Written by Lisa Truesdale
If you’ve ever decorated a Christmas tree, worn a white wedding dress, or used lavender for its fragrance or its medicinal benefits, you can thank Queen Victoria, who ruled the United Kingdom from 1837 to 1901.
She didn’t invent any of these things, of course, but she was a pretty influential ruler, so if she liked something, chances are her loyal subjects would learn to like it too. In the case of lavender, it had already been around for centuries before Queen Victoria got her hands on it. The ancient Greeks used it to help treat insomnia and backaches. In medieval France, lavender was used to scent drawers, heal wounds, and ward off infections.
But the queen’s keen interest in lavender’s medicinal and fragrance benefits put it back in the spotlight, and today it’s used in everything from soap, lotion, shampoo, teas, and gourmet foods to sleep aids, candles, and healing salves.
One of the earliest known uses of lavender was in soap. In fact, the word “lavender” is thought to be derived from the Latin word “lavandula,” which in turn comes from the Latin verb “lavare,” meaning “to wash.”
Lavender oil is an aromatic herb that has been touted to have aromatherapy benefits on mood. The European Medicines Agency, which licenses herbal medicines, has allowed the use of lavender oil in medicines for the relief of mild symptoms of mental stress and exhaustion, and as a sleep aid based on its “traditional use.”
“Traditional use” means that, at this point, there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that lavender can affect our moods. However, current research suggests that mood benefits from lavender are definitely plausible, and it has been safely used for several decades without medical supervision.
The fresh floral scent of the essential oil, and of the fresh or dried flowers and buds, is used in aromatherapy because of its calming effects, helping to reduce stress and promote relaxation and sleep. Using soap or body wash made with lavender essential oil, lavender flowers, or both can be a healthy, calming, and aromatic way to start the day -- and you’ll smell good, too!
The fragrance chemical that gives lavender its distinctive scent is called linalyl acetate. There are documented cases of people experiencing reactions to it, especially if they are exposed to it daily, such as with massage therapists or skincare technicians who use it on their clients.
Airborne inhalation can cause an allergic reaction, resulting in sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes. Meanwhile, lavender oil can cause an allergic contact skin reaction, which shows up as an itchy rash in people sensitized to the oil. According to this Australian study, just 2.2% of a group of participants who already had sensitive or allergy-prone skin tested positive for a lavender allergy. From this, it is safe to assume that lavender allergies are quite uncommon and only affect a small fraction of the overall population.
It’s also worth noting that the aforementioned Australian study was merely a retrospective study done with lavender oil at 100% concentration. Many lavender soaps, including the ones we make and sell here at Puracy, contain far less than 1% of lavender in the total concentration, making them far less likely to cause skin sensitivity issues.
If none of your family members is sensitive or allergic to lavender, then lavender soap is perfectly safe to have in your home. There are all types of lavender soaps and cleaners on the market, including those that clean dishes, floors, and laundry in addition to your body and hair.
You can make your own lavender soap at home in a jiffy! Many DIY recipes, like this one from Martha Stewart, use an unscented goat’s milk soap base that you just cut up and melt. You can also purchase a complete melt-and-pour kit from your local arts and crafts store and follow the included directions.
Speaking of directions, if you’re making lavender soap at home, don’t overdo it on the amount of essential oil you use -- always follow a soap recipe exactly regarding how many drops to add. European Union cosmetic standards dictate that the amount of lavender essential oil should not exceed 3 percent of the total weight of the batch of soap, and the recommendation for many essential oils is only 1 percent or less, depending on the oil. Luckily, most soap recipes from reputable sources do the math for you.
As we mentioned earlier, our natural lavender (& vanilla) soaps at Puracy use far less than 1% lavender in the total concentration. We also do not use perfumes. By contrast, many traditional lavender soaps add perfumes to the lavender essential oil, and these perfumes can cause skin sensitivity issues in some people.
When purchasing lavender products to clean and freshen your home and to use for skincare and body care, it’s important to pay attention to what you’re buying. To avoid possible skin irritation and a fake-smelling, perfume-like scent, read the label carefully to ensure that the products are formulated using only lavender essential oil, not a synthetic substitute or perfume.
It’s also worth noting that our lavender & vanilla soaps at Puracy are specially formulated to have a mild scent. The aroma is meant to be pleasant during use and forgotten moments after you’ve dried your hands. We chose this blend because lavender has a spicy floral element that calms and focuses the mind while the vanilla adds warmth and gentle sweetness, leaving you with a premium olfactory experience.
Puracy Lavender & Vanilla Natural Liquid Hand Soap and Puracy Lavender & Vanilla Natural Foaming Hand Soap are fresh-smelling, biodegradable formulas, made from lavender essential oil and other plant-based ingredients, plus minerals and water. Although they’re tough on grease and dirt, they’re also gentle enough for children and safe to use around pets. They smell great, too!