I often read how diluting essential oils is not necessary in some cases.
Some even recommend applying straight to your skin. Let's find those people and beat them gently over the head with with a shoe.
As you'll see in a short second, essential oils is like a double-edged sword. The oils can help you a ton... or hurt you if you don't dilute properly.
In short, if you want to blend your oils safely, without being worried if your blend is going to harm you, you're in the right place.
Why Do You Need To Dilute Essential Oils?
Essential oils are plant extracts that are usually derived through the steam distillation of huge amounts of plant seeds, kernels, petals, or leaves.
They are celebrated for their scent, ability to add flavor, and therapeutic properties.
To say that essential oils are therapeutic means that these oils can affect the course of conditions, diseases, syndromes, or pathology in the benefit of our health. Examples of these therapeutic properties are anti-allergy, anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-proliferative – to name a few.
When it comes to flavoring, we have certainly encountered EOs in our food, though in small quantities.
They are known to add unique flavors – finding use in pastries and beverages.
Fun fact: The original recipe for Coca-Cola, invented by John Pemberton in 1886, included the essential oils of orange, lemon, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, and neroli
I don't recommend ingesting any essential oils because people get hurt. I'll cover this in another post but just to be clear, even though they have history of being used in Coca-Cola, that doesn't mean I say start using oils in water, tea, or anything else.
These oils are incredibly concentrated and potent. Take rose oil for example – one drop of it contains oils extracted from more than 1200 petals (about 40 roses).
Those numbers of roses are enough to provide 2 brides with their wedding bouquet!
With something as potent as these oils, you may begin to see why we need to be cautious. With great potency comes great responsibility – as Uncle Ben said, kind of.
One way of being irresponsible is by using essential oils directly onto the skin.
This act is referred to as applying them "neat." Stay away from that.
This is dangerous, speaking from personal experience...
When I didn't know about diluting essential oils
My first experience with essential oils was an attempt to heal my stubborn acne.
My friend recommended something called tea tree oil. She said it could cure any pimples. I didn't know what it was at the time but if my friend told me it was effective. I naturally trusted her and ordered a small 10ml bottle from Amazon.
A week later when I unpacked the oil, I applied it directly onto the skin.
Auch! I felt it stinging and burning almost immediately. It must be working I mumbled to myself. Two minutes later and my eyes start watering up and trickling down my face. My nose starts running and my skin starts turning red.
At this point I realized something isn't right...
After a quick search on Google Scholar, I discovered that I had to dilute the oil. Still with the oil on my face I rushed into the bathroom to wipe the oil off.
Luckily, nothing severe happened to my face that day but it taught me to respect and research essential oils before mindlessly using them.
Using essential oils only after properly diluting them is the smart and responsible thing to do – whether you are using it on yourself or your family.
Here are some of the dangers of not diluting essential oils properly:
What is sensitization?
Skin sensitization is a type of allergic reaction when a substance comes into contact with the skin. Neat use of essential oils can lead to this.
An immunological response is triggered by skin sensitization, which means it messes with our immune system's response to the specific substance. While skin irritation happens immediately and can be relieved, sensitization develops over time, and you may not discover it until it's too late.
The symptoms of sensitization can vary from person to person.
Severe cases of sensitization can lead to more serious problems like respiratory issues.
Sensitization is a long-term consequence.
Once you develop sensitization to an essential oil, you are likely to remain permanently sensitized to that particular essential oil, even if you begin to dilute it properly.
You may also develop a reaction to other essential oils or products that contain them.
Marge Clark, author of the book Essential Oils and Aromatics, shares her experience of using lavender essential oil neat. She says:
"Years ago, I read the books saying that lavender oil could be used neat (undiluted). I very unwisely used undiluted lavender on broken skin and consequently set up a sensitivity reaction. Today, almost two decades later, if I come in contact with lavender in any form, I will immediately start a new round of contact dermatitis that can take months to heal." [Marge Clark, Essential Oils and Aromatics(Sandy, UT: Silverleaf Press, 2008), 32.]
Diluting Essential Oils Safely
According to the second edition of Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young, using a 2% essential oil dilution is generally considered a safe guideline for essential oils on adults.
To be able to measure the rate of dilution of essential oils, we basically measure how many drops of essential oil to add in 100 drops of carrier oil.
