Oils, butters and other active principles


Oils, butters and other active ingredients

When I started to pay attention to cosmetics, differently than as an ordinary consumer, I noticed that the same active ingredients (i.e. agents responsible for the effectiveness of the product) were repeated in the composition of several creams and organic lotions: they are mainly essential oils, vegetable oils (extracted from flowers, fruits, seeds and vegetables, like almond oil, calendula oil, oil from grape pips etc…) and butters like butter from the shea or cocoa tree . Since there are exhaustive works about the properties of essential oils and vegetable oils used in beauty care, my goal here is to give only a few examples, leaving you the pleasure of their more thorough discovery. Their world is fascinating, their legendary effectiveness and their thousand-year-old history: some have been known since Antiquity (the Sesamun Indicum which has given us sesame oil has been cultivated since 2500 BC), or the Middle Ages, others come directly from the court of Louis XIV (the oil of the grape pip), from Central Asia, the Mediterranean basin or have been bequeathed to us by the wisdom of the American Indians, while  shea butter is a true gift to humanity coming from African women. Knowing that they have arrived to us from as far, as much in time as in space, I invite you to experience the discovery and the exploration of oils and butters like a historical and cultural journey. These products are the main theme, the continuum of our “cosmetologic” memory and its rediscovery is a healthy return to the origins, to authenticity, to the earth, the sun and the subtle and fresh perfumes of nature.

We received from ancient Egypt a very rich inheritance not only cultural but also cosmetic; there are documents proving that, as of the first dynasty (2920-2770), one used toothpaste, anti-cellulite, anti-stretch-marks, and anti-wrinkle creams. The faith of the Egyptians required that only a clean and scented body should present itself before the gods which explains why the products of hygiene and  cosmetics were used as much by women as by men.

In the VIIth and the XIIth century BC, the focus was put on general hygiene. Hippocrates, a Greek medical doctor, said that each man should do physical exercises, take baths containing olive, almond and seeds of sesame oil, and wash his hair, body and teeth with aromatized creams.

The same active ingredients can often be found in conventional cosmetic products and organic ones although conventional products contain more active ingredients of animal origin such as embryonic and placental extracts or organic bio stimulines produced by animal tissue or vegetable fibres put together. What distinguishes the active ingredients entering the composition from both types of cosmetics is at the level of the quality and the quantity of these products. Conventional cosmetics use esterified oils resulting from the laboratories or from plants treated, modified, coming from chemical agriculture, from which the active ingredients are extracted chemically. Essential oils as well as vitamins “ of natural source ” are synthetic (of which the effectiveness is lesser compared to natural ones) while certified organic cosmetics use plants, flowers, fruits coming from an agriculture without chemical treatments, essential oils obtained by distillation with vapor and, in accordance with the respective specifications, there exists an obligatory minimum of these active ingredients which must be found in the composition of the product. Obviously, one does not speak here about the additives, the preservatives, the dyes, the surface-active, the stabilizers and other ingredients which make up the differences between two industries. This was seen in the chapter on «  Differences between certified organic cosmetics and  conventional cosmetics ».

I sincerely admit that if one had proposed to me all these natural oils as substitutes to the creams and the lotions during my period of consumption of conventional cosmetic products, I would not have strongly reacted… When one is far away from the world of “organic beauty”, one always thinks that they are “light” alternatives of the “real active ingredients” contained by the traditional cosmetics… What a mistake!  The attraction of the plant-active ingredients comes not only from their healthy origin, their virtues and their properties, but also owing to the fact that vegetable oils and particularly essential oils penetrate quickly and deeply in the skin to reach the blood flow while thus acting on the surface, on the skin, but also inside the organism which gives some certainty in terms of effectiveness. Certain ingredients of conventional creams such as paraffin or petroleum jelly block the pores of the skin thereby preventing the penetration of the product. In spite of two years of intensive treatments, surgical interventions, of a chemotherapy and a menopause induced by the vertiginous fall of estrogen of rigor (the hormone of femininity and the beauty of the skin), thanks to these wonders of nature my skin feels better than ever!

