How to Safely Use Essential Oils Topically
Essential oils have lot of uses. People may use them as perfume, as part of aroma therapy, to treat certain skin conditions, and in massages. However, you should take precaution when applying essential oils topically. Skin irritation can result if you apply essential oils before diluting them in a carrier liquid, like olive oil, first. You should also make sure to go for high quality essential oils as additives can increase your risk for a bad reaction. If you do notice a reaction, cease using essential oils. If the reaction does not go away on its own within a few days, contact a doctor.
Making Safe Choices
Go for pure essential oils.Pure essential oils are often more expensive than brands you can buy at supermarkets or drug stores. However, pure and unadulterated essential oil carry less of a risk for adverse reactions as there are less potentially harmful additives. Go for pricier essential oils from specialized health stores or online providers, that are advertised as 100% authentic.
- Buy essential oils from providers who are upfront about where their products come from. They should provide detailed information on the source of essential oils, as well as information about their educational background and experience selling oils. If a company can provide an oil's botanical name, country of origin, and method of extraction, this is a good sign you're working with a legitimate company.
- Words like "fragrance oil," "nature identical oil," and "perfume oil" are generally red flags. This indicates the oils are not pure. You should also be wary of oils marketed as therapeutic or aromatherapy grade, as there is no official government regulation certifying oils as therapeutic/aromatherapy grade. Companies sometimes use these terms to deceive buyers into thinking their oils are purer.
Use caution with certain essential oils in baths.Many people enjoy adding essential oils to baths to provide a pleasant and relaxing aroma. This is safe for many essential oils, but certain essential oils are mucous membrane irritants. This means they can cause a heating or drying effect on areas like the mouth, nose, eyes, and reproductive organs. Some essential oils should be avoided in baths altogether, while others simply need to be diluted heavily in a carrier oil before being placed in the water.
- Bay, clove, lemongrass, thyme, and cinnamon bark should not be used in a bath at all.
- Peppermint and caraway should only be used in the bath if they are diluted in a carrier oil beforehand.
Read labels.Certain additives to essential oils increase the risk of an adverse skin reaction. It's particularly important to heavily dilute these kinds of oils before applying them topically.
- Aldehydes, such as citronellal and citral, can increase the risk of an adverse reaction.
- You should also be careful of oils that contain phenols like cinnamic aldehyde and eugenol. These also increase the risk of a skin reaction and should be diluted heavily prior to use.
Talk to a dermatologist if you have an existing skin condition.Many people use essential oils to treat a variety of skin conditions. However, if you have an existing condition (e.g., eczema, psoriasis, chronic acne) talk to a doctor before using essential oils. A dermatologist may be able to provide you with medications or creams, which may be more effective than essential oils. Essential oils may also aggravate certain skin conditions so it's important to talk to a doctor or dermatologist about risks beforehand.
Diluting Essential Oils
Dilute essential oils in a carrier oil.Most essential oils carry the risk for skin irritation if applied to the skin directly. You should always dilute essential oils in a carrier oil. A carrier oil is a non-essential oil used as a base. You can use olive oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, and a variety of common cooking oils as a carrier oil.
- The concentration of essential oils should not be greater than 5%. Lower ranges, like 2-3%, may be better if you have particularly sensitive skin.
- To make a 3% solution of an essential oil, use on teaspoon of a carrier oil. Then, add 3 drops of essential oil. You can use an eye dropper to add the drops to the carrier oil. If you want a higher percentage, add more drops. Five drops, for example, would make a 5% solution.
Use essential oils in a bath.Many people enjoy adding essential oils to a bath. The aroma may be pleasant, and some essential oils help moisturize the skin. Essential oils are not water soluble, meaning they do not dissolve in water, so you will have to add another substance to the bath to help dilute the essential oils.
- You can add a few tablespoons of full cream milk to a bath to dilute a few drops of essential oils.
- You can also try Epsom salt. Mixing one part baking soda, two parts Epsom salt, three parts sea salt, and six drops of something like lavender oil can make for a relaxing bath.
Use a lower dosage of essential oils for massage treatment.Some people use essential oils as part of massages. This is usually relatively safe. However, if you plan on massaging essential oil into your skin, you must dilute it a bit more. In massages, a 1% concentration is recommended. This means one drop of essential oil for every teaspoon.
Dilute oils more if you're using them on young children.If you're letting children use essential oils, you need to be more cautious. As children's skin is generally more sensitive, you have to dilute oils more. In general, essential oils should be between .25% and .5% concentration. Younger children will need a lower concentration of essential oils.
- If you have an infant, baby, or toddler, talk to a pediatrician before using essential oils. It may be a good idea to hold off on using essential oils on young children until they are older. Children may put their feet, hands, and other body parts in their mouths, and essential oils can be harmful if ingested.
- Birch, wintergreen, and peppermint oil should not be used on young children as they contain ingredients that can be harmful to younger skin.
- It's strongly recommended you talk to a pediatrician before using essential oils on young children.
Preventing Adverse Reactions
Do not apply essential oils to sensitive areas.You should avoid applying essential oils near sensitive areas. Do not apply essential oils nears the eyes, ears, mouth, or private parts.
Avoid applying oils to damaged skin.If your skin is broken, inflamed, burnt, or otherwise damaged, avoid applying essential oils. If you have a skin rash or are experiencing an allergic reaction, talk to a doctor instead of applying essential oils. Using essential oils on damaged skin can worsen symptoms, even when diluted properly.
Manage an allergic reaction.Sometimes, essential oils may cause allergic reactions. If you notice your skin becomes itchy or inflamed after using essential oils, take measures to manage the reaction. Cease using essential oils immediately and treat the reaction.
- Use over-the-counter anti-itch creams or substances like calamine lotion. Avoid itching the infected area.
- Apply a soft, clean washcloth diluted in cold water for 15 to 30 second intervals to the rash.
- Go for mild soaps and detergents while the rash heals. You should also wear loose clothing to prevent your clothes from irritating the rash.
Contact a doctor, if necessary.If you're having a bad reaction an essential oil, the rash will probably clear up on its own within 2 to 4 weeks. If the rash does not clear up in this timeframe, and if symptoms get worse, make an appointment with a doctor. A doctor can help figure out how to best treat the rash and may offer prescription medications or creams.
Video: How to Use Essential Oils: Topical Application
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