Are my Man-oils Real? – Testing Essential Oils

Oily men of the world unite!! We need make sure our stuff is real!! Well, at the very least not going to burn our face off hey? Anyway, a friend of mine who has been – let’s say dubiously – watching my little journey to date arrived at my place the other day with a bottle of lemon essential oils in his sweaty little man-mit! He told me that he went to a trade show for his work (he is a chef) and he got the oils in one of the swag bags. It was given to him to use in food and he wanted to give it to me as he is far from a believer in all things oils.

“Besides” he said… “It smells like you did after that bucks party” – So much for not reading my posts hey! We opened the vial and OMG… it smelled like the lemons had been left in the sun for a year before they were made into an ‘oil’. He reckoned they were cheap rubbish and I think he was right. He wanted to know how he could tell if they were real? We made a few checks and we agreed they weren’t. So, of course now I feel that I should share with the rest of you how to go about testing essential oils to make sure what you have is the real deal!

What are the risks?

In my previous post What are Essential Oils and do they work? – A skeptical perspective, I discussed the very manly processes undertaken to produce essential oils and highlighted the fact that fake oils are often filled with chemicals, carcinogens, synthetics, solvents and anything else that can be made to cut down the original oils or add fake smells. The issue is that when we add these oils to a diffuser, onto our skin, or even into our food we can open ourselves up to any number of risks including:

  • Rashes, itches, burns and scarring
  • Respiratory issues
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Nausea

At the end of the day, they are essentially producing the opposite effect than what we got the oils for in the first place.

How do we test/check our oils?

Luckily for us there are a number of quick and easy tests or checks we can do to help us determine whether the oils we have a real or fake. Let’s work through them:

1. Check the bottle

Beer bottlesHands up if you know why most beer bottles are brown – at least the ones we don’t need to put lemons in? And keep them up if you know why they are always made of glass? The answer is simple in that brown glass restricts the amount of UV rays that can penetrate the beer and alter the flavour. The bottles are made of glass as it is impermeable to oxygen and carbon dioxide – two things that make the beer go flat via oxidisation.

If you remember my post discussing the Risks of Essential Oils, I mentioned that essential oils are susceptible to oxidisation. So, all you have to do is keep in mind that essential oils are the same as a good beer in that they really need to be kept in a brown glass bottle or vial. Reputable oil manufacturers use brown glass so if yours is plastic or clear, it is probably fake or at the very least won’t last very long at all anyway.

2. Read the label

This one is not as fool proof but is also a good place to look. Check if the label says ‘100% Pure’ anywhere on it. I know this may make you skeptical as anyone can put anything they like on a label but in many countries there are consumer regulations that govern what can be put on a label in regards to the attribution of content facts. Other things to look for on the label are:

  • Ingredient lists that are only naturally occurring plants or fruits etc.Essential Oils Label
  • Use of Latin names in the ingredients (I know – I don’t know if they are right or not either, but it is apparently good that they are there when naming plants) – examples include Mentha piperita for peppermint or Lavandula augustifolia for lavender.
  • Full details of manufacturer – name, address, website etc.

3. Check the Price

There is a common saying that “you get what you pay for”. Now I know that it is cemented into the DNA of the human male to prove this statement wrong, but in the case of oils this is definitely the case. I am not saying that you must always get the most expensive oil you can find as like any product there are variations in price but if it is really cheap, it is probably not real.

The reason for this is quite simple… It takes 60 roses to make one drop of Rose Oil so it is not something that can be made cheaply – after all – we all know how much a dozen roses costs on Valentine’s day right guys?. Even if you take into account a more cost effective oil such as lemon, it still takes roughly 50 lemons to make a 15ml bottle. Obviously a bottle of lemon essential oil is going to be cheaper than rose essential oil, however another common tell-tale sign is if all of the oils on the shelf are the same price – i.e. if lemon costs the same as rose and they both cost 5 bucks, then walk away.

Dirty Shoes

4. Smell it

If it doesn’t smell like the actual plant or fruit it comes from, or smells like a ‘chemical’, well, you know the rest. I will acknowledge here that some of the oils we have smell like dirt (or worse) so depending on your own palette, this may not be the only thinking you should look at discussing the fake test… But trust me, if it is fake, you really can smell it – also the fake ones actually add things to stop them smelling so bad!

