Consumers today are making more meaningful purchasing choices when it comes to natural products and essential oils have attracted great interest in recent years. Even though essential oils are natural substances derived from plants, it doesn't mean they should automatically be considered safe for consumers.
Join our industry experts, Héloïse Pikkety and Amélie Cordonnier, as they discuss essential oil and how to assess its safety.
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Hello, everyone! Welcome to the Assurance in Action podcast. Today’s podcast is dedicated to essential oils in the cosmetics industry. This is the second episode in our special podcast series about safety assessments of essential oils. If you haven’t tuned into the first one, we encourage you to check it out. My name is Héloïse Piketty, and I am a pharmacist and toxicologist with Intertek Assuris. Today I am joined by my colleague Amélie Cordonnier, also a pharmacist and toxicologist on the Assuris team.
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Hi, Héloïse. Welcome, everyone! In this episode, we will talk about the specific requirements and methodologies to assess the safety of essential oils on their own or as ingredients in cosmetic products. As covered in our first episode, an essential oil must be fully identified and characterized before its safety can be established. We have to make sure that the essential oil does not contain any substance that is prohibited or restricted by cosmetics regulations. Furthermore, the essential oil and the cosmetic product that contains it must also meet the standards of the latest amendments of the International Fragrance Association, or IFRA.
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Yes. And once it is determined that an essential oil is compliant with regulations, we can start to build its toxicological profile. Building this profile involves collecting all the toxicological information available on the essential oil. Information on each endpoint is necessary, including sensitization, potential genotoxicity, etcetera. When collecting information for a toxicological profile, data are often lacking and the profile cannot be considered complete without all data. Also, toxicity tests can be performed to gather missing data. Some of the test methods are not appropriate for essential oils. And since animal testing is prohibited in cosmetics, this can further complicate the establishment of a complete toxicological profile for essential oils. A toxicological profile of an essential oil is therefore not enough to determine safety. It is instead necessary to know an essential oil’s exact composition and to carry out a safety assessment of all its components.
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Exactly, and because essential oils contain many constituents, safety assessments are very time consuming. A review of chromatography analysis results, as well as specifications, is required for each essential oil. For the safety assessment we have to consider the maximum percentage of each component within the essential oil, compensating for seasonal, geographical, and other variations that impact the composition. As discussed in the previous podcast episode, several components may be common to multiple essential oils. When several essential oils are mixed, the common components are summed. Likewise, the concentrations of components with related chemical structures are also summed.
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Correct. And as with the essential oil, the toxicological profile of each component must be determined. The toxicological reference values associated with each component can be determined from chronic or subchronic animal studies. In the absence of studies, a read-across approach can be taken or a QSAR (Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship) analysis can be performed. For dermal uses where ingredients in an essential oil have sensitization potential, the maximum exposure level can be determined with the quantitative risk assessment approach.
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However, it is important to note that the toxicity of an essential oil is not necessarily equal to the sum of the toxicities of its components.
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Indeed, you're right. It was found that the toxicity of an essential oil is often lower compared to its isolated components. This finding has been reported for endocrine disrupting effects of some essential oil, for example.
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Yes, but studies on this subject are not yet sufficient to be considered in the safety assessment of the essential oil.
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That's true. Regardless of the approach taken to evaluate the essential oil and its components, once all these steps have been completed, the safety of the essential oil or the mixture of essential oils can be established. A toxicologist will be able to determine the percentage of essential oil safe for use in cosmetic products based on the most limiting ingredient.
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While establishing safety, the target population is very important to consider, too. For example, due to their composition, essential oils are generally not suitable for certain populations like pregnant women, babies, or young children.
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Absolutely. As you can tell, there are several factors that go into a safety assessment of an essential oil. If you're interested in learning more, contact our Intertek Assuris team and we’d be happy to help. I'd like to thank you, Emily, for this great conversation about essential oil and thanks to our listeners too. See you soon.
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Thank you for listening. Goodbye.