As a Certified Aromatherapist I am passionate about helping people use essential oils safely. Most essential oils can be applied to the skin safely as long as they are properly diluted with a carrier oil. Of course, some essential oils carry their own guidelines in order to ensure safe topical application, please be sure to research every essential oil prior to use to ensure you are blending within the guidelines of that particular essential oil.
In my previous blog post I covered some basics when it comes to proper essential oil dilution. In this post, I want to go a little more in depth so you can rest assured you are using essential oils safely.
Notes and Essential Oils
An essential oil is a volatile plant compound. Being volatile means that essential oils evaporate quickly. Their note (Top, middle or base) determines just how fast they evaporate. Generally speaking we can say that:
Citrus peels are top notes and will evaporate the fastest. Some examples: Lemon (Citrus limon) & Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)
Flowers, Leaves and Stems are middle notes and will evaporate the second fastest. Some examples: Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) & Geranium (Pelargonium roseum X asperum)
*An exception would be Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) which is distilled from flowers but is considered more of a base note than a middle note*
Roots are base notes and will evaporate the third fastest. Some examples: Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi or Nardostachys grandiflora) & Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides)
Diluting Essential Oils Properly
You can see from the examples above how notes play a part in aromatherapy. By looking at the note of an essential oil you can determine how quickly it will evaporate in a blend. Diluting essential oils in a carrier is a must in order to allow the essential oil to “hang out” longer than it would if you were to apply the essential oil neat. By diluting the essential oil properly in a carrier, you end up using less essential oil and the outcome will be just as effective. Most essential oils can be applied to the skin safely as long as they are properly diluted.
*Neat use of an essential oil refers to using the essential oil straight from the bottle and applying it to the skin.
Extra precautions you should be aware of when making a blend….
Essential oils are extremely concentrated. If you are making a blend for daily use and are a typical healthy adult, a 2% dilution (10-12 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier) or less would be recommended. If you are blending for a child, the elderly or someone that is pregnant, there are extra considerations that need to be taken into effect.
During pregnancy, the first trimester is considered the most crucial in terms of fetal development.
Essential oil use during the first trimester should only be used on occasion such as inhaling for morning sickness.
During the second and third trimesters, essential oil use should be limited to an as needed basis at a 1% dilution (5-6 drops of essential oils per ounce of carrier).
Neat use, oral, rectal and vaginal use is not appropriate during pregnancy.
All solvent extracted (absolutes) essential oils, poor quality oils and perfumes should be avoided while pregnant.
There are roughly 50 or so essential oils that should be avoided all together during pregnancy, please be sure to consult a Certified Aromatherapist, Midwife or other qualified practitioner prior to using essential oils while pregnant. While there isn’t an authoritative list per se of which essential oils are safe or unsafe its best to choose essential oils with a history of low toxicity.
Caution should be noted when making a blend for the elderly population, their skin tends to be thinner than that of a typical healthy adult.
Elderly tend to have a lower irritation threshold when it comes to essential oil use than that of a typical healthy adult.
Recommended dilution for the elderly population is 1% or less (a 1% dilution is 5-6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier).
Essential oils should always be properly diluted when working with the elderly population. Neat use is not recommended unless under the supervision of a Certified Aromatherapist or other qualified health practitioner.