Kim Brookes of Perfino tells us more about where essential oils come from, how they are made, if are they vegan…. 

So generally, if an essential oil is not expensive, it’s not the real thing. Rose Otto, otherwise known as Rose essential oil, retails at around £48 for 2.5ml. That’s 5 dozen roses to produce a single drop. 

Rose essential oil is extracted through steam distillation. Large stills, traditionally made of copper, are used. This yields a very concentrated oil. Rose Otto is typically only used in aromatherapy. Rose Absolute, which is favoured in the perfume industry, is traditionally made using the enfleurage method, which involves animal fat or beeswax.

However, for those reluctant to use animal by-products, organic solvent extraction is now a commonly used technique for extracting this form of aromatic. The raw materials are submerged and agitated in a solution or bath that is capable of dissolving the desired aromatic compounds. The price remains as high as we are still dealing with vast quantities of handpicked ingredients to yield the oil.

Roses are grown annually and can be repeatedly harvested, however there are less fruitful plants that are more difficult to harvest, and it is critical that they are protected to ensure sustainability of the species. One such plant is Frankincense.

The oil is derived from the resin of the super hardy Boswellia tree, which typically grows in the dry, mountainous regions of India, Africa and the Middle East, often in places that are difficult to get to. It takes 8 to 10 years before the tree, when tapped, yields the streaks of resin, known as tears. Experts say that the tree should be cut no more than 12 times a year to keep them healthy.

Frankincense trees aren’t covered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the global treaty that regulates cross border trade in plants and animals, although experts argue that Boswellia species meet the criteria for protection. In countries such as Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan, where two thirds of Frankincense come from, the tree is threatened by over tapping and habitat loss. So, it is important to find a supplier in whom you have confidence that the sourcing is ethical and sustainable.

In the case of Rosewood—the world’s most trafficked item, even more than ivory—CITES has put restrictions on the trade of all 300 species in an attempt to reduce the illegal logging of this timber.

The situation is similar for Sandalwood, a vulnerable species, but one that is prized in perfumery for its heartwood and roots. As a result of uncontrolled harvesting in India, where it is highly valued for its use in perfumes, soaps, incense, cosmetics and medicines, it is increasingly being grown under governmental protection.

Remember, cheap versions are usually cheap for a reason, so it is important to know who you are buying from and to check their credentials. The best essential oils are grown sustainably, imported by wholesalers who regularly inspect not only the growing methods but also the work practices of the farmers or growers and have a historical and regular relationship with the growers.


Kim Brookes is the founder of Perfino, an innovative natural scent jewellery brand. Perfino combines expertly blended, 100% natural, pure essential oils with exquisite jewellery so you can wear scent all day long without any chemicals touching your skin.

Their stunning solid recycled silver and 18ct gold vermeil, artisan designed pendant comes with six lava stones and 10ml of carefully blended natural essential oils – all sourced from sustainable growers. One drop of oil on the stone in the pendant will give you a delicate fragrance that can last for days.

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