Essential Oil Dilution

Though many essential oils can be used without dilution, some oils require dilution under certain circumstances or for use on certain people. We’ve received a lot of questions about this topic, so we’re going to try to address all of them in this article.

What is dilution?

Let’s start with a few definitions.
Dilution: The word “dilution” refers to combining an essential oil with a carrier oil or other substance so that the essential oil effects are not so concentrated in one area.
Neat: If you use an essential oil without dilution, you are applying the essential oil “neat.”
Carrier Oil: A carrier oil is a vegetable oil derived from the fatty portion of a plant, usually from the seeds, kernels, or nuts. Carrier oils are used to dilute an essential oil and “carry” it into the skin during topical application.

Why should I dilute my essential oils?

Since essential oils are extremely potent, and because some oils may cause irritation, diluting the essential oil with a carrier oil is often recommended. Children, pregnant women, and those with sensitive skin should always dilute essential oils. Diluting an essential oil in carrier oil is also a great way to help spread the essential oil over a larger area.

When should I dilute my essential oils?

Here are a few tips to help you know when you should dilute your essential oils:

  • If a rash develops or you feel a burning sensation after applying essential oils, you may not have diluted the oil enough. To help relieve the pain, simply apply more carrier oil to the area.
  • If you get essential oil in your eyes or on another sensitive area of the body, wash the area with a little carrier oil such as coconut oil.
  • Always dilute essential oils when using them on children. Kids have thinner, more sensitive skin and smaller bodies, so you don’t need as much essential oil either.
  • Always dilute essential oils for elderly people. Their skin is also thinner and more sensitive than that of the average adult.
  • Likewise, dilute for pregnant women. Skin sensitivities can change during pregnancy, and essential oils can cross the placenta and reach the unborn child.
  • If you are using essential oils in the bathtub, it is best to use an emulsifier like epsom salt or bath gel to help the essential oils disperse throughout the bathwater.
  • If you are taking essential oils internally via capsule, it is best to dilute the essential oils at least 1:1 with a digestible carrier oil such as olive oil.

What do I dilute my essential oils with?

Important note: Do not try using water to dilute essential oils. Water and oil do not mix, and the water will actually drive the oils deeper into tissues.

Carrier oils such as fractionated coconut oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, and sweet almond oil are often used for diluting essential oils. You can also use homemade creams, lotions, or dilution sticks (click here for a DIY dilution stick recipe).
The most commonly used carrier oil is fractionated coconut oil (FCO) because it is clear, odorless, inexpensive, and easily absorbed into the skin. Carrier oils can provide additional health benefits, so keep them in mind when you are preparing formulas for specific needs. For example:

  • Coconut Oil is a great all-purpose carrier oil because it is moisturizes well for all skin types (especially great for children) and benefits the hair (it nourishes, conditions, reduces protein loss, and helps regrowth after damage). It naturally contains iron and vitamins A and D.
  • Fractionated Coconut Oil contains a high concentration of capric acid and caprylic acid, which gives it an amazing amount of antioxidant and disinfecting properties.
  • Jojoba Oil has anti-inflammatory properties and is technically a liquid wax (giving it a really long shelf life).
  • Sweet Almond Oil is a great massage oil and softens skin and hair. It soothes inflamed, dry, and itchy skin.
  • Shea Oil can help skin issues such as eczema.
  • Sesame Seed Oil is soothing to the skin and is often used for massage. It is high in natural antioxidants and essential fatty acids.
  • Avocado Oil contains natural proteins, vitamins, essential fatty acids, and trace minerals. It is great to use on dry, dehydrated, mature, or irritated skin and is especially suitable for hair care.
  • Sunflower Oil is deeply nourishing and conditions the skin. It is often used to help hemorrhoids, sinusitis, rhinitis, bruising, and ulcers. It also contains essential fatty acids, vitamins (A, D, and E), and minerals (calcium, zinc, potassium, iron, and phosphorus).
  • Grape Seed Oil is an excellent massage oil and moisturizes the skin well. It also is mildly astringent and antiseptic, so it works great in an aftershave or face wash.
  • Olive oil is often used to dilute essential oils in capsules and in cooking. It is high in omega-9 essential fatty acid.

Click here for more information about carrier oils.

How do I dilute my essential oils?

