10 Ways NOT to Use Essential Oils

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.

Click here for more troubleshooting tips when essential oils aren’t used properly or an adverse reaction occurs.

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.

Source: Modern Essentials™: The Complete Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils.

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.