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Politics, Religion, & Essential Oils

The spa business is SO HARD.

Just kidding. (You were like “whoa, first world problems for real,” weren’t you?)

But in all honesty, “doing spa differently” as we say we do is really, really hard. Not hard like ending-world-poverty hard, but hard like redefining-business-model hard. Changing assumptions. Challenging traditional thinking. Asking people to forget what they know about spa and be open to a completely different approach. It ain’t easy, y’all.

A few weeks ago we had our first Supporting Kids Foundation in the spa for services, a mother and her 20-year-old daughter, who is fighting an extremely rare type of cancer. This gorgeous, smiley soul appeared to have beaten the disease once, but it’s made a comeback. Because sometimes life sucks like that. She and her mom came to Milagro for some care, some together time, some escape. And we were thrilled Milagro was being used in the way we intended. Good stuff.

That afternoon, while our new friends were enjoying their spa time, a dude came in that I believe was trying to sell me his essential oil & skin care line, although I can’t be sure, since he had no card, no printed info of any kind and was very non-specific, other than reciting buzzword-y phrases like “cell active,” “100% absorption,” and “clinical grade.” When I asked him what these things meant specifically, he continued reciting his script. I told him that we were happy with our essential oil vendor and that we probably weren’t interested, so he berated me for insulting him and said he would be sure to take my card and leave a review of our business online. Which he did.

He left angry and I sat down and thought “What . . . in the world . . . just happened?” I could not reconcile what was going on in our spa with this interaction up front. It was like two different planets, inside the same building.

Milagro isn’t a non-profit, obviously. We are a business. But we are a business that exists for the sole purpose of making people feel good and that often does not vibe (at all!) with sales. It particularly doesn’t vibe in the arena of skin care and unfortunately, these days, with essential oils.

The salesman who visited is by no means representative of everyone selling essential oils. But lately, as EOs have become more “mainstream,” opposing camps have been established and it’s created a civil war of which we want no part. So here is our official stance on essential oils:

We think they smell good (for the most part, anyway) and we like to use them (sparingly) because they smell good (again, for the most part…have you smelled palmarosa?)

And that’s it. Why do we use them sparingly? Because they are incredibly, incredibly potent and volatile compounds. We recommend a few drops mixed into base products for topical use or a few drops in an aromatherapy diffuser. We do not recommend they be ingested. And (other than occasionally lavender or tea tree) we never recommend using them directly on skin without a carrier. This has nothing to do with questioning the purity of the oils and everything to do with understanding and respecting how concentrated the oils are. If I enjoyed fear-based marketing, this is where I would point you toward studies that EOs have been shown to disrupt hormones and cause cytotoxicity (cell death) in skin cells. Shocking, right?

Not really. This brings me to the reason we choose not to buy essential oils from multi-level-marketing companies — dishonest and shady marketing techniques that, no matter how quality the oils, give us the heebie-jeebies. Things like creating and then trademarking certification terms — “certified therapeutic grade”, “certified clinical grade” — which have virtually no meaning. Or empowering their representatives/ambassadors to use scientific studies to prove points that said scientific studies don’t actually prove (see links above). Our advice when navigating these sales tactics? Beware the all (non) powerful “in vitro” studies. If you are told that specific oils do something (“kills cancer cells!”) in studies, and the study was performed in vitro (in a petri dish), the study means little, at this point, for human beings. Bleach also kills cancer cells in vitro, as does a long list of other things. The moral of that story? Asking sales reps (sorry, “consultants”) to use scientific studies that are attention-grabbing, but that most people don’t have enough expertise to make sense of, seems unethical.

Bottom line? We choose to carry essential oils from Mountain Rose Herbs because we trust their ethics and standards — and when it comes to EOs, that is important. Our plea to you? It sounds clichéd, but do your own research. You have the entire Interwebs at your fingertips. Google everything. You will find 10,461 opinions on any given topic. Always consider the source. Is this person selling me something?  From where does their research come? If they’re linking to scientific studies do they (or I) have enough knowledge to analyze the studies? Are they asking me to take leave of my faculties, ignore common sense, and just believe?

As with politics and religion, this may not be the best approach.

Keep the faith, Milagrans.


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