To dilute an essential oil, simply mix the essential oil with the recommended amount of carrier oil. You can do this at the time of application by mixing the oils in the palm of your hand or in a small glass dish; or you can prepare a diluted essential oil mixture ahead of time and store it in a bottle. A roll-on bottle (or roller bottle) is useful for diluting an essential oil for topical application and applying essential oils easily to the skin. A dropper bottle can help you easily dilute essential oils to take internally by capsule (click here for more information about taking essential oils in capsules).

How much should I dilute an essential oil?

The amount of dilution needed depends largely on many different factors, such as the essential oil being used and whether or not the person is a child, has sensitive skin, is pregnant, is diabetic, or is dealing with epilepsy or high blood pressure. See Modern Essentials for more information about how much dilution is needed based on the essential oil.

In general, many essential oils can be used neat, but some do require dilution. For most adults, a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio (essential oil drop:carrier oil drop) is a good rule of thumb for most oils. For “hot” oils, such as cassia, cinnamon, clove, oregano, thyme, or lemongrass (and blends that include these oils), the recommended dilution ratio is 1:4.
For children, pregnant women, or those with sensitive skin, we recommend diluting 1 drop of essential oil in 1–3 tsp. (5–15 ml) of carrier oil.

Source: Modern Essentials™: A Contemporary Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils, 8th Edition.

This information has been designed to help educate the reader in regard to the subject matter covered. This information is provided with the understanding that the publisher, the authors, and AromaTools®, LLC, are not liable for the misconception or misuse of the information provided. It is not provided in order to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, illness, or injured condition of the body. The authors, publisher, and AromaTools®, LLC, shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss, damage, or injury caused or alleged to be caused, directly or indirectly, by this information. The information presented is in no way intended as a substitute for medical counseling. Anyone suffering from any disease, illness, or injury should consult a qualified healthcare professional.

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Homemade Essential Oil Dilution Sticks

While some essential oils can be used “neat” (without dilution), many do require dilution, especially when used on children, pregnant women, or people with sensitive skin. The most common way to dilute essential oils is to mix them with fractionated coconut oil. Sometimes this can get a little messy—especially when you’re on-the-go or applying oils to a wiggly child. We found a dilution solution by creating a thickened blend of carrier oils stored in a twist-up container: a dilution stick. This stick contains a formula of carrier oils that are good for sensitive skin and will remain solid at room temperature.

Our dilution stick recipe does not contain essential oils, so it can be used with any essential oil you need at the time. To use the stick, simply twist it up and rub it onto your skin before (or after) applying your essential oils.

If you have a favorite essential oil that you use frequently, you can also add it to the melted liquid before pouring the mixture into your containers. Or you can add the essential oil after pouring the carrier oil mixture into each container. Just be sure to stir the essential oil in with a toothpick or bamboo skewer before the mixture cools. A good dilution ratio is 1–2 drops per .15 oz. (4.25 g) of carrier oil mixture, or the following:

If you love this idea but don’t want to make it, you can always buy the Essential Oil Carrier Oil Stick that is ready to go. A smaller On-The-Go Essential Oil Extender is also available.

The following recipe fills at least 2 dilution sticks—1 large and 1 small. (Or make 1 round one and 2 small ones, or many little ones—any combination of containers totaling 3 oz.) Keep a big one at home and a small one in your purse or travel bag. That way, you’ll always have one when you need it!

Essential Oil Dilution Sticks

  • Servings: Yield=3 oz.
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Place the mango butter and beeswax in a double boiler on the stove over medium-low heat. You can create a double boiler by placing a glass measuring cup (containing the ingredients) in a pan filled with an inch or so of water.
  2. Once the mango butter and beeswax are melted, reduce the heat to low, and add the coconut oil. When the coconut oil is melted, add the sweet almond oil, and remove boiler from heat. Continue stirring until all the oils have melted together.
  3. Make sure your containers are clean and twisted all the way down. Pour the oil into your containers, and allow them to cool. You can place them in the refrigerator to speed up the cooling process.
  4. To use, rub the stick over the skin before applying essential oils.

NOTES:

Other twist-up containers also work, including our Round Twist Tube (2.2 oz/63.4 g) and our Lip Balm Dispensing Tubes (.15 oz/4.25 g). When choosing containers for this recipe, just use as many containers as needed to hold a total of 3 oz.

