Essential oils are a wonderful blessing that we have received from nature. However, due to the fact that they are highly concentrated, and a little goes a long way, it is extremely important that they are properly diluted in either a carrier oil, lotion, shampoo, or conditioner. According to Robert Tisserand, “the essential oil in a bottle is 50-100 times more concentrated than in the plant, and safety issues apply to essential oils that may not apply to the whole plant or herbal extract.” (Tisserand Institute – Safety Guidelines) Essential oils should be treated with respect and you should always research the oils and determine the safe usage rate of individual oils.
The following chart is a guideline on how to safely dilute essential oils.
Two very important safety aspects that need to be taken into account when dealing with essential oils are sensitization and phototoxicity.
What is Sensitization?
- It is an immune response from the body and is caused by repeated use of an oil over a period of time. It is rare but can be serious.
- This is different from a skin irritation which is an immediate reaction and tends to be localized. An irritation usually causes redness, itching, or burning, but can be treated and cleared up right way
- It can affect the whole body, not just where the oil was applied
- Symptoms can include rash, inflammation, hives, blisters, sores, burning, itching, redness, dry/cracked skin, and even shortness of breath
- It can take up to a few weeks for the symptoms to completely heal
- Once sensitized to an oil you probably won’t be able to use it again on your skin without a severe reaction
What is Phototoxicity?
- Photosensitization and phototoxicity can occur when certain constituents in an essential oil react when exposed to ultraviolet light.
- Inflammation, blistering and reddening/burning of the skin are common
- Most citrus essential oils are phototoxic
- Exceptions to this are sweet orange and steam distilled lemon and lime
There are specific guidelines and dermal limits for certain essential oils that are used in products such as creams, lotions, body butters, and roll on applications. Below are a few examples of essential oils that fall into this category:
- Cinnamon Bark should be used at no more than a 0.1% dilution
- Clove Bud should be used at no more than a 0.5% dilution
- Grapefruit can be used at up to a 4% dilution.
- Lemon essential oil should be used at no more than a 2% dilution
- Lemongrass should be used at no more than a 0.7% dilution
Whether you are new to essential oils or have been using them for a period of time, it is really important to do your homework before making and using a product.
Be safe, but have fun!