For example, 1% dilution means 1 drop of essential oil to be diluted in 100 drops of carrier oil.
100 drops of carrier oil are equal to 5ml or 1 teaspoon of liquid.
In the dilution chart below you can see the ratios for 0.25%, 0.5%, 1%, 2%.
Dilutions above 2% are considered suitable for topical application for only short-term use and only under the supervision of someone well educated in essential oils and aromatherapy.
0.25% dilution adding 0.25 drops of essential oil to 100 drops of carrier oil. Since measuring 0.25 drops is a difficult task, you can achieve this percentage by adding 1 drop of essential oil to 400 drops or 4 teaspoons of your carrier oil.
To make a 0.5% dilution rate you need to add 1 drop of essential oil to 200 drops or 2 teaspoons of carrier oil.
In the same fashion, 1% dilution rate means adding 1 drop of your essential oil to 100 drops of carrier oil or approximately 1 tsp of carrier oil. Another way to put it up is adding 6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil. This dilution is appropriate for adults.
This is the recommended rate of dilution for adults. 2% dilution rate means adding 2 drops of essential oil to 1 teaspoon (100 drops) of your carrier oil. In other words, to get a 2% dilution you need to add 12 drops of essential oil to one ounce of carrier oil.
Should you be diluting essential oils when using them in your diffuser?
When using essential oils in your diffuser, you should follow the directions that come with the diffuser you have.
In most cases, you should not dilute the essential oils in any type of oil, but some diffusers require that you use water. Be sure to check the directions that come with the model that you have.
General Rules To Remember When Using Essential Oils
Now that you have a fine grasp of diluting essential oils, we can talk about the general things you need to remember when dealing with EOs.
These rules are not here to limit your fun with the oils but to keep you safe as you enjoy the many benefits of essential oils.
The rules are as follows:
- Essential oils must be kept in lidded, dark glass bottles (like amber bottles), or aluminum containers.
- Avoid spillage by ensuring the bottle top or the container lid is secure.
- Keep essential oils away from light and heat – ideally storing them in a cool, dark place.
- All essential oils and blends must be kept out of the reach of children and pets.
- Before and after using diluted or undiluted essential oils, wash hands thoroughly.
- Avoid all contact with the eyes — if accidentally, EO gets into the eye, wash the eye immediately, as best as you can, and seek medical assistance.
- Do not directly apply essential oils to eyes, up the nose, in the ears, or to genital areas.
- Drink milk or another fatty substance and contact your local poison unit for advice when a large amount of undiluted essential oil is accidentally ingested.
- Unless under the direction of a professional therapist, never apply undiluted essential oil over large areas of the body,
- A skin test must be conducted before use by those prone to sensitivities or allergic reactions to fragrance ingredients.
Treat Essential Oils With Respect
I encourage you to not miss out on the amazing properties of essential oils.
But along with this encouragement is the reminder to treat essential oils with respect. You should not be afraid to incorporate essential oils into your regimen, and this is definitely not the purpose of my post.
My goal is to make sure you use the oils cautiously and always always
always dilute them before applying onto your skin. Using them neat is a danger for your health, a waste of money, and a threat to sustainability.
So, when working with essential oils, it is good to remember that less is more. Diluting essential oils before application on the skin is a way to preserve both your health and nature.
A lot of resources and hard work are needed for us to be able to enjoy the benefits of these oils.
The value of essential oils is not only in their scent.
We may think that because they are sweet-smelling, their value is charm alone.
In reality, scientists in labs all over the world work hours upon hours to unearth more of the benefits of essential oils. A complete essential oil is above its main constituents. So, they may smell sweet and lovely, but essential oils are potent too.
Treat them with respect and use them wisely and safely.
Source: Many of the useful information about essential oils safety comes from The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, Revised and Expanded by Valerie Ann Worwood. Do pick it up if you’re an essential oil enthusiast – it’s definitely worth a read!
When it comes to essential oils and safety, there is so much we can talk about! So much that I can't possibly include everything in a single post.
New to essential oils? Read this next: Getting Started With Essential Oils.
Stay tuned and take skin care
What's your no1 concern about using essential oils in your skin care? Write it in the comments section down below.