The essence of natural beauty: Oils to dissolve stress and revitalize skin

Rachel Donnelly believes you can find powerful properties in a tiny bottle filled with the ‘essence’ of a plant. Lavender, tea tree and rose are just some of the ingredients used to create oils that help you beat stress and get gorgeous glowing skin.


Photo: Personal Archive

Rachel Donnelly, 43, started her Holistic career in 2001 after turning to complementary treatments herself, to help her recover after suffering ill health. Before that she had been involved in environmental projects in Africa for six years. Now she works as a holistic therapist specialising in aromatherapy and holistic beauty at the Bodywork Centre in Hexham, Northumberland.

Rachel is also a mother. “I live with my 2 sons, a dog and 5 chickens (the chickens don’t live in the house by the way),” she jokes. “I work full time as a self-employed holistic therapist, but I try to get the work/home balance right and as I’m my own boss I have more control over that.”

Originally from Scotland, Rachel traveled a lot but she is “happily settled for now in Northumberland until my boys are a bit older and my itchy feet start itching again,” as she confesses. “I love to exercise and I need my yoga and dance classes to feel whole.”

Rachel is a strong believer in the power of essential oils, especially when it comes to dissolving stress and revitalizing skin. She says: “The essential oils that are used in aromatherapy are extracted from plants so that they are in a highly concentrated form. Many essential oils have excellent properties for skin and have been used for centuries. For example, frankincense, which has wonderful properties for dry skin and can reverse the signs of aging, was used in ancient Egyptian times for embalming bodies. It also soothes the mind and calms the breathing; it has been traditionally linked with mediation and spiritual practices.”

One of the great powers of aromatherapy is using smells to stimulate specific areas of the brain. According to experts, aromatherapy is the inhalation and topical application of essential oils that strongly and quickly affect mood and behaviour.

As Rachel explains, “the area of the brain that deals with smells, the limbic system, is also a deep centre for emotion. Therefore smells from essential oils can be powerful in ‘unlocking’ hidden emotions and can have a valuable emotional impact as well as medicinal.”

Depending on the nature of the skin problem, Rachel recommends specific oils and combinations of oils. If you are suffering from a skin inflammation, or from insect bites, essential lavender oil is an effective remedy, thanks to its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and rejuvenating properties. Simply dap the affected area with a few drops of lavender oil and continue to do that several times a day until the skin is healed. At the same time, lavender produces slight calming, soothing and sedative effects, as a research at the University of Maryland has confirmed. Therefore, lavender helps relieve anxiety, insomnia and depression. Use this oil in baths, massage and vaporizers and you can say goodbye to stress.

Lemon, grapefruit and orange oils are the perfect choice if you have problems with acne and oily skin, as they have cleansing and astringent properties, according to Rachel Donnelly. On the other hand, tea tree is a more medicated essential oil good for spots and acne. Yet, take care with sensitive skin, as it can also be an irritant.

“Rose is a personal favourite of mine,” says Rachel. “The sumptuous, luxurious, very feminine smell of freshly picked rose petals is wonderfully healing for weakened systems and is fantastic for dry and aging skin.”

You can use essential oils at home, in burners to fragrance a room. Also, as Rachel tips, using carrier oil, you can add a few drops of sweet almond, grape seed or olive oil to a bath, to your massage or to your body oil. And more, you can simply put a couple of drops on a handkerchief and inhale as needed, especially if you have to deal with stressful events. Rosemary oil is excellent when you have an exam, for example. “You can use essential oils every day,” says Rachel. “I use them in my facial wash and my moisturiser, in my bath, in my body oil and my night cream.”

Even if the risk of side effects when using aromatherapy is low, there are a few precautions that you should consider. “Do not use bergamot in sunlight as it can react with the skin,” warns Rachel. Therapists also do not recommended using essential oils in the first 3 months of pregnancy and for 3 months after, unless with prior consultation with a professional. “Seek medical advice about using essential oils with serious illness. Do not put neat essential oils on the skin other than tea tree and lavender, and do take care with them. Also, dab don’t drizzle!”

If you have a specific health problem and you think that aromatherapy might help, it would be recommended to see an aromatherapy specialist for personalised advice. The aromatherapist will tell you what essences or blends of oils are recommended for your condition and how to use it at home. In the Northeast, the cost of an hour of aromatherapy is usually £35-£45.

About Adina Codin
Hello, and welcome to my blog! I'm a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, diet, nutrition, fitness and relationships. I've been working as health editor for more than 8 years back in Bucharest and now I am a current postgraduate Magazine Journalism in the UK. I am a woman in my 30s and I've created this blog as an inspiration for other women like me who want to take charge and to curate their life. Please take a look around to get a feel for my style. If you have any questions or if you'd just like to have a chat with me, please email me at

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