5. Run the paper test

If you are still unsure, or just need to test something manly and tangible, you can run the paper test. This is quite simple:

  1. Lay a piece of paper or paper towel on a flat bench or table (preferably on top of some alfoil or something as the oil will seep through).
  2. Place a single drop of oil on the paper and allow to dry.

If the oil is pure it will dry without any residue. Run your fingers across the paper and if there is an oily film on the paper (or ring around the original drop) then the chances are very high that your oils is not pure.

6. Check the website

No website? Probably not a good sign. In fact, if you search online for the brand name of the oil and all you can find is a large site (amazon, eBay etc.) where they are for sale then start those alarm bells a ringing. All respectable essential oils manufacturers will have a website outlining how they source, manufacture and distribute their oils. Look for information such as policies and procedures and information on farming or ethical programs.

Lavendar Farm

 

7. Check the laws in the country of origin

If you can find it on the label or website, you can always do a simple search on the laws governing the manufacture and distribution of essential oils in that country. The only thing to be aware of here is that they are often written in legal speak – and although we will study that carefully when it comes to the fuel ratio allowances in race cars etc. – it is not compelling reading when it comes to oils. If you are interested however, click here (Australian guidelines).

Essentially, these laws and guidelines dictate how they can be manufactured, what can be added and how they must be labeled. I can’t speak for other countries but I do know that in Australia for example that essential oil manufacturers must outline on their website how they are meeting their legal obligations and can suffer massive fines if breached.

8. GC/MS Testing

Now, if you reeeaaaallllyyy want to see if your oil is pure, you can take it to the laboratory for a Gas Chromatography (GC) Mass Spectrometry (MS) test. In short, the GC part of the test separates the volatile compounds of the essential oils and the MS part tests each compound to check for impurities.

If the oil test returns a percentage outside the acceptable level for a particular compound then it is highly likely it has been altered. For example, lemon essential oil usually contains about 70% limonene. If the test returns a level outside of say 50%, then it would be considered fake. These test will also pick up any chemicals or other impurities that have been added to the oil by the manufacturer.

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Conclusion

So there you have it… to be honest, if you want to ensure your oils are pure, just buy them from a reputable manufacturer. If however you are given a bottle or feel the need to purchase from the local $2 shop, then you may want to run a few of these checks to be sure that what you have is pure. In regards to our original trade show gift… well it was in the right bottle type however the only thing of note on the label was that it was 100% pure – i.e. no manufacturer details, risks or ingredient list. It smelled terrible (compared to my bottle of real lemon essential oil) and I could not find the manufacturer name online at all. That to me was enough and into the bin it went.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of poor quality oils out there so keep your eyes peeled, run a few simple checks and you will be good to go…

Until next time

Have fun

Paul


Related posts

What are Essential Oils and do they Work?
What are Essential Oils and do they work? – A skeptical perspective
paper scissors rocks
Man Versus Oils Research – Risks of Essential Oils
Shots
A Man Versus Oils Mansperiment – Essential Oils and a Hangover

 

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44 thoughts on “Are my Man-oils Real? – Testing Essential Oils”

  1. Finally a real web site talking seriously about this stuff.  Man I love this essential oil bit as I use it to relax or to energize, but I’ve had crap and so many web sites touting the same crap as something out of the garden of eden.

    You write real and everything is true what you say.

    Thanks for this.

    Reply
    • Hi Stew

      Thanks for your comments and I am glad that you have noticed that.  I am a fan of oils but will never spruike them to be something that are not, or that can push someone into something dangerous.  Thanks again.  Paul

      Reply
  2. Thanks for this informative post.  I’ve always been skeptical of such things.  You never really know the source of something unless you do it yourself but you can’t simply get everything you ever need on your own and, if you did, you’d have no time for anything else.

    I was unaware of the “paper test”.  I assumed essential oil would leave a residue, it’s oil after-all.  This is something I’m definitely going to use from now on as a “is it real” test.

    I’m always leery of labels and what the website says.  Maybe my trust in companies is less than admirable.  Yes there are laws but who actually follows them and when are companies tested to abide by them, I can’t say.

    Sadly I think the laboratory option is a bit out of my budget and time schedule.

    Price and paper will be my main go-to’s in determining purity most likely.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Hi Scott – I wouldn’t bother with the lab test either but some woth major skin issues do tend to go for them.  The paper test is a fairly good test on the basic level.  The paper will stain of course but there should be nothing on your fingers when you rub the ‘stain’.  Paul

      Reply
  3. I am a man who uses essential oils.  My practice so far has been to buy them from a local retailer here where I live.  I am a true believer in oils and also in you get what you pay for.  That means that you may have to pay a little more to make sure you have the oils that are going to work.  I wonder if you could tell me your experience with buying the oils online?

