Essential Oils Used in Cosmetics and Perfumes

Author: Nicodemus Amboye
Category: Biological Sciences
Published on: 2021-05-17 14:45:26   Updated On: February-27-2022 09:40:05

Essential oils are products of secondary metabolism which occurs in aromatic plants. Aromatic plants are so called because they have a characteristic scent or sweet smell. There are about 3000 aromatic plant species out of which only 300 have been commercially exploited (Hussain et al., 2016).

Essential oils are found in very small quantities in various parts of the plant as shown in the table below:

Essential oil Occurrence in the plant
Chamomile
Lavender
Rose
Ylang ylang

Flowers and inflorescences

Basil
Laurel
Lemongrass
Peppermint
Rosemary
Leaves
Black pepper
Nutmeg
Fruits
Orange
Bergamot
Lemon
Tangerine
Peel
Anise
Cumin
Cardamom
Fennel
Seeds
Allspice
Juniper
Berries
Cinnamon
Cassia
Sassafras
Bark
Cedarwood
Camphor
Sandalwood
Wood
Ginger
Vetiver
Turmeric
Root and rhizomes
Myrrh
Frankincense
Resin

Source: Tongnuanchan and Benjakul (2014).

In recent years, the popularity of essential oils has been on a steady rise due to the trending ‘back to nature’ wave that is sweeping across the globe. Consumers are becoming more health conscious and are shifting away from synthetic products which have been scientifically proven to contain harmful residues. Currently, the trend is towards natural or organic products. In this background, essential oils have continued to emerge as more safer and eco-friendly alternatives to synthetic products.

Essential oils are extensively used in the manufacture of cosmetics. Specifically, the oils act as a source of fragrances and active components in cosmetic products.

Fragrances are included in cosmetic formulations for the following reasons:

  • They impart a unique and pleasant smell or aroma on cosmetics.
  • They are able to mask the unpleasant smell produced by surfacants, fatty acids and oils which are used in cosmetic formulations.
  • They act as preservatives in cosmetics thereby increasing the shelf-life of the product.  

Active components in cosmetics act as bioactive agents. A bioactive agent is one which exhibits antimicrobial, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-acne, among other properties.

The fragrance of any given cosmetic product plays a key role in determining whether it will be chosen by a given consumer.

The following essential oils are used as fragrances in the manufacture of cosmetics:

Allspice essential oil

Allspice essential oil is derived from a plant species called Pimenta dioica (L). It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Leaf
Berry
Colour of the oil
Leaf extract: yellow-red or brown liquid
Berry extract: pale yellow liquid
Nature of Aroma
Leaf extract: powerful sweet, spicy scent
Berry extract: sweet, warm balsamic, spicy
Primary components of the oil
Eugenol, methyl eugenol, cineole, phellandrene, caryophyllene

Source: Lawless (2013).

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Angelica essential oil

Angelica essential oil is derived from a plant species called Angelica archangelica. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Roots and rhizomes

Seed

Colour of the oil
Roots and rhizomes: colourless or pale yellow
Seed: colourless
Nature of Aroma
Roots and rhizomes: rich herbaceous-earthy
Seed: fresher, spicy
Primary components of the oil
Phellandrene, linalool, pinene, borneol, limonene.
Rich in coumarins such as osthol, imperatorin, bergapten, and angelicin

Source: Lawless (2013).

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Aniseed essential oil

Aniseed essential oil is derived from a plant species called Pimpinella anisum L. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Seeds
Colour of the oil
Colourless to pale yellow
Nature of Aroma
Warm, spicy-sweet characteristic scent
Primary components of the oil
Trans-anethole (75-90%)

Source: Lawless (2013).

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Balsam torchwood essential oil

Balsam torchwood essential oil is derived from a plant species called Amyris balsamifera L. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
wood
Colour of the oil
pale yellow to amber yellow
Nature of Aroma
Characteristic, woody
Primary components of the oil
Elemol, 10,γ-epi-eudesmol, γ-eudesmol, valerianol, α- eudesmol, 7-α-epi-eudesmol, β- eudesmol, drimenol

Source: ISO 3525: 2008(E) Oil of Amyris balsamifera L. Available online: https://www.sis.se/api/document/preview/910039/

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Basil essential oil

Basil essential oil is derived from a plant species called Ocimum basilicum L. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Flowering
Colour of the oil
Colourless or pale yellow
Nature of Aroma
Light sweet, spicy odour reminiscent of anise or clove
Primary components of the oil
Linalool, α-terpineol, terpinen-4-ol, ethyl eugenol, eugenol, limonene, geraniol, camphene, β-pipene, α-pipene, γ-terpinene, linalyl acetate, methyl cinnamate, 1,8-cineole, ocimene, methyl chavicol, methyl cinnamate, β-caryophyllene, fenchyl acetate

Source: Pitman (2004).

