How to safely use essential oils: 10 do’s & don’ts

Essential oils have been used throughout history to support both our physical and mental wellbeing. Oils from plants such as flowers, seeds, and fruit peels are extracted through different procedures such as distilling through steam or cold pressing. After the distillation and extraction process, the essential oils you know and love are ready for use. 

While there are many ways to incorporate essential oils in your daily routine, we suggest diffusing them for aromatherapy or applying them topically. We want you to reap all the amazing benefits of essential oils safely, so read on for our 10 do’s and don’ts when using essential oils.

#1 Do dilute your essential oils before topical application

Dilute essential oils before applying topically

Always check your essential oils for dilution guidelines. Unless specified as a “neat” oil, dilution is necessary to lower the potency of the essential oil for safe topical application. You can use carrier oils such as apricot, almond, or coconut oils to create the proper dilution. Generally, you should keep the concentration levels of essential oils below 5%. We suggest starting with a 1% concentration by mixing one drop of oil to one teaspoon of carrier oil and adjusting accordingly.  

    #2 Don’t ingest essential oils 

    Although essential oils are natural products, it is still important to use them with caution and care. For that reason, we do not recommend ingesting essential oils. Oils are absorbed more deeply when ingested, so even a couple of drops could increase the chance of a bad reaction with medication or trigger an allergic response.

    Below are oils that you should especially avoid ingesting:

    • Tea tree
    • Wintergreen
    • Camphor
    • Eucalyptus
    • Peppermint
    • Citrus oils

    Education and safety should be a top priority when you purchase essential oils. Make sure you shop a trusted brand that uses quality ingredients and avoids oils that have unnecessary additives. As a good rule of thumb, it is best to topically apply or diffuse essential oils. 

    #3 Do a patch test

    If you don’t know how your skin will react to an essential oil, conducting a patch test is extremely helpful to ensure that it is suitable for your skin type. 

    Here are the steps to conducting a proper patch test:

    • Wash forearm with unscented soap and pat dry
    • Apply a few drops of diluted oil to a small patch of your forearm
    • Wait 24 hours
    • Examine forearm for any side effects or adverse reactions

    If you see any redness, blisters, or experience itchiness, stop using the oil. Don’t see any side effects? You’re good to go! 

    #4 Don’t use photosensitive essential oils in direct sunlight

    Don't use photosensitive essential oils in direct uv ray sunlight

    You should avoid direct sunlight after applying photosensitive essential oils. Photosensitive essential oils contain particles that in combination with UV light, can alter the chemical structure of the molecules. This makes the skin especially susceptible to UV radiation and can magnify sun damage. Skin may become red, irritated, and temporarily darkly pigmented after using photosensitive oils in sunlight. Below are some common essential oils that should avoid UV light.

    Avoid sunlight up to 12 hours after use:

    • Bergamot
    • Lemon
    • Grapefruit
    • Orange
    • Lime
    • Cumin

    #5 Do consult with your doctor

    When in doubt, always consult with your doctor to make sure essential oils are right for you and your lifestyle. If you take any medications or have a pre-existing condition, it is best to have a discussion with your doctor to ensure the oils will not cause a negative reaction. For example, you should avoid eucalyptus and peppermint oil if you have asthma since they contain phenol, a compound that could irritate the respiratory tract. 

    If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it has been recommended to avoid essential oils until your second trimester. For essential oil use after your second trimester, talk to your doctor to see what oils can work for you. Below are a few oils to avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding. 

    • Cinnamon
    • Rosemary
    • Clary sage
    • Jasmine
    • Wormwood
    • Parsley

    #6 Don’t use essential oils near open flames

    Most essential oils are flammable, so avoid using essential near open flames. If you spill any essential oils, take extra care and time in cleaning them up. Flammable oils can be considered hazardous, so be mindful when you dispose of your oils. They should not be dumped down the toilet or drain since it could potentially contaminate groundwater. Below are some essential oils to use with caution since they are especially flammable.

    • Tea tree
    • Clove
    • Eucalyptus
    • Lavender
    • Lemon
    • Peppermint

    #7 Do store your essential oils safely

    Store essential oils away safely from children

    To extend the shelf life of your essential oils, it’s crucial to store your oils safely. It is best to store your oils in a cool, dry, and dark area, away from direct sunlight. As mentioned previously, photosensitive oils in direct sunlight can be especially harmful to the skin, so it is suggested to keep your oils away from UV exposure. You should also keep essential oils out of children’s reach. The potency of the oils can cause skin irritation and when ingested can be toxic.

    Additionally, you should transfer larger bottles of essential oils into smaller glass containers to prevent oxygen from interacting with the oils. Keep the cap tightly twisted to avoid evaporation and air exposure for maximum longevity for your essential oils!

    #8 Don’t keep the diffuser running all day

    It is easy to leave your diffuser running all day. However, it is best to run your diffuser in 30 to 60-minute intervals, especially if it is running in the highest setting. You don’t want the scents to be completely overpowering since this can lead to headaches and nausea. There are many variables that factor in how long you should diffuse essential oils such as space and potency. Experiment to find a balance that works best for you.

    #9 Do check the quality of the oil

    Always check the ingredient list in your essential oils. Some brands carry oils that are not 100% pure and include unnecessary additives that can irritate your skin. Ensuring you are buying quality essential oils can require some work, but here are some tips and tricks to make sure you are purchasing quality products!

    • Quality essential oils tend to be stored in tinted glass containers to avoid a chemical breakdown in reaction with plastic.
    • Stick with pure essential oils to obtain full effectiveness. If you have a negative reaction to a blend, it is harder to determine what ingredient caused the reaction.
    • Check how the oil was harvested. The best methods of extraction are cold-pressed, steam distilled, or solvent extracted.
    • Examine the price point. Because essential oils are so potent, it takes a significant amount of raw ingredients to produce a batch. If an oil is unreasonably cheap, it is highly likely it is impure and contains filler ingredients.

    #10 Don’t use around pets

    Don't use or diffuse certain essential oils around your pets

    Since pets tend to have heightened senses, it is important to be mindful when you’re diffusing oils. In fact, some essential oils are poisonous to dogs and cats, such as cinnamon, tea tree, wintergreen, citrus, and peppermint. Essential oils can be irritating to your pet’s skin and could result in an upset stomach if they lick the applied area. It is best to consult proper veterinary advice before using any oils on your pets and read product labels to ensure that it is safe for pet use. 

    You’re Ready!

    With these 10 tips, we hope you can more confidently incorporate essential oils into your lifestyle! If you have more questions, feel free to check out our Essential Oils 101 Guide or consult your doctor.

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