    Reply
    • Hi Dale, If I am being honest, I have only ever bought my online oils from Young Living as I know what I am getting.  I have however been given oils that have been purchased online via some amazon etc. and some were good and some not so much.  I have found that the cheap ones almost always fail at leat one or two of the tests oultined.  Having said that I have also bought some very good oils from a local market that are locally produced and not too hard on the hip pocket.  But yes, if you are going to purchase from the Amazons of the world, do some research on the manufacturer first for sure.

      Paul

      Reply
  4. Hi Paul<

    I purchased my first essential oils about a year ago. I wanted to try to use them and see how effective some were at keep the bugs off naturally, by using Citronella oil, or others. I found the Citronella was actually effective. I have had others say that other essential oils help keep bugs away also. Would you know other oils I could try to be effective bug repellents? I really don’t care for the smell of Citronella!

    I also am wondering if there is an expiration date with essential oils? Or do we just throw them out when they smell bad?

    Thanks for the information on essential oils!

    Chas

    Reply
    • Hi Chas

      A better smelling repellent could be:

      1 drop Lemon essential oil1 drop Peppermint essential oil1 drop Eucalyptus essential oil tablespoon coconut oil 

      As for expiries, due to their volaitily most oils companies will avoid putting expiry dates on their oils.  They will last longer if kept in a dark cool place but yes, once the smell starts to ‘change’ then it is probably a done deal.

      Hope this helps

      Paul

      Reply
  5. Interesting article, never knew about the paper test. We have many essential oils in our home, I will now be conducting the paper test. It’s definitely an eye opener, I actually have many bottles which are plastic, but color like the beer bottle. So far we have not had any reaction to this sort of thing, but will keep my eyes open for sure. 

    Reply
    • Hi Jag, yeah plastic bottles are usually a bad sign however not always the case.  If the oils are true then the only risk with plastic is that the oild may spoil sooner (like beer in plastic bottles).  thanks for your comments.  Paul

      Reply
  6. Hi  Paul, 

    I want to say  BIG thank you for this useful article in identifying whether a particular essential oil is good or not. looking at all the risk you listed in your post, it means that taking any fake oil intro the body can really have a very negative impact on yourself. Something I don’t want to do at all. Very serious risk and consequences like: Rashes, itches, burns, scarring respiratory issues, and the rest.

    I wouldn’t want to take such a risk at all. i have learned a lot from your tips on how to test whether an oil is fake or real. Using the bottle to check will be very easy for me personally. I would refrain from buying any oil in a plain bottle or a plastic bottle henceforth, looking what I have learned from this post.

    i will also be sure to always check the labels and prices before making any purchase of any oil. 

    Thanks so much for the tips you given us,

    Stephen.

    Reply
  7. Very good article and really helpful regarding to the oil tests. The example with beer bottles was perfect. What about to olive oil? Is there any kind of test on how can we distinguish the real one instead of industrial olive oil? I heard that the original olive oil does not freeze in the fridge. is it true?

    Reply
    • Hi Leo – unfortunately I don’t know a lot about olive oil however from what I can find is that it is not true that good olive oil won’t freeze.  It does not however seem to harm it.  I think if we apply the beer bottle rule though all of the good ‘brand’ olive oils do tend to come in brown or green bottles or metal tins not clear glass.

      Hope this helps

      Paul

      Reply
  8. I am impressed by the number of different essential oils and oil blends that you offer that I have never encountered before. i have a tendency to reach for the lavender oil whenever I want to diffuse for relaxation, but Kunzea, for example, might be a better option at times. I was wondering what other oils you recommend that have a calming effect and also which ones lighten moods during the grayer days in the Northern Hemisphere? 

    Reply
    • Hi Anne.. thanks for you comments.  Havng just come out of winter here in the land down under we found we were using ‘summery’ smells in the diffuser over the colder months.  Lemon, Lavender, lime and stressaway were common in ours over that time (not mixed).  We did mix Lavender and lime with Jasmine a couple of times.  It is not as cold here so they worked well for us.  I would also suggest amixture any of the fruity and leaf based oils (Pine, sandlewood)  – just have a play till you find the right one.  Hope this  helps, and of course I have another idea now for a new blog so watch this space..