I initially observed which were the most used essential oils and I made myself a small kit in aromatherapy. I bought all the oils recommended for my type of skin (see the books or documents on the Internet) and of basic oils (such as the oil of wheat germs and the oil of almond) and I made mixtures which I preserve in small bottles of dark glass which I use in alternation on evenings, several times per week.

Caution! Essential oils must be diluted in vegetable oils, we cannot use them as we buy them given their great potential allergen. We must test them before use and take precautions with those photosensitizing. I will not give receipts here, because you can easily find on the Web the sites specialized in the use of essential oils or many books [1]   like Votre beauté au nauturel ( Your beauty with naturalness)  Cosmétiques: le pire et le meilleur  ( Your beauty with naturalness or Cosmetics: the worst and the best  which, besides, was useful to me as a principal source for the description of oils) by Chantal Clergeaud if you wish to manufacture your own creams or beauty elixirs. Here are only a few examples: HE from roses (healing, strengthening, sweetening, tonic), HE from ylang-ylang (anti-wrinkle, anti-inflammatory drug, healing), HE from rosemary (strengthening, renovating), HE from lavender (effective against blotches and acne), carrot HE (anti-wrinkle, nutritive), HE from geranium (disinfectant, hardening, tonic, renovating, anti-wrinkle). Go ahead at your rhythm and your budget to build your necessary aromatic, but the more you will explore the more you will enjoy it, because the results are undeniable. This small essential oil case can be a little expensive though, between $200 and $300, certain oils are very expensive (and this is why you will find them enumerated at the very end of the list of ingredients of the cosmetics…) but in the end and since one makes use of it with utmost frugality, this proves to be a very good investment. Essential oils are preserved very well, during years, in their bottles of opaque glass, safe from light and moisture. Do not lose sight of the fact that a cream or a lotion for the skin is made up of water from 70 to 90%, go thus to …the essential!




Laboratoires de Monceaux offer very competitive prices for essential oils, the Lavender  (Lavandula Vera) for example, 20 ml, $15. Prices are even more interesting when we buy more products in the shop.




Here, in addition to other excellent vegetable oils, true pledges of happiness that you do not need to manipulate and whose discovery and effectiveness will upset you to the point where you will not be able any more to do without. On more than one occasion, I offered to my friends as a gift some of these oils and butters and I could observe at which point their discovery had changed them as well as the instantaneous and final turn which they took towards this kind of cosmetic.  Oils and butters advantageously replace any cosmetic product , it is enough to try them to be convinced. You can use them while on cure in a spa or alternating to benefit fully from their various properties.  You can apply vegetable oils directly to the skin of the face or the body, but it is always preferable to test a drop of it on a dry zone (inside the fold of the elbow) for a maximum of precaution.

Choose as much as possible essential oils as well as vegetable oils coming from certified organic agriculture and apply them to a dry and clean skin. The oils must be pure, of 1st cold pressure, virgin, non-refined, be preserved in bottles made of opaque glass and provided with a spray for a more practical and hygienic use.

The use of these oils becomes very personal, but in general they are better for night care; one can as well use them in the morning, before the make-up (if the oil penetrates easily without leaving a fatty layer on the skin, dependent on our tastes and our tolerance) to replace the facial cream. I will not go as far as to tell you how many drops to put on, because our needs are different according to the characteristics of our skin. In general it is said that the skin absorbs that what it needs and that the surplus is wasted. As for me, I prefer to use them liberally, it is a question of taste, there is nothing scientific about it. They can be also used as make-up remover or for massages ensuring a better penetration besides. For the oiling of the body, it is preferable to choose a time when you are not very much in a hurry, like in the evening before putting on our pyjamas, in order to give a few minutes to the oils to penetrate in the skin before dressing oneself.

You will find vegetable oils, HE and butters in several brands, I make some suggestions but the choices are numerous and they are not very important in so far as they observe the conditions outlined here above.

