How bad is lavender, really?

edited February 2014 in Ask the Beauty Brains
I know that this has come up in here before, because there's a broken link to it in an article from 2011 (linked below), but since I can't read that anymore, I thought I'd ask.

I know that Paula Begoun/Paula's Choice/Beautypedia basically thinks that lavender is the devil. Of course a main selling point of their products is no fragrance, ever, but they seem to have a bigger problem with lavender than most other scents.

Then there's this article that claims to debunk that perspective, but it's also written by someone with an agenda, as an advocate for aromatherapy and essential oils.

As a researcher myself, ideally I would read all the literature personally and come to my own conclusions,  but I have plenty of (totally unrelated) research do, so that's probably not the best use of my time. I'm curious as to where The Beauty Brains (and others) stand on the benefits and risks of lavender in skin care products. It seems to be an extremely common fragrance ingredient. I wonder if because people associate the scent with relaxation, they think that the oil must be gentle? How much damage is likely to be done to skin? Does it have any actually useful purpose?

(ETA: I messed up the formatting of this somehow and ended up deleting the last part. I added it back in. Hopefully it still makes sense.)


  • I'll check with some of my contacts in the fragrance industry and see if I can get the straight scoop on this. 
  • I don't think its dangerous not like lemon juice is anyways I just think certain people are sensitive to it.
  • Lol about Paula thinking lavender is the devil!  I have often suspected that she is a bit too strong about this.  I think this was actually in response to my question that I wrote in to the personal care truth blog.
  • These links made for some very interesting reading, thanks! I'm still waiting to hear back from my perfumer contacts but in the meantime I already have the title of the article we're going to write: 

    "Lavender - Lovable or Lethal?" 

  • There was one case study about a boy who developed gynaecomastia because of lavender scented products. Does this mean that less endowed women could use it to make their breasts grow? ;;) haha
  • sarahf: The first link you gave is the same article I linked above, and the second one is by the same writer. He seems to be in the business (or at least hobby) of promoting essential oils and aromatherapy, as you can see on his website ( So it seems to me that he would have as much of a pro-fragrance agenda as Paula's Choice has an anti-fragrance agenda, potentially. I'm interested in how people who don't have a dog in the fight would interpret these studies.

    For instance, Paula's Choice says lavender is a "pro-oxidant" and Mr. Tisserand says that it just oxidizes over a period of weeks or months, which is not the same thing. I've not really in a position to evaluate which of those claims is more accurate. 

    So much stuff has lavender in it, so I'd like to know whether I really need to make an effort to avoid it or not.

    And I love the title!
  • Reminds me of that recent xo Jane article. People said they don't trust fragrance because they don't have to say what's in it. I think its a huge leap to think it is therefore dangerous. I'm sure perfumers aren't allowed to poison us!
  • I don't think anyone is claiming it's bad when used just for fragrance/aromatherapy. It's specifically when applied to the skin in a moisturizer, etc., that I'm curious about.
  • You don't mean pure lavender oil do you? You are a beauty brain so I didn't think you would actually be completely scared of scents I was just reminded of that article for some reason. :)
  • On a different note I was in Walmart and sprayed the coach poppy perfume, it smelled sooo good! I thought poppy would be weird but it wasn't.
  • Yes, lavender essential oil/extract, etc., but not used straight, as an ingredient in skin care products.
  • This is something that's always fascinated me too. I've read Paula for more than 10 years now and she does occasionally change her stance on something when she feels the evidence warrants it, so I'm more inclined to believe what she says (I might have a slight bias because her products work so well for me).
  • I'm still looking for the evidence. 
  • Randy, any update on this?
  • I have to say I'm in the pro lavender field but that comes from years of using it directly on skin. Only high quality pure lavender essential oil. I worked for 20 years as a makeup artist/ special effects prosthetic artist as well as teaching those subjects along with beauty therapy, and aromatherapy. Very often actors would have reactions to makeup or prosthetics, particularly prosthetics due to the chemicals they contained and to counteract this and reduce redness quickly myself and colleagues would apply neat lavender EO, it's great for calming redness and taking the sting out of skin reactions.
    I use it on my own skin too as well as on my children for the past 23 years. Of course there will be people who have allergies to lavender as with anything so checking is imperative
  • I've disagreed with Her (Paula) ((when don't I disagree!?)) on a few things, but for the most part she seems to know quite a wealth of decent products, and a jumping point for googling information. I gotta read into the lethal lavender too though because I use it everywhere, with lavender scented everything! Although I have never once heard lavender to be detrimental to one's health, if it is, I am in some deep trouble. It's like ... My scent! (As well as rose, amber, hyacinth, and gardenia.)  (I like smelling like old ladies apparently.) I'll try to post something I find too, if Randy doesn't get to it first.

