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The beginner’s tour through the world of fragrances

Fragrances and skincareHaving had the pleasure of dealing with Instituto Español’s range of perfumes and colognes, I have had the benefit of working with experts in fragrances.  Their knowledge in this area is incredible and I have been trying to get my head around the seemingly unlimited source of information on the topic.  

To create fragrances, perfume makers mix essential oils and aroma compounds, which can be of vegetable, animal or synthetic origin.  Usually perfumes are mixed with a fixative.  In perfumery, a fixative is a substance used to reduce the evaporation rate therefore allowing the final product to last longer while keeping its original fragrance. 

Fragrances can be complex.  When you start combining essences, there is an unlimited array of fragrances that can be developed.  Pretty much like music or food, creativity and imagination set the scene for a whole world of inspired delight to the senses.

We humans are good at creating associations between known things and other things in the effort to simplify, relate to and get our heads around new concepts.  Hence perfumes have been classified and described through the musical metaphor of notes.  These notes allow the perfume makers to create harmonious accords of scents to stimulate our olfactory system.   There are three sets of notes:  top or head notes, middle notes and base notes.  

Top notes

Top notes are perceived immediately.  The immediate nature comes from the fact that these notes are formed by light molecules that evaporate quickly and hence are more volatile.  They tend to create that first impression of a perfume.

Middle notes 

These notes create the main body of a perfume.  These get perceived just when top notes start to dissipate.  These notes play an important role in balancing base notes, which can be a bit overwhelming to start with.

Base notes

These notes appear just when middle notes start to dissipate.  These notes bring depth to a perfume and can be perceived as rich and heavy.  Natural fixatives usually have a fragrance considered a base note in perfumery terms, reflecting their low volatility.


The basics of aromatherapy

Aromatherapy and skincarePerhaps the sense that we take more for granted is the smell.  We certainly notice it when have a nose block and then the food doesn't taste like anything but then it comes back to normal and most people don't give it too much thought.  Thinking about this I realised that even when I get exposed to nice fragrances (which I do fairly often in the type of business I am in), in my conscious mind I tend to associate the well-being generated, with my skin somehow and not directly with my sense of smell.  By thinking a bit more about it and understanding it better, I have been able to appreciate the process a bit more and enjoy fragrances more deeply and with more meaning.  Hence it is time to share…

Aromatherapy is the pursing of psychological and physical well-being and balance by stimulating the olfactory and tactile senses (by application on the skin) through volatile plant oils, including essential oils and other complementary natural ingredients including vegetable oils, hydrosols, herbs, sea salts, sugars, clays and muds.

Two main ways of going about it:

By Inhalation  

This is the oldest method of benefiting from aromatherapy.  A few variants on this method are used frequently.  Direct inhalation or indirect inhalation through an infusion or scented bath with the desired essences, diluting strong essences as required.  Using scented candles, and mud burners are other easy ways to inhale fragrances.

The appropriate essences that are inhaled into the lungs, in particular essential oils, offer wide benefits to your body. Not only does the aroma of the natural essence stimulate the brain, but when inhaled into the lungs, the natural constituents can supply therapeutic benefits.

By applying it on the skin

Aromatherapy agents that are applied to the skin can be absorbed into the bloodstream. This practice can improve your health, clean and improve the way you feel and look.  Since essential oils are so powerful and concentrated, they should never be applied to the skin in their raw form. To apply essential oils to the skin, essential oils are typically diluted into a diluting agent such as a cold pressed vegetable oil.  


Glycerin and skin care: the common choice

Glycerin and skin careGiven that some of our Instituto Español shower gels contain glycerin, some people ask me questions about the benefits of glycerin in skin care. 

Glycerin is a common ingredient in skin care products.  Also called glycerol or glycerine, can be used for both cosmetic purposes and as a treatment for medical conditions of the skin.  Glycerin gets incorporated as an ingredient in skin care products because of its great humectant qualities. At the same time, glycerin is an effective emollient that helps prevent any loss of moisture. Its viscosity may give the product a very desirable body, in addition to the main function of maintaining the moisture content of the product at the proper level. Glycerine is widely used in cosmetics and other toiletry applications, being virtually non-toxic, non-irritating, and odorless. 

Maintains water balance

Glycerin is a humectant, meaning that it attracts water.  It is also a natural emollient, meaning that it forms a thin film on the surface of the skin to prevent any loss of moisture.  Glycerin helps maintain the skin's water balance on an intercellular level.

Addresses psoriasis symptoms

Psoriasis commonly affects the skin of the elbows, knees, and scalp. Psoriasis is a non-contagious skin condition that produces red, dry plaques of thickened skin.  The dry flakes and skin scales are skin cells that shed too quickly. The application of glycerin can interrupt this abnormal process and can also aid wounds heal quicker in some cases.

Instituto Espanol Glycerin Shower GelLess irritant than traditional detergent soaps

Glycerin soaps have long been recognised as the best for a completely pure body wash. Glycerin soap is different and in many ways better than other soaps for several reasons.  Detergent soaps are noticeably more harsh and drying than glycerin base soaps on your skin.  Since glycerin is a natural moisturiser, and at the same time is able to pull impurities from within your pores if offers a great alternative for the shower. Glycerin soaps are formulated to moisturise, heal and protect thus giving you skin conditioning that detergent soaps cannot.

Good for the hair

Glycerin is a water-soluble conditioning alcohol and is an extremely effective moisturiser and humectant.  Apart from being able to return moisture back to dry hair and your scalp or skin, the natural healing qualities of glycerin extend to aid hair growth. Using glycerin one can greatly condition dry, frizzy and brittle hair.
If you are suffering from dry, flaky scalp then rubbing some the use of glycerine soap on the scalp can greatly alleviate irritation.  Apart from the hair moisturising benefits, glycerin also helps to strengthen the hair, which leads to less breakage of the hair, and less formation of split ends.  Its viscosity and clarity also makes it a great ingredient to give definition to curls and to smooth the fly-away hair.