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Bergamot essential oil

Bergamot essential oil is derived from a plant species called Citrus bergamia Risso. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Rind of fruit
Colour of the oil
Light green-yellow
Nature of Aroma
Light, delicate citrus-like scent with slightly sweet/balsamic/floral character
Primary components of the oil
Lactones, bergaptene, β-bisabolene, β-pinene, linalool, α-terpinene, geraniol, limonene, linalyl acetate, γ-terpinene

Source: Pitman (2004).

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Black pepper essential oil

Black pepper essential oil is derived from a plant species called Piper nigrum L. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Unripe berries (peppercorns)
Colour of the oil
Light to pale olive
Nature of Aroma
Dry, woody, warm, spicy, oriental
Primary components of the oil
Sesquiterpenes, monoterpenes (including terpinene, camphene, myrcene, phellandrene, sabinene, thujene, limonene, bisabollene, β-caryophyllene, pinene), ketone, phenols, alcohols

Source: Pitman (2004).

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Cajeput essential oil

Cajeput essential oil is derived from a plant species called Melaleuca leucadendra (L.) L. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Fresh leaves
Twigs
Colour of the oil
Pale yellow-green
Nature of Aroma
Camphorous, highly penetrating odour with a slightly fruity note
Primary components of the oil
Terpenes, 1,8-Cineole, alcohols, esters

Source: Pitman (2004).

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Caraway essential oil

Caraway essential oil is derived from a plant species called Carum carvi L. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Ripe fruit
Colour of the oil
Colourless to pale yellow
Nature of Aroma
Fresh, herbaceous, spicy
Primary components of the oil
Carvone, cis-carveol, limonene, trans-carveol, myrcene, cis-dihyrocarvone

Source: SO 8896: 2016(E) Essential Oil of Caraway (Carum carvi L.). Available online: https://www.sis.se/api/document/preview/920364/

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Cardamom essential oil

Cardamom essential oil is derived from a plant species called Elettaria cardamomum (L) Maton. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Fruits
Colour of the oil
Almost colourless to pale yellow
Nature of Aroma
Characteristic, spicy, cineolic
Primary components of the oil
Terpinyl acetate, 1,8-cineole, sabinene, linalyl acetate, α-Pinene, limonene, myrcene, α-terpineol, linalool, trans-nerolidol, terpinen-4-ol

Source: ISO 4733: 2004(E) Essential Oil of Cardamom. Available online: https://www.sis.se/api/document/preview/904961/

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Carrot seed essential oil

Carrot seed essential oil is derived from a plant species called Daucus carota L. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Seeds
Colour of the oil
Yellow-brown
Nature of Aroma
Soft, sweet earthly grounding aroma
Primary components of the oil
Geranyl acetate, elemicin, β-Bisabolene, sabinene,

Source: Rokbeni et al. (2013).

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Cedarwood essential oil

Cedarwood essential oil is derived from a plant species called Cedrus atlantica L. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Wood, sawdust
Colour of the oil
Yellow to orange; yellow or deep amber-coloured
Nature of Aroma
Camphoraceous-cresylic with sweet tenacious woody undertone.
Primary components of the oil
Allo-himachalol, Himachalol, himachalene, himachalene oxide, cis-bisabolene, α-himachalene, β-himachalene, γ-himachalene, α-atlantone

Source: Battaglia (2019).

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Cinnamon essential oil

Cinnamon essential oil is derived from a plant species called Cinnamomum verum J. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Bark
Colour of the oil
Red-brown
Nature of Aroma
Characteristically spicy burning
Primary components of the oil
Eugenol, linalool, β-phellandrene, β-caryophyllene, Cinnamaldehyde

Source: De Groot (2016).

