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Save a tree by checking your vanity

September 27, 2017 Reviewed by Marta 1 Comment

I got a wakeup call a few days ago when I stumbled upon an article in the beauty trade press about a company being fined for using essential oils from endangered plants and trees. I have long been aware of avoiding cosmetic ingredients – such as squalane from sharks – that deplete endangered animal species, but I (shamefully admit) that I hadn’t given much thought to botanical essential oils.

Since botanical oils and extracts are in so many of our skincare products, especially those that pride themselves on being natural, I realized I should be more on the alert for what kinds of plants are being used and whether they are from sustainable sources.

The company that I read about is called Young Living, based in Utah and is one of those multi-level marketing companies. The essential oils that it was illegally selling came from Brazilian rosewood and spikenard from Nepal. I discovered that these are both listed as endangered by an organization called CITES.

This stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Curious to find whether other tree species that provide extracts for the cosmetic and personal care industries would be listed, I went online to take a look.

There are some 70 trees listed and they include one of my favorite trees, the African baobab, magnolia, sandalwood, yew, cedar to name just a few. The US Fisheries and Wildlife site, has a comprehensive list and indicates the countries from which they originate. This is a good place to check up on oils and extracts that you see in your products and then you are concerned you can ask the manufacturer for more details on how sustainably sourced their extracts are.

Some years ago, I bought a lovely dining table made from a Brazilian hard wood and I went to a lot of trouble to ensure that it had been sustainably sourced. From now on, I’ll be taking care about trees in my potions and lotions as well.

  • September 28, 2017

    by Amy

    Respectfully, your reporting on an article about Young Living using endangered essential oils is inaccurate and misrepresentative. The company was fined for not having the proper documentation and customs paperwork for the purchase of the endangered oils. They self-reported their own error to the appropriate government authorities. They do more for sustainability of the environment than your blog post gives credit for and you would be pleasantly surprised to learn just how in-depth their commitment is to the world with a bit of research into them.

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