Just because something is natural, it doesn’t make it safe to use directly on skin. That goes for essential oils, too. Essential oils are highly potent, plant-extracted oils that can do some real damage to your skin if they aren’t properly diluted before use. Let’s get into how to use them cautiously and the best ways to reap the holistic benefits of essential oils.
Why can’t I use essential oils on my skin directly?
Do not use undiluted essential oils on skin. Here’s why.
Essential oils are generally natural and safe, but highly concentrated and potent. They become unsafe when used incorrectly and inappropriately. Despite the many benefits, essential oils can be harmful to the skin if they are not properly diluted with water + solubilizing compound, a carrier oil or another substance. To get a better feel for what we mean, it takes about “256 pounds of peppermint leaf to make one pound of peppermint essential oil” and “Thousands of pounds of roses to make 1 pound of rose essential oil,” as told by prominent wellness blogger, Katie Wells. You should only use one drop of an essential oil with a tablespoon of your diluting solution to avoid any issues. So, DO NOT use undiluted essential oils directly on your skin. It can cause harm to your skin in a few ways, including:
The risks of using essential oils can also vary based on age, personal health history, body chemistry and the way you use essential oils. But overall, the most dramatic reactions of using essential oils incorrectly on skin can manifest into mild contact dermatitis to blistering rashes to complete loss of skin pigmentation.
The Tisserand Institute, a leading essential oils research institute, describes an allergic reaction “to manifest within 5-10 minutes of applying an essential oil,” and common symptoms include redness, itching, burning, and hives. Perhaps the most common allergic reaction is contact dermatitis, which irritates skin and causes itchy bumps to form. Although, contact dermatitis may show up mostly in people who have a history of skin rashes arising from different fragrances or weed pollens, one of the most well-known pathogens.
Cause permanent skin sensitivity
If essential oils are applied directly onto broken or damaged skin, you may develop permanent skin sensitization. Permanent skin sensitization can occur after 1-2 uses, or even take weeks and months to develop.
Produce chemical burns
Essential oils contain furanocoumarins, which are photosynthesizing compounds produced by many plants. Certain essential oils like Lemon essential oil and Grapefruit essential oil typically contain a higher number of furocoumarins, increasing their sensitivity to skin in the presence of light. When skin is exposed to light, redness and an intense burning sensation can resume a few hours after, and it gradually worsens.
Photosensitivity generally occurs when citrus-based oils used on skin are exposed to harmful UV rays, which causes redness and irritation. It is a reaction unique to citrus essential oils because they contain potential carcinogenic furocoumarins that activate under direct sunlight. Jean Liao, certified aromatherapist, says these “citrus oils cause burning or skin pigmentation under this UV exposure”. Her recommendation is to avoid the sun after applying citrus oils to the skin.
How to make it safe to use essential oils on skin
Dilute essential oils
Properly diluting essential oils before use can save you the trouble of dealing with potential skin issues. Below are ways you can dilute essential oils to ensure safety:
Add essential oils to your lotion or moisturizer
Creams and lotions are basically a mixture of water and oils, which makes it easier to dilute your essential oils to create a safe-to-use compound. Easy tip: if your lotion or moisturizer includes triglycerides - an emollient and skin-replenishing ingredient - or refers to plant-based oils like coconut or olive oil, you’ve got the green light to dilute.
Mix with Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe Vera is a plant-extracted, skin-healing gel that is “cooling, soothing, moisturizing” and has a range of “other beneficial properties make it suitable for diluting essential oils prior to topical application.” Robert Tisserand of the Tisserand Institute Robert explains that “it is best to use aloe vera jellies that are formulated to include a thickening agent.” The thick texture “allows the essential oil to stay suspended (mixed) within it.”
Use plant oils, or better known as, Carrier Oils
Carrier oils are typically the most common type of essential oil dilution and are largely derived from the fatty portions of a plant. They have a low potency and concentration when compared to essential oils, meaning they don’t evaporate like essential oils do. They “carry” the volatile essential oils for safe use and generally don’t have a strong aroma.
Carrier oils keep it within the plant family
It’s best to use the carrier oils because they have distinct skin benefits of their own that are enhanced when added to essential oils. Carrier oils are rich in essential vitamins, which can help treat various skin ailments, and are deeply hydrating. Some popular examples include Avocado Oil, Coconut, Oil, and Jojoba Oil, which all contain moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties necessary for promoting healthy skin.
“Skin can actually absorb more of the essential oil through the process of dilution” - Robert Tisserand, essential oil research-based Tisserand Institute
How to dilute essential oils
Now that you know why it’s important to dilute essential oils, let’s talk about how you can begin.