And for those who think that it is necessary to put on creams to hydrate, make no mistake, oils have also the property to retain the moisture of the skin, stimulate the formation of a protective layer of the skin and keep a healthy warmth around the body. The more the skin ages, the better it reacts to the substances which have the same molecular structure as its own natural oils. Pure oils from plants and essential fatty acids are more easily recognized and absorbed by the skin. Personally I use manufactured creams only when, according to the circumstances, I cannot use oils or butters which are fattier to use and need a certain time of penetration (the oil of jojoba is not fatty at all and penetrates easily in the skin).

Oils for the face:

Rosehip oil / L’huile de rose musquée du Chili ( Rosa Mosqueta Robiginosa ) organically certified ECOCERT by Divine essence, 30 ml, $14.99 (contains 0.25% HE Bois de rose + 0.25% HE Palmarosa), regenerating, restructuring, nutritive in-depth, healing (rich in vitamin A), smoothing, anti-wrinkle effect, excellent on very dry and wrinkled skin, numerous dermatological virtues, a complete beauty product and impossible to circumvent for long-duration purpose.

Oil of jojoba ( Simmondsia Chinensis ) without any addition in DexSil-labs, hydrating, sweetening, revitalizing, advised against acne, protects from the sun because equipped with a protection index 5, it can be preserved in an unlimited way because it does not grow rancid, it is quite simply miraculous!. This oil can be used during the day because it is not fatty during the use.
  Oil of Bourrache (Borago Officinalis) certified organic cosmetic  in Melvita, 50 ml: rich in vitamin A, D, E, K and in poly-insatured fatty acids, it is anti-oxydant, anti-age (tocopherols), it is the oil of reference for flexibility, vitality, tonicity and comfort of the skin, it brings a very rich hydration to dry, mature and tired skins because it is very fluid and penetrating.
  Oil of argan (Argania Spinosa) is richer than almond, it forms a protective layer coating and is very soft on the skin, it is softening, hardening, sweetening, healing, it is recommended for dehydrated, wrinkled skins as well as against cracks and burns, rich in vitamin E, it is a natural and effective anti-wrinkle (tocopherols). Suggestion: certified organic argan oil and resulting from fair trade in Zorah Biocosmetiques , 30 ml, 19.99$
  Onager oil (Œnothera Biennis) is a richer and thicker oil, rich in poly-insatured fatty acids and vitamin A, D, E, it is restructuring, anti-wrinkle and regenerating, recommended for dry skins and the prevention of wrinkles, protective against external aggressions (bad weather).
  Kamelya Aromacosmétique Multipurpose Dry Oil , skin, hair, nails,  25.99 $.

INCI : Camellia Sinensis Oil  2 , Rosmarinus officinalis Oil  0 , Pelargonium graveolens  Oil  0 .


To my sisters affected by breast cancer: if your surgeon will answer you, about these oils with healing virtues: “There is No evidence!” try them nevertheless and you will see the “evidence” on your own scars! Nothing better to heal quickly and well than the Rosehip oil  from Chile, HE of diluted savory and vitamin E!


Oils for the body : the only criterion which separates oils for the face from oils for the body is the price! You can thus invert the uses according to your budget.

- Sweet almond oil (Prunus Dulcis) has been known since the Middle Ages for its multiple virtues not only in beauty care; it is rich in unsaturated fatty acids and in vitamin A, D and E, smoothening, softening, nutritive, strengthening, effective for cracks of the breasts and it is used for the delicate care of babies.
- Wheat germ oil (Triticum Vulgare) is a thicker oil of yellow color with a perfume of wheat in the sun, rich in fatty unsaturated acids and with vitamin A, D, E, it is smoothening, nutritive, regenerating, protective (attention, it goes rancid easily).
- Coconut oil (Cocos Nucifera) gives an absolute pleasure with its delicate perfume and its refreshing effect, it is lenitive, hydrating, it is very indicated in the event of drying of the skin (it should be rubbed between the fingers before extending it on the skin).
- Grapeseed oil  rich in polyphenols which are considered as the best combined anti-oxydants in the fight against ageing, it is lenitive, ex-foliant, refreshing, anti-radicals, regenerating, nutritive.
- Olive oil (Olea Europaea) can do miracles as regards esthetics if it is used with other ingredients like lemon, coconut milk or honey; thanks to vitamin E which fights the formation of free radicals, responsible for ageing, it also improves acne and eczema, because it nourishes skin in-depth and invigorates it; it is recommended to fight against irritations of the skin, put some drops in your bath water! Economical suggestion: certified organic olive oil by Kirkland at Costco.
- Sesame oil (Sesamum Indica) comes to us from India and because of its essential fatty acids which restructure cutaneous fabric, it acts effectively against irritations (eczema, psoriasis, exfoliation) and drying, and its anti-oxydant components “sesamol” and “sesaminol” make a restructuring oil of it.