      Paul

      Reply
  9. It just goes to show that you can be ripped off by scammers in just about any industry. I like your recommendation for the essential oils starter kit from Young Living – looks like a great deal for high quality. It would seem in the area of essential oils you really do get what you pay for so I’ll be suspicious of any deals that don’t pass the ‘smell’ tests – deal smells right and oil smells right. Thank you

    Reply
  10. Thank you so much for listing all these procedures one can take to check if the essential he would have bought is the right one.

    In April this year, I bought lavender essential oil as I wanted  to improve my sleep, someone advised me of buy Lavender, but after using it I had rash over my whole body. I was really frustrated.

    After some inspection, we found that it was not original lavender, it was just but fake. So checking before you use it, I think is very important.  

    Reply
  11. Wow! This is some really great information! Much of the research that you recommend can be done to verify the authenticity many products which makes this article even more useful.

    My wife puts some oil on my shoulder. While I’m not sure it works, I know that I feel better just having her rubbing on my shoulder, so I’ll take it!

    I certainly hope that I don’t open an oil bottle for a sniff and get an old pair of Chucks though. I hadn’t considered that possibility. I’m afraid to smell Anise or Cilantro. Yuck!

    Being an oils man, I’ll ask you…I have deep shoulder pain that I probably should see a doctor about, but I have work to do and bills to pay…you know…man thinking. Are any oils recommend to cut down minimal swelling and moderate muscular pain? I’m thinking that if these oils my wife rubs on my are real, then they’re just not meant to do what she’s suggesting they can.

    Thanks for the information. I’m going to turn my wife on to this article in case she’s buying the cheap stuff (though, that’s really not like her to do).

    One more question…60 Roses to make one drop of rose oil? Is there a rose recycling program? Thank of all those Valentine’s days, anniversaries and mother’s days, birthdays and more that could benefit from such a program, I mean, if Staples can give me a discount on toner for tuning in an old cartridge, perhaps flowers could work the same way!

    Reply
    • HI John – thanks for your comments.  Funny you should ask that.  I have tendonitis in my shoulder that to heal, I need to stop doing anyhing with it.  unfortuneately that is not good for my waistline so I use a mixture of Peppermint and Panaway and coconut oil.  I am not sure it is doing anything medical but it certianly does seem to help relieve the pain and certianly does warm it up for swimming etc….  so give that a shot.

      Not sure about the roses but not a bad idea so will check it out.

      Paul

      Reply
  12. Well thankfully, I purchase my essential oils from Sprouts. I did however have some essential oils that were given to me as a gift, and they just looked cheap…. so I that is why I went searching the internet for more information and found your site. . I had been questioning the validity of my oils since I have a toddler with very sensitive skin. But you gave me some very practical advice “If the bottle of lemon oil and the bottle of rose oil are both $5 then walk away” – and why you explained it so made perfect sense! A bouquet of roses DOES cost an arms & a leg, so why would a bottle be only $5? The bottle has no website on it, they come from Thailand apparently. Think after reading your article its safe to say that I should throw it out. Thanks so much !

    Reply
  13. Thanks for providing such great tips on checking if your oils are pure. I am definitely going to have to go check the oils I bought a little while back to make sure they are pure. Are there any reputable manufactures that you would recommend getting oils from that are for sure pure?   

    Reply
    • Hi Huy,

      The two most reputable manufacturers are Young Living (which I use) and DoTerra but I have noticed a lot of smaller manifacturers starting to hit the market which may be worth a look too.

      Let me know how you go

      Paul

      Reply
  14. Thank you Paul, I was shopping with a friend some days ago. She wanted to buy some essential oil but when she checked the label she saw something that made her change her mind. I should send her a link to your post so she can educate herself very well on essential oils. 

    Reply
  15. Hey Paul,
    Thanks for the great description of the type of glass used for oils! My husband and I both love using oils, especially over traditional medicine, if possible. In the past, we received some that were in plastic bottles (as a free gift) and smelled nothing like their namesake. They went directly in the trash and I don’t think we have ordered anything from that company since then (soap supplies). Only our pure oils are use.d anymore.

    Anyway, thanks again… great descriptions.

