Demystifying This Whole Oil Fad with Laura Lemon of Lemon Laine
It’s no secret that oils are a pretty hot commodity these days. Avocado oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, safflower oil, essential oils...the list goes on and on — as does the corresponding isle in the grocery store. But this interest in oils hasn’t always been so astronomical. Because parts of the beauty industry are thankfully moving away from the petroleum-based oils of yesteryear (the ones we hate that sit on top of your skin and block your pores) and moving towards the natural oils of now and forever (these are ones that actually do good for your skin because they’re derived from natural products like nuts, seeds and plants), people are becoming a lot more comfortable using oils in both their skincare and beauty routines.
But is it possible that we’re becoming too comfortable?
Although the benefits of many of these naturally-derived products can be just that — incredibly beneficial — the information about them can also be a little misleading. In order to get a better grasp on what to use and how to use it, I sat down with natural beauty guru Laura Lemon, founder and owner of Lemon Laine, to gain a bit of *clarity.*
Founded in 2017, Lemon Laine is a natural beauty and wellness shop located in East Nashville, and Laura Lemon is the mastermind behind this beauty oasis. With over a decade of experience in the industry, Laura has her finger on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to caring for your skin and your body naturally — and you can bet your tush she knows a thing or two about oils. Not only does Lemon Laine sell some fantastic packaged products in the realm of oils, one of the main features of the store is focused on the stuff: The Oil Bar.
You see why I went straight to Ms. Lemon for this stuff?
Unique to Lemon Laine, an appointment at the Oil Bar is an interactive experience between barista and client. “The Oil Bar process really is an in-depth consultation,” said Laura. “First, we talk through your skin goals — I don’t like to say skin type because [skin types tend to] change with the season — and second, we get to know what your current routine looks like.” Whether it’s your skincare routine, or your wellness routine, or even your sleep schedule, she says they can all have an impact on what shows up on your skin. "And it's not just skincare” she said, matter-of-factly. “It’s more than that! We find that oftentimes skin issues can be caused by a product that you’re already using or not using — or by something else entirely — so we really try to give a consultation on that whole routine instead of just saying here is this amazing oil that’s going to fix all your problems.” In the end, clients leave with a 1oz custom-blended oil that is created to suit their unique skin needs. They also receive additional beauty and wellness product recommendations that will compliment the bottle of oil.
Here’s how it works: The baristas begin with a base oil that matches with your skin goal. They then add in various different carrier oils to compliment that goal and further pack a punch. From there they finish the mixture off with just a few drops of essential oils. So what’s the difference between base, carrier and essential oils, you ask?
I asked the same thing.
A term used by the staff at Lemon Laine, a base oil is the starting point in the Oil Bar process; it is the foundation into which other carrier and essential oils are added. (Don’t worry - we’re going to get there). Lemon Laine has four slightly different base oils, all of which are made with herb-infused jojoba oil; the variance in herbs is what makes the four bases different. “Jojoba is a great base because it matches with your skin’s PH balance so that means it’s good for all skin types,” Laura explained. “We partner with Clary Collection to help us create these herbal-infused, high-functioning bases. Then we layer on the carrier oils and finish with essentials.” Funny enough (and confusingly enough!) jojoba oil is a carrier oil. But at Lemon Laine, it is used as the base. Are you following?
Step one: base oil. Step two: carrier oils. Step three: essential oils.
K. Got it.
But wait — what is a carrier oil?
Carrier oils are extracted by cold-pressing the fatty portion of nuts and seeds. These oils feel a little more oily to the touch than do essentials, which often feel similarly to alcohol when applied to the skin. Essential oils, then, are the lipid soluble (or dissolvable) mixtures of powerful aromatic compounds found in plants.
Now, both carrier oils and essential oils are used to help you meet your skin goal. But carriers are used far more liberally. They’re broken down into four major categories: calming, hydrating, rejuvenating, and clearing.
Calming oils are typically flare-appeasing; they’re used for sensitive skin and are often a good choice for those who are irritation-prone (try calendula, evening primrose, or hemp oil). Hydrating oils are [obviously] used for dry skin and often have a high omega fatty acid content. Those are typically heavier oils like avocado, sea buckthorn, and borage. Next is rejuvenating. “Rejuvenating oils are great for fine line and brightening,” Laura says. “They are really great at cell renewal and really good at turnover.” This category includes many in the floral family like jasmine, tuberose and neroli; prickly pear is another fantastic rejuvenating oil. Lastly, we have clearing. “Clearing oils are ones that are more geared towards oil production, such as balancing oil production in the skin and preventing breakouts. So they might also have some antibacterial properties in them, depending on which you use,” Laura explained. “Black cumin is amazing because it has so many antioxidants in it and it’s very light on the skin.” Other clearing oils include safflower and sunflower — oils that are really nice and light.
Okay. So basically, aside from essential oils, most other oils you could think of would most likely be considered a carriers. Got that? Good. Same.
Finally. We’ve made it: Essential oils. The ones you thought you were going to read about when you signed up to read this article. The ones you’ve heard so much, seen so much, and read so much about elsewhere. The ones that your hippie friend (who also loves healing crystals) uses on the reg. Essential oils take a whole distillation process to produce, in which they extract almost an alcohol or essence from a massive quantity of plants to receive a very concentrated and typically very fragrant oil. These oils live outside the carrier oil family and surprisingly (to me at least) are used in very small amounts due to their immense strength and power: they’re the workhorses.
Truth be told, when I first formulated this idea to write a story about oils, I intended to focus almost exclusively on essential oils. I was going to tell you: use lavender for calming; use grapefruit for awakening; use peppermint for cooling… You know, basic shit.
See, because I’m already moderately familiar with essential oils (I use them on a regular basis), my plan was to get Laura to confirm everything I already knew and have her expertise back me up. It was going to be easy! But the the fact of the matter is: she didn’t. And what she did tell me actually blew my mind a little bit.
Not only did I have absolutely zero clue about the “carrier oils” classification, I didn’t know how strong essential oils actually were. “Within the one ounce [of product that clients take home from] the Oil Bar, we use no more than 5 drops of essential oils,” Laura told me. “Diluting is so important.”
“Essential oils are so strong and concentrated, they have the ability to do some really powerful stuff,” she continued. “For example, citrus oils are phototoxic,” which means they render the skin susceptible to damage upon exposure to the sun. So applying citric oils to your skin and then going out into the sunlight could put you at higher risk for sunburn.
On the other hand, lavender oil is said by some to be estrogen-mimicking. There are schools of thought that say by applying it directly to your skin, it could get into your bloodstream and have an effect on the hormone levels in your body. “I don’t think this means you shouldn’t use it directly on your skin,” Laura told me. “It smells so nice and can have a really lovely calming effect! But it just means we should be more aware of how we’re using it and should be mindful about diluting.”
So then, what is the best way to use these oils? Mix ‘em up! Not only will it lend you to even more benefits, but mixing carriers in with your essentials will only mean more oily goodness for you to enjoy. Just think of it as diversifying your assets.