are worthy of being explored such as the one of apricot pits which gives a good complexion to certain skins by tightening the grain of the skin, the clearing up oil of Neem [2] hazel nut oil (remarkable for scaling the skin) or the extremely fluid oil of macadamia , which penetrates immediately in the skin without leaving a fatty layer (as the oil of argousier besides!) and which is perfectly appropriate for fragile skins.

All these oils are easily available on the market in very varied brands and formats in the stores of natural products and in certain groceries. Go there according to your tastes and your budget. When in the phase of exploration, I suggest you share and exchange your discoveries with your girlfriends and the members of your family.


ARGANAT CANADA FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH SERUM  – Natural firming  anti wrinkle treatment, 15 ml, $ 39.99


Artificial fragrance free, colorant, preservatives and alcohol free. Vegan. No animal testing.


Subtle aroma of orange blossoms, a true delight to use, only active ingredients in the composition, with a 0 rating on Skin Deep, this product is simply sublime! This is the proof that you can put together all the characteristics of an excellent cosmetic product: efficacy, honesty, joy, simplicity, safety.


Seabuckthorn Seed Oil, 25 ml, $ 29.99 by Kamelya Aromacosmétiques .

Extreme regenerative anti-aging.

INCI : Hippophae Rhamnoides Oil 0

This oil is exceptional for mature skin, we feel that the cellular memory of our skin turns to recognize a natural substance, entirely compatible with our origins. Seabuckthorn has a smell somewhat “fishy”, but his wealth and benefits are genuine and effective.



The majority of the above-enumerated oils have protective properties against solar UV. Sesame oil has the property to absorb ultraviolet rays, that is why it enters like an additive in the formulations of sun lotions; coconut oil can be used for protection against the sun but also after sun; the oil of grape pips is rich in OPC (which protect from the toxic effects of UV); the oil of jojoba is naturally equipped with a solar filter of protection 5; olive oil is famous for its protection against solar rays as well as the essential carrot oil and the avocado butter which have the capacity to absorb UV rays.



Massage oil for relaxation (Détente) by Laboratoires de Monceaux designed for massage  and body care is a beautiful blend of vegetable and essential oils. 60 ml, $ 7.

Ingredients: huile d’amande douce (sweet almond oil 1), HE orange (orange sweet essential oil 0), HE marjolaine (thymus mastichina oil 0) et HE lavande (lavandula angustifolia oil 1).



An excellent 100% natural product for rough skin is Penny Lane Rough Skin Balm . $ 14.99

Hemp oil contains the ideal ratio of omega 6, omega 3 and  vitamin D and it is excellent for very dry skin. This product helps relieve irritation caused by skin rashes, burns, psoriasis, dry skin. It is also safe to use as a cream against diaper rash.

Ingredients: Hemp Seed Oil (Cannabis sativa) 0 , Olive (Olea Europaea) Oil 0 , Calendula (Calendula officinalis (Flower) Extract 0 , Chamomile (Anthemis Nobilis) Oil 0 , Coconut Oil (Cocos nucifera) 0 , Shea Butter (Butyrospermum parkii) 0 , Beeswax (Cera Alba) 0 , Vitamin E (Tocopherol) 1 , Zinc Oxide 1 , Distilled Water (Aqua).


Attention!  Read labels carefully!