*Shea butter contains latex (a natural rubber). If you are allergic or sensitive to latex, do a skin patch test before making this recipe with shea butter.

All About Carrier Oils—FAQs and Information Charts

Because we have had many questions and figure others do too, we decided to dig deep and find the answers about the differences in carrier oils and how to choose one for your needs.

What are carrier oils, and how are they used?

A carrier oil is a vegetable oil derived from the fatty portion of a plant, usually from the seeds, kernels, or the nuts. Carrier oils are used to dilute and “carry” an essential oil into the skin during topical application.

In this article we are going to include oils, butters, glycerin, salts, and soap bases because they can serve similar purposes, even though some aren’t technically carrier oils. We’ve also included information graphics on other ingredients we offer that are commonly found in DIY products such as zinc oxide and citric acid.

What is the difference between essential oils and carrier oils?

“Essential oils are the volatile liquids that are distilled from plants (including their respective parts such as seeds, bark, leaves, stems, roots, flowers, fruit, etc.)” (Modern Essentials, p. 6). Because essential oils are volatile, they will evaporate when exposed to air.

“A carrier oil refers to a vegetable oil, wax, fat, or other oil that an essential oil is mixed with. The carrier oil ‘carries’ the essential oil and dilutes it so its effects can be spread over a larger area” (Modern Essentials, inside front cover). As mentioned above, carrier oils are pressed from the fatty portions of a plant. Carrier oils do not evaporate or impart their aroma as strongly as essential oils.

Can carrier oils go bad?

Yes. Because carrier oils are pressed from the fatty portions of a plant, they often contain essential fatty acids that, although very beneficial to our body, also contribute to a short shelf life. Because carrier oils vary in their ratio and the specific essential fatty acids they contain, their shelf life also varies. The level of natural fatty acids, tocopherols (vitamin E compounds found in many carrier oils), method of extraction, and other characteristics of an oil can all affect how quickly it becomes rancid.

How can you tell if a carrier oil is rancid?

Carrier oils, in general, should have a soft aroma. If you find your carrier oil has a strong, bitter aroma, it has likely gone rancid. The best way to tell is to compare the odor with the odor of the same carrier oil that is fresh.

How do I store my carrier oils?

Most carrier oils (avocado oil excluded) can be stored in the refrigerator to prolong shelf life. Some oils stored in the refrigerator may solidify or become cloudy and need to be returned to room temperature prior to use. Avocado oil should never be stored in the refrigerator because it contains many important, fragile constituents that can be affected by lower temperatures.

Some carrier oils that are less fragile and have a longer shelf can be stored at a cool room temperature.

How do I use the solid butters?

Our butters are solid at room temperature, so you will need to break off chunks and heat them up to get the measurements you need. The best way to melt the butters is to use a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can create one by placing the butter in a glass dish over a pan with an inch of boiling water. It is important to use low heat for most carrier oils and butter so you don’t alter their constituents. Do not microwave carrier oils or butters.

Shea butter, however, can become gritty if not melted and cooled properly. Heat shea butter to at least 175º F for at least 20 minutes. If possible, let it cool in the refrigerator. After it is cooled, store your shea butter at room temperature.

How can I use carrier oils?

Carrier oils can be used in many ways. One of the most common ways is to mix an essential oil and a carrier oil (such as fractionated coconut oil, sweet almond oil, olive oil, etc.) in a roll-on bottle. This can be an easy way to apply a diluted essential oil topically. Vegetable glycerin, Castile soap, or Epsom salts can act as an emulsifier to help disperse essential oils through other ingredients such as water. Epsom salts are commonly used as bath salts and can be a great way to disperse essential oils throughout a bath. Many of the carrier oils and butters can be used to make lotions, creams, lip balms, massage blends, soap products, body care products, candles, diffusers, air fresheners, sprays, and various other products.

General Safety Information

Use caution when trying any new ingredient, including carrier oils, on the skin or in the hair. Those with nut allergies should consult their medical practitioner before coming into contact with nut oils, butters, or other nut products. Also, latex (a natural rubber) is a natural constituent of shea butter. If you have an allergy or sensitivity to latex, avoid shea butter or perform a skin-patch test prior to use. For very in-depth information on oil safety issues, read Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young.

What carrier oils does AromaTools™ offer?

AromaTools® offers the following carrier oils:

Information Charts

For more information about each carrier oil and how it can be used, click on an image below to enlarge.