  • Yo, I think I figured what got Paula's Ahem twisted.... But first I'm going to tell you the stuff you already knew.

    So you know know to rub ess oils directly, and to dilute them, if not, there is a reason. And ANYTHING can be an antigen in a form of an allergen, lavender is no exception, especially since it has anti-bac properties, It could irritate broken skin, and leave it red, tender and irritated. Wearing too strong of perfume, or having too strong of an aroma therapy diffuser can give you headaches. Ingesting it may bind you, up and cause you to gain weight. (probably cause you're bound up!)  And btws, I didn't bother fact checking WebMD, half of an opinion they had on the matter, because Seal team 6 should take them out for terrorism. :D

    With that said, I think, and I can't be sure, it's gynocemastia. It's where little boys get TIG OL BITTIES prepuberty. I feel as though if it affects prepubescent, it's likely to have an effect on the breast trajectory of women but what do I know. I can barely spell that word, and I doubt I have it right so, you bet I have one heck of a source

    Side note, on this page they said ingesting it may be poisonous as well. I can't fathom how. But I guess too much of anything...? If anyone can comment on this?

  • edited March 2015
    @ Randy - Did you ever get a definitive answer to the original question,  "How bad is lavender, really?" You were waiting to hear back from perfumer contacts and still looking for evidence from the last posts you had.

  • They never did respond to my request for information and I haven't had a chance to dig into it any further. 
  • Hey gang, long time no talk. I recently discovered a youtuber called Mrs. Ginger's beauty channel and I must say I love her perspective. She's very well versed in science and VERY into cosmetics, but doesn't seem to have any reason for bias for or against fragrances. In fact her recent "fragrance in cosmetics" video was very balanced and fair in my opinion. Spoiler alert, she's more on the Paula side. Will link to her because I think a lot of people who enjoy the Brains would also enjoy her very scientifically educated perspective.

  • Thanks Brainy B, we'll check her out. 
  • I gotta ask, I know people hate ewg, and other lists of the sort, but do people on here hate Paula? If so why? I see her as being sorta neutral as far as cosmetic politics... Which I didn't realize was a thing until I typed it.

    Are we like the far right, conservatives?

  • I can't speak for other members of the Forum but Perry and I are fans of Paula. 
  • I kind of thought she was all right too, I mean, I didn't always agree with every last thing, but also pretty awesome, and she seems to be pretty passionate about what she does. I find most people are when it comes to cos/sci. It's good to hear she's well received here. I fought so hard making a Star Wars/ Dark side reference,
  • I just checked out a few of Ginger's videos. Very well done overall. A nicely balanced discussion on the ones that I saw. But holy crap is her room PINK! 
  • I dont hate Paula or anyone, but she is definitely biased. A couple of years ago Paula and Futurederm had a "falling out" (if you can call it that) where Paula critized Futurederm for saying that alcohol in skin care is safe. Futurederm addressed her critic and revealed that most of the research Paula was referencing had nothing to do with topically applied alcohol. One of the studies wasn't even about alcohol at all but sulfates. After this I've never really trusted Paula the way I used to. The research she references on her site doesn't contain links and now I guess we know why.
    I'm not saying Paula is intentionally spreading misinformation, but please don't use her as your only source.
  • Actually her product "Skin Recovery Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum With Retinol" has SD alcohol in it. Think of it what you will, but I think that proves how credible she is.
  • I have been a Brains fan for a number of years, and discovered Paula around the same time. The information I've found on her site, along with this one and a few others, has been incredibly helpful for figuring out what truly works in skin care. However, I will give you one example of her "eating crow." For years she has ranted on about airtight packaging to keep antioxidants effective. She also continually says how "one or two key ingredients" are not all skin needs to be healthy. She finally introduced a vitamin C serum (one of the very few ingredients PROVEN to be effective in specific concentrations/ph levels) in her line and the VERY first thing I noticed is the eye dropper delivery system. The comment was posted in her product comments and she finally addressed it, saying, basically, the product formula made it impossible to package in an airtight container. So she'd been criticizing all these manufacturers of vitamin C serums without TRULY understanding WHY they ALL were packaging that way. 

    My point is that while she means well and often offers excellent info, she doesn't know everything. And although I like and use a number of her products, I do feel it's hypocritical to say "all my products are perfect" while criticizing someone else's. 
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