A well-intentioned person who wants to make a safe purchase in a store that says that products on the shelf are “natural” and that the label says “Argan Oil“, this person, may be, unfortunately, completely fooled. Here is an example. 


One’n Only Argan Oil derived from Maroccan Argan Trees Oil Treatement/Traitement à l’huile d’agan/Instant Shine/Smoothness/Frizz control/Color protection/Alcohol free


INCI: Dimethicone 3, Cyclopentasiloxane 3, Dimethiconol 0, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate 1, Fragrance  (Parfum) 8, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil 0, Yellow 11(CI47000) 1-4, Red 17(CI26100) 5.



Dimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane and Dimethiconol = environmental toxic silicones
C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate = emollient agent derived from alcohol
Fragrance = undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and allergenic synthetic ingredients of high toxicity
Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil = the natural ingredient put forward on the label is on a 6 th position only
Yellow 11 (CI47000) = yellow dye
Yellow 11 (CI47000) = red dye, toxic and bioaccumulative

The consumer has purchased a plastic silicone cocktail  that is used to give the “emollient texture” to the product, with high environmental toxicity because once widespread in the nature, most silicones take hundreds of years to disintegrate, a little alcohol, two synthetic dyes and a few drops of argan oil. You know that the ingredients are listed according to their importance in the product, the volume it occupies. The natural ingredient is found only in the sixth position on the 8 ingredients of the formula of this product! (only the manufacturer knows the exact percentage of the ingredients).


Shea butter is an edible vegetable substance extracted from the fruits of the shea tree , a tree growing in the wooded savannas of West Africa and whose name means “life” in the Mandigo language. It is especially known for its cosmetic properties like hydrating agent and softener of the skin. These properties are such that it has today become a genuine champion in the industry of organic cosmetics. The harvest and the extraction of the shea tree are mainly carried out by women of rural areas.

Here are the composition and the properties of shea butter as described by Wikipedia.


oleic acid (40-60%); stearic acid (20-50%); linoleic acid (3-11%); palmitic acid (2-9%); linoleic acid (<1%); arachidic acid (<1%) [1].

Cosmetic properties:

Protective action against drying of the skin; hydrating activity for the skin and the hair, particular properties of softness and consistency.

Protection against solar  erythema .

According to certain clinical observations , it seems that shea butter would support an increase in local capillary circulation which would allow a re-oxygenation of tissue and would improve the disposal of metabolic waste.

Healing action on wounds, treatment of dry desquamative dermites, of cracked hands , of  ulcers , stretch marks , eczemas through regeneration of the epidermic surface layers. 

Shea-tree butter can be applied to all parts of the body and the hair and does not present any risk of allergy. Like coconut oil, it will be initially heated between the hands before application.  Shea butter is a family product, because it is not solely intended for women but can be used by men, for skin care after shaving and, for babies, the protection of their skin.

Shea butter is a real delight of nature and if you do not know it yet, it will certainly be a real revelation for you.

Shea butter (pure at 100%) is sold by several companies in Canada (organic product from fair trade certified ECOCERT thus a double good deed if one excludes one’s own pleasure), but personally I prefer it whiter, without lumps and unpleasant odor (whiter and softer-to-touch butters are mixed with a little natural vitamin E). However, I must say that when is whiter, the butter is chemically bleached and deodorized and this is not quite 100% natural. Moreover the Shea butter, it comes from fair trade which will enable you to take part in the well-being of the people of Burkina Faso. I have been completely conquered by this product and if there were only one choice to be made in this whole book, I would tell you it’s the shea butter!


Offering a high quality, certified organic, fair trade and unrefined shea butter, KARIDERM follows a traditional process of extraction that guarantees purity and a superior quality butter. 60 ml, 12.95 $

INCI: Butyrospermum Parkii*

*Certified Fair Trade and Certified  Organic by ECOCERT


Avocado butter is also an experience to be tried. I adored the one sold by the Quebec company DuSenza, 65g, 13.99 $ which comes with a small very practical and hygienic spatula. I saw not one of them certified. Very regenerating and rather thick, this consistent butter can be used as a day cream, because it can last all day long. It is rich in various vitamins in a balanced way (A, B, C, D, E, H, K and PP); it forms a protective and nutritive layer making it possible for the skin to regenerate and recover its normal state and its elasticity. It reinforces the skin and re-ignites natural hydration, which makes it a good choice for atopic skins. Avocado butter activates the synthesis of collagen and stimulates the growth of the cells, calms itchings and is a powerful anti-inflammatory drug.

