“How to Read Reviews”? Is this really necessary? How about you let me decide what I’m reading, and not tell me how to think?
Generally, Liberty Zen is all about the freedom to think your thoughts and make your choices. The thing is, I was once a reviewer myself, getting free or discounted products in exchange for my opinion. I wrote lengthy dissertations on why some oils were horrible, or what made a “natural” product really stellar. And I read other reviews, just like authors read books other than their own. I read far more useless reviews than I did informational ones. Now, I have a better idea what to look for in a review, and what kinds of things are generally useless. Here’s what I think – let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Star or Other Ratings
People give high and low star ratings for a whole lot of reasons. Sometimes it’s because the oil is bad. Other times, it’s because they prefer a different brand, were paid by another company to write a bad review, they didn’t prefer the scent, or they were using the oil for a purpose and it didn’t “work” for them. It is a rare case when any of those things would be relevant to an evaluation of the oil’s purity or quality.
What you’re looking for is a review with a little “meat” to it. Something that tells you why they gave the rating they chose. Then you get to decide whether that star or heart means anything to you.
If a strong reviewer with experience in evaluating essential oils says something about the scent, maybe take a listen. They’ll tell you what seemed “off” about it, or why they thought it smelled like it “should”. From most folks, comments such as “This is great because it smells good” or “This is horrible because it smells bad” are essentially useless. Here’s a deeper explanation about why scent opinions aren’t all that relevant. It boils down to the fact that if you’re expecting something to smell like lavender, and it does, you might think it’s a quality oil when it is nothing of the sort, due to additives or other issues of quality. Conversely, some medicinal oils don’t smell “pretty” to all noses. The oil might be of high quality and pure as the driven snow, but sometimes they’re just meant to smell like feet.
Basic Home Evaluation
Paper testing, laser testing, foam cup tests, visual inspection, actual use… there are ways to actually evaluate an oil’s strength and purity at home. They’re in no way foolproof, but if they show something is wrong, it certainly might indicate reason for you to use caution before you buy. Someone who has taken the time to do some or all of these tests on an oil is trying to give you real information. I pay close attention to these reviews!
Even if you’re not sold on the idea that lemon oil eating through Styrofoam shows you anything about an oil’s purity (it doesn’t), it can show when an oil is of low quality (not containing all the compounds expected), or adulterated. Most home testers don’t have labs, but most do have experience and give facts from that experience.
Personal Experience Using This Oil as Medicine
Proceed with Caution
As with lab-created medicine and traditional herbal remedies, essential oils do not work the same for every person. If they did, disease would be a thing of the past. Our bodies are different, and the peppermint that eases your headache might trigger my migraines. If the person writing the review was trying an oil to resolve inflammation, but their diet is full of foods that help to cause it, maybe the oil won’t work. If your diet is better, the oil just might help you.
As with other items, if someone has experience with an oil, and changes brands, their experience might be worth a little more. If the review shows some evidence that this oil doesn’t work in the same way as an oil of known quality, pay attention. These facts could indicate a low-quality oil, even if it’s otherwise pure. (See how Purity is not the same as Quality)
Generic Plant Information
Information about what lavender oil is supposed to help, or how cinnamon oil can be used, is too generic. Lots of reviews are based on what the oil is supposed to do, rather than what it has actually done for them. This information can be copied from myriad sources, and has nothing to do with what is inside the bottle you’re buying. It’s about the expectations of a quality oil.
The mere inclusion of this information doesn’t make a review bad. But if it’s the majority of a review’s substance, try to see if they tell you about their experience with this bottle. If not, you might as well just look up the wiki page on the oil you want to buy and read that.
Facts About This Specific Oil
How did this oil react in a diffuser versus the brand the reviewer had used previously? Does the review list a real issue with labeling, like the Wellnesscent cornmint oil masquerading as “peppermint”? (It’s referenced here, in the “scent” article, if you didn’t get there yet 🙂 ) Does the reviewer indicate whether they were able to obtain vital information about the oil that isn’t available on the product page? Do they tell you their thoughts about how it behaves when mixed with a carrier oil or used to make crafts or flavor food? Did it work to help them focus just like their previous brand? These are the things you’re looking for. This is a voice of experience telling you whether they believe this bottle is good, bad, or ugly.
You won’t always agree with these reviews. That’s OK – you’re seeking information, not planning to blindly follow. We like to encourage the independent thought around here (see disclaimer in second paragraph).
Here’s the thing – yes, some reviewers are terribly excited to get anything for free, and will give it a great rating. Others give everything a moderate rating and don’t care. Those are bad reviews anyway. What you’re looking for is to find someone telling you why they did or did not like the oil, no matter how they got it. If the review is only positive because it was free to that person, you’ll know it from the review. It won’t tell you what you want to know anyway, and won’t be a voice of experience. On the other hand, some free bottles are given to experienced and thorough reviewers. It’s the review you really care about, not whether they got a discount.
Some reviewers like to spout that because their product wasn’t free, their review is more valid. I’ve written hundreds of reviews. Most are still available on Amazon. I’ve called cookies “cardboard” and referred to free jam as being “chewy like gum”. I’ve posted photos of adulterated free “oils” next to oils of quality. I am not the only one! Read the review, not the disclaimer – not everyone appreciates a bargain enough to risk their reputation.
What About You?
Do you have certain things you look for as you read reviews? Do you only read the ones with specific ratings or toss out all the ones with disclaimers? Dissent is OK here, just keep it civil!