2% dilution rate is a safe bet
Robert Tisserand of the essential oil research-based Tisserand Institute published an Essential Oils Safety report, which points out that “skin can actually absorb more of the essential oil through the process of dilution.” The report also highlights that “a 2% essential oil dilution is generally considered a safe guideline for topical application on adults.” Using Essential Oils Safely, an essential oil-based blog, says 2% is “ideal for most adults and in most situations.” A 1% dilution rate is recommended for children and the elderly since they generally have sensitive skin. To keep it safe, make sure to measure by the drop! In this case, a 2% dilution rate equates to 2 drops of essential oil per tablespoon of carrier oil, and so forth.
DIY Carrier Oil/Essential Oil Recipes
1. Survival Skin
2. Muscle Melody
3. Age Defier
Best Essential Oils to use on skin
Among the 90 identifiable and commonly-used essential oils in the world, there are a few that are largely recognized in the health and wellness community and perfect for beginner experimentation. Be sure to dilute with a carrier oil of your choice before using on skin:
Lavender Oil has a complex and sweet scent that is calming and soothing for the skin. Its best characteristic is reducing skin irritation.
Frankincense Oil has a woodsy scent. It is ideal for treating dry skin and smoothing wrinkles.
German Chamomile Oil is a more lucrative, valuable oil due to its diverse qualities. It is antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and helps restore and soothe irritated skin, burn bruises, and other skin conditions.
Tea Tree Oil is known for its therapeutic and healing properties. It is also valued for treating acne and oily skin.
Way of Will’s carrier oils are high-quality and ready for dilution
Way of Will creates plant-derived carrier oils that are designed to replenish moisture and promote healing for your wellness needs. Here is the diverse range of carrier oils you need to try:
Skin Therapy Carrier Oil
Way of Will’s Skin Therapy Carrier Oil contains primary oils, Vitamin E and Linolenic Acid, which are powerful against skin damage. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce skin damage as a result of sun exposure. Combined with Linolenic Acid, which is found in many nuts and avocado oil, it improves the skin’s overall appearance, according to Dermascope. Skin Therapy Carrier Oil is an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and healing mixture for the skin, and can also be applied without diluting with essential oils. Although, it is best diluted with Grapefruit or Lemon Oil to reduce the appearance of cellulite or Lavender Oil to promote relaxation.
Muscle Therapy Carrier Oil
Muscle Therapy Carrier Oil is packed with good-for-you ingredients to help you relax after a long workout, or enjoy a much-needed massage. Muscle Therapy’s plant-derived ingredients promote healthy skin regeneration that also conditions irritated and itchy skin. With the addition of Vitamins A and E, the combo is a powerful source for new skin cell production. The addition of Omega 3 and 6 protects against the sun and keeps skin moisturized. Best diluted with Peppermint Oil for a cooling massage experience or Grapefruit Oil to soothe tense muscles.
Age Therapy Carrier Oil
The Age Therapy Carrier Oil has a strong base of Vitamin A, which has a strong hydrating factor that defies aging lines and wrinkles. For optimal satisfaction, dilute with Atlas Cedarwood Oil or Lemongrass oil to help de-stress skin.
Complexion Therapy Carrier Oil
Complexion Therapy Carrier Oil is an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory protectant for your skin with a Vitamin E base. The inclusion of pure Jojoba Oil promotes a glowing complexion and protects skin. Complexion Therapy can also be applied to hair as it is ideal for managing a frizzy and damaged mane.
Moisture Therapy Carrier Oil
This carrier oil revitalizes and soothes skin from head to toe using natural almond oil as a base. It is also rich in Vitamin D, which is one of the most essential vitamins we need to keep our cells alive and functioning well. Sunlight is a great, natural source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps support skin elasticity and overall health.
Way of Will’s essential oil-based products are already diluted to meet your skin’s needs
Face Serums are lightweight, vitamin-rich, and easily absorbed to promote moisture and prevent dehydration.
Face oils are packed with essential vitamins and omegas to hydrate and nourish skin.
Face toners consist of silk amino acids derived from the silkworm cocoon, known for their excellent moisture building properties that are easily absorbed into the skin.
Face Moisturizer is ideal for all skin types and will help to improve uneven skin tone, dullness, and the appearance of fine lines.
Face Cleanser is a mild, low foam, all natural formulation that is ideal for all skin types. It will thoroughly cleanse your skin, dissolving excess dirt and debris, without over-drying, or stripping your skin of its natural oils.
Energizing Face Sprays are powerful formulas to stimulate and enhance your workout sesh.
Body wash formulas are perfect for restarting your mind and body after intense exercise.