Essential oils are at the heart of everything we do at L'Occitane, and have been since 23-year-old Olivier Baussan first started distilling the plants of Provence to capture their precious essence. Our founder began his journey with a small truck and an alembic – a traditional copper still he used to steam the exquisite natural extracts from plants, flowers and herbs. Read on to learn about the benefits and history of essential oils, so you'll know which of these aromatic wonders fits best in which part of your beauty routine.



Essential oil is the quintessence of the plant. First, whichever part is imbued with the valuable scent (often the leaves or flowers) – is distilled in boiling water, leaving behind a super-concentrated flavour and fragrance. The heat of the water collapses the walls of the plant's cells, and releases the treasure within.

Essential oils have many uses, from adding natural aromas into perfumes to enhancing the taste of food. To give just two examples: lavender essential oils is known as a natural remedy to help to reduce anxiety, while eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus) essential oil can be used in household cleaning to blast bacteria


The use of essential oils is ancient and varied, and can be traced back 2,800 years to the Ancient Egyptians. As well as having sublime natural fragrances that instantly evoke their parent plant, each one has different properties. Some essential oils are well-known for their unique anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, but there are endless other uses. Even the conditions (or terroir) in which their parent plant was grown can influence their virtues.

For example, immortelle essential oil (Latin name helichrysum italicum, from the immortelle flower that even once picked, never fades) is a key ingredient throughout our Immortelle Divine collection. Long absent from our pharmacopoeia, in the Middle Ages it was known for multiple medicinal abilities,  we have demonstrated in our laboratories its remarkable antioxidant and anti-aging abilities. We've been able to show that our Corsican immortelle essential oil is particularly concentrated in neryl acetate, a key component of its power that's directly related to the unique growing conditions."


Things have changed considerably since Baussan used his copper still to extract the essence of wild rosemary and sell it in the bustling outdoor markets of his native Provence. This was where L'Occitane's passion for essential oils was born, for unravelling the riddles in the heart of plants that make them able to affect our emotions, body and mind and to help us find harmony.

Today, L'Occitane scientists work from high-tech labs in Haute-Provence, where our researchers continually pioneer new ways of extracting essential oils to harness their cosmetic benefits. To date, we work with more than forty essential oils, such as immortelle, lavender, cade, myrtle, rosemary and angelica.

For more than 40 years, L'OCCITANE in Provence has been using aromatherapy principles to develop product formulas. We're big believers in aromachology – the study of how aromas can influence human emotions and behaviour, and the associated art of manipulating an environment using natural scents to relax, invigorate or create harmony.

Guided by nature yet bolstered by science, the concentration of pure herbal extracts is carefully balanced in each product to ensure maximum benefits for the user. We use them individually as active ingredients, or in synergistic combinations developed by our experts.


There are many essential oil uses and benefits. As well as being key ingredients in beauty products, oils are also used in aromatherapy. Essential oils for relaxation – such as lavender, ylang ylang and bergamot – can be placed in a diffuser or diluted in a warm bubble bath.

The soothing fragrances can help to calm anxieties and ease you gently into a relaxing sleep. Scientists don't yet know exactly how aromatherapy works. Some researchers believe that when you inhale essential oil molecules, they stimulate parts of the brain, affecting your emotional and mental health. For example, some experts believe that lavender stimulates the brain in the same way as some sedative drugs.

In partnership with the French Institute of Sleep, thanks to innovative physical and self-reporting testing methods, we have proved our 'bedtime ritual' routine – composed of our Relaxing Pillow Mist, our Relaxing Massage Oil and our Lavender Perfumed Sachet – is effective at improving sleep quality.


While essential oils benefits are endless, it's worth noting that they can be potent in their purest form, and shouldn't be used undiluted on your skin.

If you’re pregnant you should avoid using essential oils and in general It's best to research thoroughly before using them and keep them out of reach of little fingers or the curious paws of pets. As a rule, we recommend you perform a patch test 48 hours before using a product containing essential oils. Dab a little in the crease of your elbow and wait to make sure no irritation occurs.
Learn about essential oil uses and benefits, including the main virtues of various pure herbal extracts, in our guide to essential oils uses in beauty.