Despite an uncharacteristically mild start to Winter, the cold weather has finally started to bite – bringing with it the usual bouts of coughs, colds and flu! Although we can catch these bugs at any time of year, recent research indicates that we are more susceptible in Winter, as the colder temperatures inhibit the effectiveness of our immune system.
So, what better time of year to use to use essential oils in our salons or treatment rooms to ward off those winter bugs?
We know that aromatherapy essential oils have properties that can help combat the spread of colds and viruses. As aromatherapists, holistic and beauty therapists, therefore, we can lead the way for our clients and incorporate essential oils into our salon hygiene procedures. Spotless salons not only give a good impression to clients, but they also mean less germs and fewer illness-related cancellations.
Considering Chemical Constituents: Which Oils?
When considering which essential oils can help blitz those Winter bugs, it is important to carefully select those which have ‘anti-bacterial’, ‘anti-septic’ and ‘anti-viral’ properties, as it is these that will be good for cleansing those germs. In selecting these oils, it is the chemical make-up we need to consider to fully understand the oils’ properties and effects. Chemically, anti-bacterial/anti-septic/anti-viral oils are derived from the following groups of chemical compounds: terpenes, alderhydes, alcohols, phenols and oxides. It is best, therefore, to choose oils which have the constituents (chemical make-up – shown in the ingredients) which end in ‘ene’ (as these are terpenes), ‘al’ (alderhydes), ‘ol’ (alcohols/phenols) and ‘oxide’ or ‘eol’ (oxides). These constituents will be most effective for anti-bacterial, anti-septic and anti-viral purposes.
For example, let’s take Lemon. Lemon essential oil’s constituents are ‘limonene’, ‘terpinene’, ‘pinene’, ‘sabinene’, ‘myrcene’, ‘citral’ and ‘linalol’ – meaning it is made up of terpenes, alderhydes, and alcohol/phenols. This means its chemical make-up is extremely anti-bacterial, anti-septic and anti-viral. Likewise, most people associate Tea Tree as one of the most powerful oils for this purpose; Tea Tree’s constituents are ‘terpinene’, ‘cineol’ and ‘pinene’ – again, terpenes, alcohol/phenols and oxides.
So Lemon and Tea Tree essential oils are great options for your winter-defence blends – but there are many others too! Further examples of oils with these properties include Lemongrass, Lime, Melissa, Grapefruit, Sweet Orange, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Clary Sage, Rosemary, Basil, Peppermint and Ravensara (which is a great alternative to Tea Tree for those who don’t like the scent).
Healthy Hygiene Tips
So, how can these essential oils can be incorporated into salon hygiene procedures – or used at home – to prevent spread of winter bugs?
Firstly, it is obviously crucial to keep salon equipment clean and hygienic. Try blending your favourite anti-bacterial/anti-septic/anti-viral essential oils into a spray to cleanse your equipment. 30-40 drops of Tea Tree or Ravensara essential oil mixed in a spray bottle with 150ml water is a great way to prevent germs spreading. Use this to spray foot stools, couches, work surfaces, massage sticks, hot stones, waxing equipment, and anything else that might need cleaning.
Sprays for Spotless Salons
We can stop the spread of germs by keeping everything sparkling – even including salon décor. Sprays for cleaning the salon create the impression to clients of cleanliness, and that in turn will help them to choose you over your competitors. For a less ‘clinical’ approach to the anti-bacterial cleansing spray, why not get more creative? For a beautifully uplifting cleansing spray, mix 150ml Neroli hydrolat with 15-20 drops of Sweet Orange essential oil and 15-20 drops of Lemon. Use this for cleansing décor such as mirrors, chairs, consultation desks, etc, or simply spritz in the air between clients to cleanse and refresh the room and brighten the energy.
Cleansing Hand Sanitising Gel
Of course, no salon would be complete without some sort of disinfecting hand sanitiser. Why not make your own? It can be as simple as adding essential oils with the required cleansing properties to a hand-sanitiser you already use – or you could try formulating your own. Try mixing 50ml of Aloe Vera Gel with 5 drops of each of Ravensara, Rosemary and Lavender, for a beautiful scented sanitising gel, and pop it in a reusable dispensing tube.
Pre-Treatment Soak and Cleanser Spray
Incorporating salon hygiene can be done even as part of the treatment itself. Offering a pre-treatment foot or hand soak can be a nice way to induce relaxation whilst also eliminating the spread of germs. This is especially nice before treatments such as reflexology, manicure and pedicure, but can also be a nice way to get the client to relax during consultation. A relaxing and refreshing blend of Geranium and Lemongrass essential oils is ideal for a foot soak! Mix 5-10ml of fragrance free Bath & Shower with 5-10 drops of each essential oil, and add to warm water. Alternatively, try mixing Lemon essential oil and Himalayan Pink Salt for a detoxifying soak.
If short on time, a pre-treatment cleansing spray can be useful for cleansing the feet prior to massage therapies, pedicures and reflexology. Try Peppermint and Eucalyptus for a cleansing and refreshing foot spray!
Hot Towel Cleansing Compresses
Another technique for cleansing prior to treatment is with towels. Hot towels are great for adding essential oils to – and they’re warming in winter too! Why not start each treatment by cleansing the feet with a warm compress which will help the client relax at the start of their treatment as well as ridding any germs. Put a few drops of Tea Tree or Ravensara on the towels before popping them in the hot towel cabinet.
Diffusing Winter Bug Blends
Bug diffuser blends are obviously top of the list for preventing the spread of Winter germs. Why not let the client choose a blend from a list of anti-bacterial/anti-septic/anti-viral essential oils during the consultation and pop them in an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporiser? If not just great for the client, this is a good way to prevent ourselves, as therapists, from catching any germs, as we are at risk of this all the time. If you want to be extra careful, you could even put a few drops of essential oil onto a tissue in your pocket so that you always inhale your personal favourites.
Above all else, if a client turns up with a cold or virus that contra-indicates treatment or risks spread of winter germs, don’t be afraid to gently turn them away – armed of course, with some aromatherapy advice to follow at home. This means that clients can self-treat at home, without sharing their illness with you and other clients. Advise them on which essential oils to use and how to use them – inhalation being a key one for colds! If they aren’t keen on the well-known technique of steam inhalation using Eucalyptus oil, get them to try one of the other anti-bacterial/anti-viral aromatherapy oils. You can also advise them to add their oils to a relaxing bath, or mix them into a carrier oil, cream or lotion to use as a chest rub!
Overall, there are many ways to include aromatherapy in your salon hygiene techniques, and often they are obvious, but we just forget to get creative! So get the most out of your essential oil collection this winter and use one of the most natural ways to protect yourself and clients from colds and flu! These amazing oils are not only preventative, but also actively stimulate immunity to make your body better at blitzing those bugs!
Advice provided by Base Formula’s Consultant Aromatherapist, Nicole Barton. www.baseformula.com