I often read how diluting essential oils is not necessary in some cases and how it's safe to apply oils directly onto the skin. I feel it is my duty as a skin care blogger to tell you how much this isn't true and why.
Safety first, beauty second! Remember that. I know we all want to have great skin – healthy and youthful. But we must not neglect to take safety precautions.
Think of essential oils as a double-edged sword. These oils can either help you or hurt you. The allure of essential oils is their multiple benefits for overall health and beauty. But use them the wrong way and these oils can turn on you – leaving you to cope with bigger problems than you had in the beginning.
To be able to harness the benefits of essential oils, you need to know how to use them safely and effectively. Allow me to help you navigate essential oils for a safer skin care journey.
So go ahead and read on for the basic guidelines on how to dilute essential oils for topical use.
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.
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." And oh, boy! This is something you simply must not do.
It is very dangerous, and I got to discover this from personal experience.
When I didn't know about diluting essential oils
I first tried using essential oils because I was suffering from acne. A friend told me tea tree oil helps to cure pimples. I got myself one and started applying directly onto the skin.
I ignored how much it burns and stings. I thought “the more it burns, the more it works.” It did work – one way or another. My eyes were crying, my nose running, my skin became red and itchy – clearly, the situation was telling me that I did something wrong.
After a quick search on Google Scholar, I found out what my mistake was – I did not dilute the tea tree oil. Although I am still cautious with this oil, no severe consequences developed. Thankfully.
This whole situation could have ended up way worse though.
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 the following:
- 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.
With that, I saw it fit to create a straightforward guide for all you lovely readers. I believe this guide will help you navigate essential oils safely and effectively, more so than this post can ever do!
I can't wait for you to read it, and I hope that it will help you with your skin care journey.
If you already are using essential oils or have some awesome soothing recipes, remember to share them in the comments below.
Are you new to essential oils? Be sure to check my guide for beginners Getting Started With Essential Oils.
Thank you for reading my blog, I truly appreciate it.
Stay tuned and take skin care
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