We often hear about the benefits of essential oils and how you can use them for practically anything, but it is also a good idea to learn about the ways you shouldn’t use essential oils. Here are 10 ways you should NOT use essential oils:
1. Do NOT put essential oils directly in the eye.
Essential oils may be beneficial for some eye problems such as conjunctivitis or cataracts, but the oils should not be applied directly in the eye. Instead, you can rub the oils around the bone that surrounds the eye. Make sure to dilute the essential oil and keep a carrier oil (such as olive oil, coconut oil, or fractionated coconut oil) on hand to further dilute the essential oil if you happen to get any in the eye. One of the best ways to dilute essential oil that has gotten into the eye is to pour a little carrier oil onto a tissue and use the tissue to dab at the eye. Remember not to use water to wash out the oils. Water and oil do not mix, and using water will actually drive the oils in deeper. Be very careful when applying essential oil around the eye, and never apply the oil directly in the eye!
2. Do NOT put essential oils directly in the ear.
Essential oils may help with ear infections and tinnitus, but as with essential oils in the eye, you should NOT put essential oils directly in the ear. You can instead rub essential oils around the ear or place a drop or two on a cotton ball, then place the cotton ball just inside the ear to help with ear problems.
3. Do NOT use a lot of essential oil at once.
Essential oil is very concentrated and should only be used in small doses. In fact, a drop or two is usually sufficient and may even need be diluted with carrier oil (especially for “hot” oils or for use on children, the elderly, or those with sensitive skin). If, for any reason, you need a stronger dose, it is better to keep the dosage small, but apply more frequently rather than using more drops per application.
4. Do NOT use essential oils on young children without dilution.
As mentioned above, essential oils are very concentrated and should be diluted if using them on children, the elderly, or those with sensitive skin. Click here for more information on diluting essential oils and the recommended dilution ratios.
5. Do NOT use essential oils internally for young children.
Caution must be used when using essential oils with young children. Children under the age of 6 do not need to take essential oils internally. The exception to this rule of thumb is when essential oils are used in cooking, because oils used this way are often diluted enough for children. For therapeutic use, topical application (diluted, of course) is usually sufficient for the needs of young children.
6. Do NOT keep essential oils within reach of children.
Children are very curious and like to imitate the things they see. They watch you apply essential oils to yourself or to them and will attempt to do it themselves if they can get ahold of essential oils. You can probably imagine potential problems with this, especially if you have been reading the above cautions about using essential oils on children. Here are some things you can do if you come across the following situations:
- Child has poured a bunch of oil on his or her skin: Rub as much off with a paper towel as possible, then rub on carrier oil to help dilute the essential oil.
- Child got essential oil in his or her eyes: Saturate a tissue with a carrier oil, and dab the child’s eyes to help dilute the essential oil.
- Child has ingested essential oil: Give the child milk, yogurt, or, if older than 12 months, honey to help dilute the ingested oil. You may also want to call poison control to see if they have any further instructions.
- Child got oil on clothes, fabric, wood, or furniture: Soak up as much as possible with a paper towel, then treat as you would a grease stain.
Essential oils are expensive, so aside from the safety concerns of children using the oils on themselves, you will also want to keep the oils out of reach of children so the oil isn’t wasted.
7. Do NOT use essential oils with plastic or styrofoam.
Some essential oils (especially citrus oils), when undiluted, will eat away at plastic, which can destroy the oil and create holes in the plastic, so it is best to avoid using plastic with essential oils. Same goes for styrofoam. If the oils are heavily diluted, such as in creams or lotions, they can be stored in plastic containers that use stronger types of plastic like PET or HDPE. Click here to learn more about the different types of plastics we use in our containers.
8. Do NOT put oil directly on finished wood surfaces.
Just as with plastics, essential oils can eat away at the finishing on wood surfaces. Be careful when using essential oils around finished wood pieces, and remember to clean up immediately after noticing any essential oil has spilled on your wood surface to avoid any disfiguring.
9. Do NOT apply citrus oil while sitting in the sunshine.
Some essential oils (typically citrus oils) are photosensitive and contain natural substances called furanocoumarins. Furanocoumarins can react with ultraviolet light to create substances that may cause hyperpigmentation or burning on the skin. While these essential oils have many beneficial properties, care should be taken after applying these oils on the skin to protect these areas from direct, prolonged ultraviolet light exposure for 1–3 days.
10. Do NOT leave your oils in the cabinet unused.
Even though we have talked about the various ways you should use caution when using essential oils, we hope we haven’t scared you into not using your oils at all. Essential oils, when used appropriately, can be very beneficial to the health and well-being of our bodies. If you have essential oils, don’t let them sit untouched in your cabinet—use them! A great resource to help you learn how to use essential oils is the book Modern Essentials™: The Complete Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils.
Disclaimer: The essential oil bottles in these pictures were filled with water rather than essential oils. No children (or adults) were harmed while taking these pictures. We do not recommend trying any of the photographed situations at home.