In 2018, members of the Chemical Entanglements Undergraduate Student Group researched and created interactive timelines that outline the history of synthetic chemicals, particular fragrances, essential oil usage, and their links to women’s health and activism.
We invite you to explore these timelines and learn from our student research!
This project was awarded the UCLA Library Undergraduate Research Prize for Best Digital Project!
This timeline documents the history of modern synthetic detergent products, beginning with the sulfonation of castor oil in 1831, to the development of present day detergent products such as Tide. Through this timeline, you can explore how chemical, health, environmental, military, legal, media, and gender factors intertwine to form the history of modern detergent and related products such as dryer sheets and fabric softeners.
Think about the smell of a freshly peeled orange, or a right-out-of-the-oven chocolate cake. Recall the taste of vanilla, or the sweet flavor of a banana in the morning. Now think about walking into Bath and Body Works and seeing the perfumes and lotions scented “chocolate cupcake” and “vanilla swirl,” and ask yourself: how did these foods that we love to eat become the scents that we like to wear on our bodies?
There is often an allure to essential oils. Jasmine, lavender, tea tree, patchouli, peppermint, and rose are a few essential oils that exist out of hundreds, each with their own characteristics, uses, and histories. Essential oils are highly potent compounds; for example, it requires about forty pounds of roses to produce only ¼ ounce of rose essential oil. The mass production of essential oils has, therefore, heavily relied on various methods to accelerate and cheapen the process. What are we paying for when we buy essential oils, and what is known about the safety of these products? What does history reveal about the safety and regulation of cosmetic products, such as essential oils?