    Reply
  16. This is an important article for all of us that use essential oils, and it could save readers hundreds of dollars and headaches from using less than reputable sources and oils. I found it extremely useful and have bookmarked it for further review. There are many good tips on how to check quality…

    I particularly like the suggestion for placing a drop on a piece of paper, waiting for it to dry, and looking for residues that may indicate impurities in the oil. Here in Dubai, the prices are so high for many of the oils, yet still, there is little regulation as to what is in the oils.

    The other bits of advice that stood out for me is checking the websites, the chemical test results, and checking the laws in the origin country. I have has personal experiences with some of this, and most certainly I had to use many of the tips you mention.

    In my case, it was rose essential oils. Not rosewater, nor any derivative, but the concentrated oil that is used in many perfumes and lotions, etc. I was asked to arrange a sale of a significant quantity between someone who had a large quantity but no means to use it in his own products (it was provided as a payment in kind).

    We had to do testing from trusted sources since we had only paperwork that was not certified. The oil turned out to be genuine, but due to the lack of chain of custody (so to speak), the selling price ended up being much lower than the true value.

    Reputable companies that could have used the oil would not touch it because they did not want to take any risk on quality and perhaps sully their brand in the marketplace. There are companies that will take such product, as we experienced, and these are the ones you need to watch for.

    For those companies willing to compromise on quality, the bottom line is profits, health or other standards be damned. This is why I can appreciate your sage advice for consumers of such products. The reasons for caution and checking are real. You have done a service to essential oil users today. Thanks!  

    Reply
  17. Great article with great testing advise for the real deal. I did read about how some oil are being extracted from the parent material and some may really be harmful to the body. There are plants that are known for producing oily nuts or fruits but their are plants and plant parts one will hardly believe could give a drop of oil and yet you see their oil produced in large quantity at a cheaper price. I love the testing part though not likely going to laboratory but will run the paper test at home. Very informative. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  18. I’m glad i came across this site. Thanks for sharing this informative and educative post on essential oils. I have make researches on how to discover fake essential oils, but the results I have been coming across are not explanatory as this, I didn’t understand anything on if not until I read this post. Thanks for the enlightenment.

    Reply
  19. Oops, I was supposed to leave you a comment through WA, but I left it on your website instead. 🙁

    My hubby & I both use essential oils, and try to use those over traditional medicine. Great description of using the glass bottles, especially when compared to beer. We received some from a soap supply company in plastic bottles that smelled nothing like their namesakes. They immediately went in the trash. Glad to see there is a great following of men using oils as well!

    Cheers,

    Leslie

    Reply
  20. I really love using Essential Oils – they are a great addition to my arsenal of Natural Remedies.

    But I am really careful where I get them from. I try to buy organic 100% Pure Essential Oils from a buyer that I know that I can trust< and in this instance I never go for a cheaper option! I also make myself familiar with the prices which I can expect to pay for the various oils. As you say, the price which you can expect to pay for Rose Absolut is far greater than you would pay for lemon – you can expect to pay at leat $50 more for genuine Rose than for Lemon!

    I am also very careful where you recommend your buyers to purchase them, although it is perfectly possible to find good Essential Oils on Amazon, but make sure that you do your research first. Those words “100% Organic Pure Essential Oil” should ensure that your oil is good, and legitimate sellers even on Amazon will give the sources of their products.

    Your tests are really useful, and would be recommended for any suspect oils which you may have. After all, the whole point of Essential oils is that they must be 100% pure in order to be safe and effective.

    Very many thanks for a really interesting post.

    Chrissie 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Chrissie, and I 100% agree.  Essential oils are a thing that tend to invoke great emotion in people – a lot of it negative and I would bet that a lot of that comes from the purchase and use of poor quality and impure oils.

      thanks for your comments

      Paul

      Reply
  21. Paul I really enjoyed the review!

    I was completely unaware of this particular unaware of all the easy steps you can take to test your oils for purity. It was also great to learn why beer bottles are brown and that your oil containers should be as well.

    I definitely agree that it’s great to do the tests on the oil that has already been purchased by other vendors but I feel it’s best to purchase oils from a reputable vendor such as your website.

    You are no doubt an expert in oils.

    Thanks for the great read!

    – Jay S.

    Reply
  22. Hey Jay,
    I’m so far removed from the real world that I didn’t know until I visited your site that there were oils for men.
    Love your site, and this article is so informative.
    Blessings,

    hc

    Reply
    • Hi Howard, Yeah, there are so many manly, if not unknow, benefits to us men in the world of essential oils. Thankyou for your comments and for stopping by.

      Paul

      Reply

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