One area of caution is the colour department.  Glycerin is a good solvent for many types of molecules.  Hence, glycerin can dissolve unbound dye molecules that are easily accessible.  Do not use glycerin right after using a permanent dye on the hair, and consider avoiding it if you use semi-permanent colour on your hair.

Instituto Espanol Chocolate Shower GelAt Instituto Español we manufacture two magnificient glycerin-base products:  the Glycerine Natural Soap 500 ML and the Chocolate Shower Gel 500 ML.  These are both part of the aromatherapy line.  The Glycerine Natural Soap has a very pleasant aroma to complement its smooth sensation on your skin. 100% from the best natural vegetable oils. It is used to clean, rebalance dryness and nurture delicate skins.  Our Chocolate Shower Gel carries the delicious sweet and decadent touch of chocolate luxury. You’ll never want to stop bathing with this guilt free treat!


A good after-the-sun skin care routine for Summer

Summer is here and with that being outdoors becomes the thing to do.  Basking on the beach or playing in the surf become high points of summer for many people.

I love the sun.  Living in Australia I get exposed to an active culture of outdoor activities and also a culture of constant reinforcement in favour of sun protection.   It is said that Australia is the skin cancer capital of the world.  This is often attributed to the ozone layer hole, which is closer to the Antarctic.  Even if this is a factor, I believe it may be a combination of circumstances that complete the picture, in particular the cultural love of Australians for outdoor activities, lots of fair skins, and the "curse" of great weather for a most of the year. 

Source: NASA Ozone ResearchBy the way, the guys of NASA measure the ozone layer all the year around from their Aura satellite and they reckon that the hole is seasonal, as it takes place at the beginning of the Southern Hemisphere spring (August–October) and it stabilises for most of the year outside this period.  Hence we should be particularly careful during that period, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't have to take precautions outside this period.  

According to the Cancer Council Australia, almost 14% of adults, 24% of teenagers and 8% of children in Australia are sunburnt on summer weekends. Light-skinned and fair-haired people are at greater risk of sunburn.

Normal limited exposure to ultra violet (UV) radiation produces beneficial vitamin D in the skin.  Sunburn occurs when the skin’s outer layers are damaged as a result of over-exposure to UV rays. This burn causes inflammation of the skin. Injury from sunburn can begin within 30 minutes of exposure.   The skin may turn red about 2-6 hours after exposure and feel irritated.   These are the initial symptoms of sunburn.  The peak effects are noted at 12-24 hours.  Severe cases (sun poisoning) are complicated by severe skin burning and blistering, massive fluid loss (dehydration), chills, fever, vomiting, and possibly infection typically caused by ruptured blisters.  Sunburn has been associated with melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

What to do if you get sunburned or simply as an after-the-sun routine

  • Shower in cool or lukewarm water, not hot water.  Use a moisturising, non-irritant shower gel such as Instituto Español Aloe Vera Shower Gel.
  • Follow up with Instituto Español Aloe Vera Moisturising Milk or pure Aloe Vera gel just after the bath.  Aloe vera is a great natural anti-inflamatory.  It has a rapid cooling effect, and forms a protective layer over the burnt areas, reducing the risk of infection.
  • Avoid using ice as this may damage your skin even further.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • If you are experiencing widespread blistering, or have fever or symptoms of dehydration, consult your doctor.

Prevention is better than cure in skin care, and to this end there is no substitute for using a good sun screen product and practising sensible sun habits.  The right clothing protects against the sun's harmful rays. Cothing designed with sun safety in mind carries an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating ranging from 15 (good) to 50+ (excellent). If you want to have a natural tan, build it up very gradually (avoid long sun exposure sessions), use plenty of Aloe Vera-based moisturiser, and stay hydrated.  When possible, avoid the sun between 10am and 3pm, when the UV rays are the strongest.


Shower gels: a viable shampoo alternative?

The fact that I love shower gels is not a secret.  I have posted a number of articles stating the benefits of shower gels.  Shower gels have turned for me the boring shower routine into something more enjoyable and exciting.

Is it practical to consider shower gels as an alternative to a moisturising shampoo? 

Shower gels, like shampoos, have a different chemistry to soap, which gives them an edge over standard bar soaps.  Soaps are derived from animal and vegetable fats.  A shower gel or body wash is a synthetic product.  It is a skin cleaning agent in the form of an emulsion of water and synthetic detergents with added fragrances, and other enhancing and conditioning agents such as herbal essences, humectants, moisturisers, minerals and vitamins.  

Shower gels are less irritant to the skin than soap, lather better and don't leave mineral residues such as soap scum on the skin or in the bathtub after usage. Soap scum is the white solid residue resulting from soap getting in contact with hard water (that is water rich in minerals).  Hard water contains calcium or magnesium ions, which react with the fatty acid component of soap resulting in the creation of scum.  Hard water needs large amounts of soap to form a lather, and due to the inability of soap under these circumstances to decrease water tension and bind with dust, dirt and oil, can render the soap inefficient as a cleaning agent and unpleasant to use.  Shower gels, because of their different chemistry, are less prone to making scum when used in hard water.

A large percentage of shower gels on the market today are PH-balanced, some even slightly acidic, which benefits the skin mantle.  Some shower gels are herb-infused, and some offer aromatherapeutic benefits.  

Shower gels contain milder surfactants than shampoos. Surfactants are the detergent component in the emulsion.   They also contain conditioning agents, hence they can be used as an alternative to moisturising shampoos.


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