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Clary sage essential oil

Clary sage essential oil is derived from a plant species called Salvia sclarea L. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Inflorescences
Colour of the oil
Yellow
Nature of Aroma
Characteristic herbaceous odour
Primary components of the oil
Linalyl acetate, linalool

Source: Pesic and Bankovic (2003)

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Clove essential oil

Clove essential oil is derived from a plant species called Syzygium  aromaticum (L). It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Bud
Colour of the oil
Colourless or pale yellow
Nature of Aroma
Clove aroma
Primary components of the oil
Β-caryophyllene (12-17%), eugenol acetate (up to 20%), eugenol (70-95%

Source: Nurdjannah and Bermawie (2012)

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Coriander essential oil

Coriander essential oil is derived from a plant species called Coriandrum sativum (L). It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Fruit
Colour of the oil
Colourless to pale yellow
Nature of Aroma
Floral, balsamic undertone and peppery-woody suave
Primary components of the oil
Dodecanal, geraniol, borneol, linalool, neryl acetate, n-decanal, camphor, 2E-decenal

Source: Soares et al. (2012).

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Cypress essential oil

Cypress essential oil is derived from a plant species called Cupressus sempervivens L. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Leaves
Colour of the oil
Yellow
Nature of Aroma
Pleasingly smoky, woody smell, and amber like
Primary components of the oil
Limonene, carvone, sesquiterpene, sabinene, α-Pinene, α-terpinene

Source: Pitman (2004).

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Eucalyptus essential oil

Eucalyptus essential oil is derived from a plant species called Eucalyptus globulus Labill. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Leaves
Colour of the oil
Yellow to red
Nature of Aroma
Fresh balsamic camphor-like
Primary components of the oil
Globulol, α-pinene, p-cymene, limonene, 1,8-Cineole, aromadendrene

Source: De Groot and Schmidt (2016).

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Fennel essential oil

Fennel essential oil is derived from a plant species called Feniculum vulgare Mill. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Seeds
Colour of the oil
Yellow
Nature of Aroma
Strong, anisey, camphoric
Primary components of the oil
Methyl chavicol, chavicol, phenols, α-thujene, α-pinene, acids, limonene, anethole, 1,8-cineole, phellandrene, γ-terpinene, fenchol, coumarins, myrcene, fenchone, lactones

Source: Pitman (2004)

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Frankincense essential oil

Frankincense essential oil is derived from a plant species called Boswellia sacra Flueck. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Gum
Colour of the oil
Yellow
Nature of Aroma
Balsamic, camphor-like, spicy, woody, slightly lemony
Primary components of the oil
limonene, p-cymene, β-caryophyllene, sabinene, α-thujene, myrcene, α-Pinene

Source: Van Vuuren (2010).

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Geranium essential oil

Geranium essential oil is derived from a plant species called Pelargonium graveolens L’Her. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant

Aerial parts

Colour of the oil
Pale green or olive green
Nature of Aroma
Sweet rose-like odour with a hint of mint or ‘greenness’
Primary components of the oil
Phellandrene, geranyl formate, formate, citral, limonene, citronellyl, geraniol, linalool, menthone, α-pinene, cis-rose oxide, guaiazulene, β-caryophyllene

Source: Pitman (2004).

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German chamomile essential oil

German chamomile essential oil is derived from a plant species called Matricaria chamomilla L. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Flowers and flower heads
Colour of the oil
Blue
Nature of Aroma
Warm, fruity scent, sweet herbaceous odour
Primary components of the oil
Chamazulene, terpene alcohol, α-bisabolol oxides A, α- bisabolol oxides B, (E)-β-Farnesene

Source: Singh et al. (2011)

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Grapefruit essential oil

Grapefruit essential oil is derived from a plant species called Citrus paradisi Macfad. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Peel of fruit
Colour of the oil
Yellow or green
Nature of Aroma
Fresh, sharp, citrus aroma
Primary components of the oil
Citral, paradisol, ketones, lactones, sinensal, geranyl acetate, citronellal, limonene, geraniol, coumarins (including auraptene, limettin) and sesquiterpenes such as cadinene

Source: Pitman (2004)

