Every Christmas there is an immense pressure to buy gifts for everyone. Besides friends and family, there’s teachers, coworkers, holiday parties, the mailman, and potentially many more. If you buy gifts for everyone, it is understandably burdensome on the pocketbook. Not surprisingly, many people decide to make gifts on their own. A DIY gift can be a heartfelt memento that shows someone you took the time to make something for them…but it can also be a disaster.

In the age of the internet and Pinterest recipes, there is no shortage of DIY ideas. Many of these ideas seem promising and unique, yet once we look at the recipe they are often problematic. Water based products without preservatives, too many skin irritating essential oils, sprays without proper incorporating agents, poorly formulated skincare products. It can feel empowering to make your own items, but you also want to give a quality gift. So what are you to do?

We have the following advice when you attempt to make aromatherapy products.

  • If the product uses water or will be in contact with water, it needs a preservative. Most handcrafters do not have enough experience to make a quality water based product requiring additional formulation knowledge to create a safe product. Although sugar scrubs are a popular DIY product, they generally come into contact with water and thus also need a preservative. We recommend avoiding them and any other water based products.
  • Avoid making products that need emulsifiers/dispersants/solubilizers. Ever notice how when you add essential oils (or carrier oils) to water (dont!), witch hazel, aloe vera juice, or low proof alcohol, it separates? Room sprays are popular DIY recipes, but they are actually one of the more complicated items to make properly. Many recipes for essential oil room sprays use witch hazel or distilled water. No matter how vigorously you shake, those two will never combine. It’s chemistry. Also, as stated above, any water based product (including distilled water) would also need a preservative. If the ingredients in the product you make separate from each other and include water, witch hazel, aloe vera juice or similar, then it’s probably best to avoid.
  • Bath Salts, another popular item, need to include a dispersant, solubilizer, or surfactant to properly incorporate the essential oils into water as well. When using essential oils in the bath you will need a dispersant, solubilizer, or surfactant.  Without it, the oils will be full concentration, coming in direct skin contact and increase the likelihood of skin irritation.  
  • Make sure you dilute any products intended for topical use. Essential oils are incredibly strong, often 50x+ stronger than the herb. Less is more when it comes to oils, so if you want to make something, like a blend, then make sure it is properly diluted. In general, we recommend 1 drop essential oil for every 100 drops (1 teaspoon) of carrier oils (olive, coconut, avocado, sunflower, etc). Avoid using potentially skin irritating oils like lemongrass, cinnamon bark, oregano, or phototoxic oils such as most of your citruses. Stick to gentle oils like lavender and make sure to label all ingredients used in case the person has an allergy. Avoid making products like this for young children
  • Try to make products that are the least likely to cause an adverse reaction.

You can make lovely aromatic gifts with little risks attached. The following are ideas for aromatic gift items that are unlikely to cause a reaction unless an allergy is present:

Personalize these items with cute labels and packaging, add instructions if needed and you have a lovely gift you made with love.

As you can see, aromatherapy is not just limited to essential oils. It includes a variety of aromatics that excite the olfactory system and invoke emotional and physical well-being. Herbs, dried floral blossoms, fragrant leaves and stems, spices, conifers, resins, essential oils, and even culinary dishes all fall under the broad umbrella of aromatherapy.  If it has an aroma, it can be therapeutic.  

We hope you have a safe and aromatic holiday!

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