Guide to Diluting Essential Oils
Undiluted Use of Essential Oils On the Skin Can Be Harmful and Potentially Cause Severe Irritation or Sensitization.
I often see aromatherapy authors and educators that pass along the rule of thumb that it is safe to use some essential oils on the skin, most particularly lavender and tea tree, without first diluting them in a carrier oil. Using essential oils on the skin without diluting them is referred to as applying them "neat."
Never Put Undiluted Essential Oils On Your Skin.
Not even lavender or tea tree.
There are instances when experienced aromatherapy practitioners make exceptions to this precaution. Only once significant essential oil knowledge is gained should you ever attempt to apply any undiluted essential oil on the skin.
I have been a part of the aromatherapy community for over 20 years. Occasionally, I hear from or hear about those that have used undiluted essential oils and have developed permanent sensitization, even by only using a single drop of lavender essential oil per use. It's really not worth the risk. Diluting your essential oils adequately not only helps to protect your wellbeing, it can also save you money.
What is Sensitization?
The symptoms of sensitization can vary from individual to individual, but think of it like a skin allergy that results in a severe and/or itchy rash. More severe cases of sensitization can potentially lead to respiratory issues or apparently even anaphylactic shock. Once you develop sensitization to an essential oil, you are likely to remain permanently sensitized to that essential oil, even if you begin to adequately dilute it. You may also develop a reaction to other essential oils as well and will also experience reactions to products that contain these oils.
Treat Essential Oils With Respect
Treat essential oils with the same care that you treat medicines. You don't need to be afraid or avoid essential oils and I'm certainly not trying to scare anyone out of enjoying all the benefits that aromatherapy offers. They can be an amazing blessing within a holistic lifestyle. Do remember, however, that when working with essential oils, less is more.
Dilute your essential oils adequately prior to use on the skin and use extreme caution with oils that are more likely to cause irritation and sensitization. Remember that even if you've been using one or more essential oils undiluted to date and you haven't had a problem, that doesn't guarantee that you won't develop sensitization with repeated exposure. Proper dilution is always recommended.
How to Dilute Your Essential Oils for Topical Use
Using a 2% essential oil dilution is generally considered a safe guideline for topical application of essential oils on adults when an essential oil has a dermal maximum of 2% of higher as provided within the second edition of Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young. If the dermal maximum for an esssential oil is below 2%, it is important that you do not exceed the dermal maximum. For children or elderly, use only a 1% dilution. With children, use only essential oils regarded as safe for children.
The Easiest Way to Make a 2% Dilution
Diluting an essential oil, drop by drop, into a carrier oil.
When working with small quantities of essential oils for your own personal use, the easiest way to measure is by the drop.
A good rule of thumb when seeking to make a 2% dilution using the by-the-drop method is to add 12 drops of essential oil to each fl. ounce (30 ml) of cold pressed carrier oil, lotion, vegetable butter or other natural lipid/moisturizer.
On average, based on my testing with different orifice reducers, pipettes, droppers and oils of varying thicknesses, 600 drops of essential oil equals 30ml or 1 fl. ounce - on average.
2% of 600 drops equals 12 drops (600x.02).
To easily approximate a 2% dilution, add 12 drops of your chosen essential oil to 1 fl. oz (30ml) of carrier oil.
Question: How Do I Work With an Essential Oil Has a Dermal Maximum Recommendation That Is Less than 2%?
Do not use an essential oil above its recommended dermal maximum. The same type of calculation described above can be used as the basis for working with oils that have different dermal usage maximums. For instance, if Essential Oil Safety recommends a dermal maximum of 0.7% for a particular essential oil like Lemongrass Oil, multiply 600 drops (the average number of drops in an ounce) by 0.007 (this is the decimal version of 0.7%), resulting in a maximum recommendation of 4.2 drops per ounce, and that should be rounded down to 4 drops per ounce.
Question: Do I Need To Dilute Essential Oils If I Use Them In My Diffuser?
When using essential oils in your diffuser, please follow the directions that come with your particular type or model diffuser. There are a limitless number of diffusers on the market these days, so you need to be sure to check the directions that accompany the brand and model that you have.