Our appetite for at-home aromatherapy is on the rise, with a number of British brands reporting an increased interest in the power of scent.
Take Neom Organics, the wellness brand that you might know for its candles, reed diffusers and bath products fragranced with inviting combinations of essential oils. Its sales have been increasing each year since the 2005 launch, reaching £25 million in 2019. Elsewhere, the likes of Aromatherapy Associates and This Works have seen upticks in sales.
And it’s not just specialist brands getting in on the act: high street stalwart Boots has launched a new range of botanical-infused beauty products running the gamut from cleansers to moisturisers to massage oils.
Home fragrance, in particular, is booming. A 2018 report by the Business of Fashion found that scented candles were the fastest growing segment of the fragrance market, with sales increasing by a third over the last two years. Last December, online fashion retailer Net-A-Porter saw a 180% spike in scented candle sales, as buyers stocked up on their favourite festive fragrances.
What is it we love about a carefully perfumed home? “Scent can calm, energise, de-stress, relax and aid sleep,” says Neom’s founder Nicola Elliot, “We’ve seen a huge growth in awareness and interest around the power of essential oils.”
For the uninitiated, different scents are reputed to have different emotional effects, so experiment until you find a blend that works for you. Rose, for example, is purported to have calming properties. If you need something to pep you up, lemon oil has earned a reputation as a mood enhancer, with some reports showing that it can help you feel more alert (although we’re not sure we’ll be swapping our morning coffee for a whiff of oil just yet).
Of course, scent is really a matter of personal taste. For those new to aromatherapy, Nicola suggests starting out with one candle or steam diffuser in the bedroom. If you’re struggling to know where to start, we’ve outlined some general guidelines below. Oils can be used separately or combined (you can pick up individual oils at stores such as Holland and Barratt and Planet Organic) so experiment to create your own fragrance, or opt for a pre-blended offering from a reputable brand.
Which scents for which room?
According to a 2017 report by the Sleep Council, almost three-quarters of Brits sleep less than seven hours per night and one in 10 of now don’t manage five hours. Lack of sleep can have a negative effect on your mental health. To help create a calming sanctuary that encourages you to drop off, Nicola recommends that trusty sleep-inducing herb, lavender, while Fran Johnson, development manager at Neal’s Yard prefers blends containing frankincense, neroli, vetiver and chamomile.
Best for the bedroom
This also goes for your living room, as this most likely where you wind down after a long day, so it’s important to create a calming space here too.
On the other hand, offices should be geared towards maximum productivity. Some studies have shown that rosemary can aid focus and clear the mind – just what you need when you’re settling down for an afternoon of paperwork. Fran, on the other hand, recommends fresher, fruitier scents like grapefruit, orange or lemon. “These give that zesty feeling that’s perfect for getting you going in the morning and encouraging positivity,” she says.
Finally, kitchens and bathrooms should feel fresh, clean and bright, so try uplifting scents like mimosa and lemon. “These scents work well in the office too,” says Nicola. “They’re really fresh and invigorating, so are great in the bathroom to give you some oomph in the morning.”
Best for the kitchen and bathroom
How do you know the essential oils you’re buying are good quality? “Check the active ingredient hasn’t been diluted in a base oil,” says Fran. “It should only contain the plant that is named on the box and nothing else.”
Whether you use a candle, reed diffuser or steam diffuser is up to you. Scented candles’ flickering light adds more ambience to dark and chilly evenings and there are plenty to choose at all price points in both natural and manmade waxes. However, for a high quality option, you’re looking at an average price of around £50, which for a 40-50 hour burn, can make replacing them pricey.
If candles give you a headache or they’re a potential hazard for young children or pets, a reed diffuser is a good alternative. Unlike oil diffusers, they don’t use electricity, so they’re more eco-friendly in that regard. However, they don’t tend to have the same scent throw as the other options.
Best for the office
Electric diffusers disperse the oil into the air within steam. Plug the diffuser in, fill it with water, add a few drops of your favourite blend and let it do its thing. You will need to purchase the diffuser and oils up front, but a bottle will last far longer than even the largest candle, so it can be a cost-effective option.
Remember that these oils are very potent and can cause irritation if applied directly to skin or in too large a dose. Don’t use too much and always dilute them in water, otherwise you may not get the intended effect. “A great example is lavender,” says Fran. “A few drops on a tissue by the pillow acts as a sedative to help you drop off – but too much will stimulate the opposite and wake you up!”
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