The avocado and shea butters make excellent hand cream!

  Cocoa butter of yellow ivory colour with chestnut results from the pressure of cocoa broad beans (which in addition makes it possible to obtain cocoa powder). It is used in cosmetic products such as lip balsams, hydrating milks, facial creams and body lotions for its hydrating properties. It indeed contains fat content of 53% to the nutritive, lenitive and regenerating virtues for the skin, of the natural anti-oxydants which would contribute to the youth of the skin, and it has healing virtues (in the event of burns in particular). It can be preserved for a long time (2 to 5 years).  Now solutions – cocoa butter 100%, pure, 8.99 $ .


Some other active ingredients easy to find on the market.


  The natural vitamin E plays the role of purifier of the free radicals by blocking the process of oxydation of the skin. It improves the softness and the flexibility of the skin, helps to reduce old scars and supports the healing process. It is used as a preservative in certain oily formulas and the risks of allergic reaction are very tiny provided that it is natural.

The pure vitamin E at 100% is on sale in pharmacies or in shops of natural products, accessible and very effective against acne… to put on in the evening before going to bed because… really fatty! I love it! Caution! Buy a natural one and not “of natural source” or “nature like” which means synthetic. Another option is to open the capsule of vitamin E and to extract the oil from it.

Vegetable glycerin [3]   is, according to Rita Stiens, the first hydrating agent of the skin.

The aloes vera abounds with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and amino acids, try to buy it as pure as possible.

By using some vegetable oils and two butters as creams for the body, the face, the hands, as make-up remover or as an after-shave lotion, two clays ( a green one for the masks and the ghassoul for the hair), an essential oil such as lavender and olive oil for your bathwater, you have reduced to zero the toxicity in your products of beauty care, you encourage fair trade and an organic agriculture, you are ecological, because you have reduced the number of products in your bathroom, but especially you will maintain effectively and embellish your skin undoubtedly. It suffices to stop buying our products of beauty care in big supermarkets while visiting the good stores.

The same oils with the same pleasures can walk from the bathroom to the kitchen to decorate your dishes and to put a little exoticism on your plate.

According to Rita Stiens, the absorption of the active agents is determined by the degree of hydration of the skin [4] . So, grab your water bottles, ladies!


Guide of non-toxic hygiene, beauty and cosmetic products

[1] ↑ La Bible de l’aromathérapie ( The Bible of aromatherapy ) by  Nerys Purchon.

Aromathérapie- les Huiles Essentielles et les soins de la peau  ( Aromatherapy Essential Oils and the care of the skin ) by  Marie-Claire Laparé

Les huiles végétales : huiles de santé et de beauté ( Vegetable oils: oils of health and beauty ) by Chantal et Lionel Clergeaud

[2] ↑   Used in the United States, Canada and in several European countries for organic agriculture, the oil of neem is prohibited in France because it is considered as a “hormonal disruptor”…do your research because there is a polemic going on about this…

[3] ↑ Visit Website  http://www.revelnature.com/glycerine-vegetale-naturelle-base-neutre-pour-base-massage-200ml-xml-0-2576.html

[4] ↑ Rita Stiens, La vérité sur les cosmétiques, Leduc Editions, 2012, page 53

2 thoughts on “ Oils, butters and other active principles

  1. Many thanks for your information on oils and butters. It confirms my penchant for using shea butter ( I use the druid brand) Although I have been only using if for three weeks I can see the improvement in the texture and clearness of my skin. Your research is appreciated.

  2. Merci pour les infos. Je vais me mettre à ses soins. Je vais utiliser les références pour en connaître davantage. Ça tombe juste à point pou moi. Je suis sur le point de changer mes produits.

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