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Hyssop essential oil

Hyssop essential oil is derived from a plant species called Hyssopus officinalis L. It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Aerial parts
Colour of the oil
Light yellow
Nature of Aroma
Herbaceous, camphor-like odours with warm and spicy undertones
Primary components of the oil
Pinocamphone, β-pinene, isopinocamphone

Source: Judzentiene (2016)

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Immortelle essential oil

Immortelle essential oil is derived from a plant species called L Helichrysum italicum (Roth). It has the following features:

Features
Description
Location in the plant
Aerial parts
Colour of the oil
Pale yellow to red
Nature of Aroma
Strong, honey-like aroma
Primary components of the oil
Neryl propionate, g-curcumene, ar-curcumene, neryl acetate

Source: Sarkic and Stappen (2018)

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Read part two of this article here: Essential oils used in cosmetics and perfumes - part two

 

Cited sources:

Battaglia (2019). Essential oil Monograph: Atlas Cedarwood. Available online: http://www.salvatorebattaglia.com.au/images/pdf/A4 Monograph Atlas Cedarwood.pdf.

De Groot, A.C.and Schmidt, E. (2016). Essential oils, part IV: Contact allergy. Dermatitis. 27(4), 170-175.

Hussain, H., Al-Harrasi, A., Green, I.R. (2016). Essential Oils in Food Preservation, Flavour and Safety. Elsevier; Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Frankincense (Boswellia) Oils; pg431-440.

ISO 4733: 2004(E) Essential Oil of Cardamom. Available online: https://www.sis.se/api/document/preview/904961/

ISO 8896: 2016(E) Essential Oil of Caraway (Carum carvi L.). Available online: https://www.sis.se/api/document/preview/920364/

Judzentiene A. Essential Oils in Food Preservation, Flavour and Safety. Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis L.) Oils; 471-479.

Lawless, J (2013). The Encyclopaedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic oils in Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health, and Wellbeing. Conari Press; San Francisco, CA, USA.

Nurdjannah, N. and Bermawie, N.C. (2012). Indonesian Agency for Agriculture Research and Develeopment (IAARD) Indonesia, 197-215.

Pesic, P.Z. and Bankovic V.M. (2003). Investigation on the essential oil of cultivated Salvia sclarea L. Flavour and Fragrance Journal, 18, 228-230.

Pitman, V. (2004). Aromatherapy: A Practical Approach. Nelson Thornes; Cheltenham, UK:2004.

Rokbeni, N., M’rabet, Y., Dziri, S., Chaabane, H., Jemli, M., Fernandez, X., and Boulila, A. (2013). Variation of the chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oils of natural populations of Tunisian Daucus carota L.(Apiaceae). Chemistry and Biodiversity, 10, 2278-2290.

Sarkic A. and Stappen, I. (2018). Essential oils and their single compounds in cosmetics – a critical review. Cosmetics, 5,11.

Singh, O., Khanam, Z., Misra, N. and Srivastava, M.K. (2011). Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.): An overview. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 5(9), 82-95.

Soares, B.V., Morais, S.M., dos Santos Fontenelle, R.O., Queiroz, V.A., Vila-Nova, N.S., Pereira, C.M., Brito, E.S., Neto, M.A., Brito, E.H., and Cavalcante, C.S. (2012). Antifungal activity, toxicity and chemical composition of the essential oil of Coriandrum sativum, L. Fruits. Molecules, 17(7), 8439-8448.

Tongnuanchan, P. and Benjakul, S. (2014). Essential oils: Extraction, bioactivities, and their uses for food preservation. Journal of Food Science, 79(7), 1231-1249.

Van Vuuren, S.F., Kamatou, G.P.P. and Viljoen, A.M. (2010). Volatile composition and antimicrobial activity of twenty commercial frankincense essential oil samples. South African Journal of Botany, 76(4), 686-691.

About the Author

Nicodemus is an MBA (strategic management) graduate of Egerton University (Kenya). He also holds a BSc degree in botany, zoology and chemistry, from the University of Nairobi (Kenya). He is proficient in the following computer programming technologies - HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, Bootstrap, PHP, MySQLi and Python. He is an experienced researcher and writer in the fields of business management, information technology, biological sciences, and social sciences. He enjoys developing computer programs and web applications that address diverse user needs.

*Available for article writing and web design/development projects*
(contact: +254 723 753820, email: [email protected])

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