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Beauty is Wellness

by Celia Shatzman

Amy Galper, founder and executive director of the New York Institute of Aromatherapy, shares the essence of this ancient and powerful tradition

How can aromatherapy help us detox? 

Aromatherapy is a form of complementary and alternative care that uses authentic and genuine essential oils to help balance and promote wellness and healthy living and the connection between mind, body and spirit.

It’s really the most profound expression of holistic healing, because the molecules of the plain oils get into your skin, so there’s a physiological connection. When molecules make contact with the bloodstream it can reduce inflammation and, at the same time, the smell of the oil affects the emotional center of our brain—our feelings, our states of mind and our memories—which are connected to our limbic system, so it’s delivering a simultaneous approach.

Detox, from a wellness perspective, is when we’re so off balance that we need to let go of things, or we’re feeling sluggish and stagnant, so we need to disperse that energy and get things moving. Essential oils are a powerful way to support the body to detox.

We’re on the go all the time, what are your suggestions for wellness travel blends?

Running to get your plane and going through security, all that can be stressful. Look for oils that are grounding and sedating, but are not going to knock you out because you need to be focused, such as cedarwood, sweet orange, chamomile and lavender. Marjoram, lavender and clary sage keep you relaxed and prevent your body from tensing up. For restful sleep, try ylang-ylang and chamomile, and, obviously, lavender.

It’s easy to get sick on a plane, so for boosting our immune system, black spruce, marjoram and rosemary are nice as a mist to help keep germs away. For keeping you focused when you’re feeling really exhausted and you need to be en pointe, try rosemary, peppermint and lavender. Sometimes when you’re traveling you get off rhythm, so to speak, so for digestion, do a little belly rub with oils of ginger, fennel and grapefruit.

To mix your own blends, the simplest way is go to any grocery or health food store, and buy a little bottle of organic or cold pressed olive oil. Mix one tablespoon of olive oil with between eight to 10 drops of essential oils. For a blend with three different oils, you can do three drops of each and mix them, and then rub the blend on your shoulders, belly or chest. If you’re trying to get to sleep, rub it on your feet.

What are the most common misconceptions when it comes to aromatherapy?

That you can apply any essential oil directly to your skin—that’s not true. Some can be, but I would only reserve that to three or four. The rest should be added to a carrier, meaning an unscented oil, cream, lotion or cleanser. They need to be mixed into another solution or product in order to be safely delivered to the skin. Essential oils contain highly concentrated molecules that can become skin-irritating, more so for people with sensitive skin.

Another misconception is that you can drink them—that’s a terrible misconception. I would strongly advise people against it. I totally disagree that you can put a couple of drops in a glass of water and drink it, because that can be potentially harmful to your GI tract. It can be okay to ingest essential oils, but it needs to be done only under the guidance of a trained and certified herbalist or aromatherapist, and in the proper way. Essential oils must be blended into oils, herbs, honey or another medium that the human digestive system can process appropriately.

Essential oils are a really powerful healing modality and their intention and their core is to support our body’s ability to heal itself. It’s something that should be built into a supportive regimen in order to live more of a balanced life.

Tell us about your new entrepreneur program.

We’re the only school in New York that offers aromatherapy teaching. We bring in teachers from around the world to teach about aromatic medicine and botanical beauty.

This spring we are launching a program specifically geared toward burgeoning beauty entrepreneurs. The first course is about launching your brand as a beauty entrepreneur: We cover important business topics including good manufacturing practices, certification and FDA compliance. This is really crucial for people who are making products in their kitchens and hope to expand or work with a manufacturer. Then we’ll have a module on sales and distribution, digital marketing, and setting up business entities.

Once that part is complete, we’re launching an intensive formulation beauty lab where for about seven days we’re going to look at and experience, hands-on, a wide array of organic plant-based ingredients. Students will have access to hundreds of ingredients and will learn techniques for blending body butters and salves.

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