|We take purity one step further, by not only
providing products free of artificial fragrances, but also free of
solvent (hexane) extracted essential oils.
We have found that people with sensitive skin are
susceptible to the chemical solvents used to extract essential oils and
There are now three major methods used to separate an
essential oil or extract from its plant source (roots, bark, flowers, leaves,
seeds, stems, etc..). The traditional and purest method is called
steam distillation, which uses only pure water to separate
and harvest the essential oils. The second method uses carbon dioxide (CO2) instead of water to separate the oils/extracts.The third method utilizes
petrochemical solvents, such as hexane and ethanol, to isolate the essential oil from its plant
source. Naturally, we prefer essential oils and extracts that are isolated using either steam distillation or carbon dioxide.
Generally speaking, you cannot ascertain an essential oil's
extraction method simply by reading the ingredient label. However, some
companies do identify them. Carbon dioxide extracted essential oils may be written on the label as "CO2 extracted". Essential oils with the word "absolute"
after it, are typically solvent extracted using hexane and a type of alcohol (ethanol) [e.g. Rose Absolute]. Solvent based isolation methods can
extract more essential oil per pound of plant source than steam
distillation can, thus they make solvent extracted essential oils less
expensive to buy.
Unfortunately, traces of these chemical solvents
are found in the final product and can easily irritate people with
sensitive skin and noses.
Bottles of hexane/ethanol extracted essential oils still contain 1-5% ethanol and traces of hexane (1).
Delicate and expensive plant sources (like roses
and vanilla) are more likely to be solvent extracted than less expensive
plant sources (like lavender and chamomile). This could be why some
people with sensitive skin, do not typically enjoy or tolerate rose
scented products. We estimate that ~90% of skin care manufacturers that
use rose essential oils in their products, use the solvent extracted
In addition to their irritation potential,
aromatic petrochemical solvents like hexane, are toxic and long term
exposure to them can place a heavy burden on the body's detoxification pathways. If you already have chemical sensitivities, exposure to hexane extracted essential oils can exacerbate symptoms.
At Pure Complexions, we make it easy to find
solvent-free skin care products! Not only do we find the purest products
on the market, but we ascertain the extraction method used in each
essential oil they contain. Once a product passes our preliminary
approval, we then test the products on our own solvent sensitive staff
for the final vote.
When we state a product is "solvent-free" - it means that the essential oils/extracts in that product are isolated by safe steam distillation or carbon dioxide methods (not hexane).