the pipe. The condenser cools the rising vapor back into liquid form. The liquid is then collected in a vehicle below the condenser.
Since oil and water do not mix, they are easily separated from one and other.
You have jojoba oil, full of scent and nutrients.
Oil expression is also more commonly known as cold pressing. This name comes from the fact that the oil or organic compound is never taken about 50 degrees celsius. It is more common in processing sweet or citrus fruits.
Lets use lemon the legend for this example. The fruit is placed on a belt with spikes. The fruit is then forced to roll down the line so that the small cells in the skin are punctured, poked and prodded.
The oil cells rupture and the essential oil trickles down to the collection area below. The liquid is separated and the oil is removed from the water-based parts of the mixture, usually be centrifuge (spinning really fast).
What’s the difference?
Some compounds yield more oil when processed one way and not the other. Distillation is time consuming, but it also has the benefit of extracting all nutrients from the compounds used. Expression or cold pressing captures a lot more of the natural aroma but can also has a short shelf life in comparison. Cooking oils like coconut, almond, macadamia are commonly cold pressed too, as it preserves flavours and nutrients exceptionally well.
Cheeky solvent extraction.
Just a little heads up. Ever wondered why there’s not a lot of floral scents in beard oils? Flowers are exceptionally delicate. Excessive heat and pressure would destroy them instantly, as would consistent poking, prodding and jiggling. In comes the synthetic solvents!
Solvent extraction is the use of a petroleum based solvent to extract scented material from the plant. After being soaked, more chemicals are added to remove the solvent from the raw compound.
Solvent extraction has some downsides. Synthetic compounds are left over in trace amounts in the remaining oil. For this reason, it is advised to use any beard oil that has a ‘floral’ fragrance, as it usually has a solvent compound it in or is totally synthetic. Both choices are as bad as each other.
Ok, but why are you telling me this…?
Talking about how essential oils are made may not be interesting. I agree, it’s kind of dull. But as the old saying goes, ‘knowledge is power’.
We know where our raw ingredients come from and we want our customers to know that. Knowing where your product comes from helps you make an informed choice. We also understand that when searching for products, you want products that meet industry standards. All ingredients we use and products we make meet the European Cosmetic Directive under their relevant categories, so you know when you use our products, they’re safe and expertly made.
As a customer wanting to maintain the best beard you possibly can, you deserve to know as much as you can about our products. We strive to inform and educate as much as we can.
Why? Because you and your beard deserve the best.