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How and Why to Dilute Essential Oils -- Key Information the Dilution Charts May Miss...

Clients often ask about using blends I've created for them on their skin. The answer depends on several factors.

1. What oils are in the blend.

2. The age and sensitivity of the client.

3. The intention behind using them on the skin.

We'll briefly look at these and then I'll give an example recipe for a therapeutic cream. If after reading you still have questions please feel free to contact me.

1. What oils are in the blend: Essential oils are natural, they are for the most part generally regarded as safe (GRAS), and made from plants. However, not all oils are suitable for use on the skin. Sometimes people will suggesting using things like cinnamon or oregano essential oil on the lips to plump them or on the body to fight cellulite or kill germs. Besides sailing into turbid waters of possibly making medical claims using essential oils in such a way can simply be painful! And sometimes "use in low dilution" isn't very clear.

If a blend contains spicy or hot oils such as cinnamon, clove, oregano, thyme thymol, lemongrass, or other oils high in potentially irritating aromatic compounds it is wise to know dermal usage limits. Otherwise you could end up with burning, irritated, and even blistered skin.

Other essential oils to consider are those that might be phototoxic. If a blend contains certain citrus oils or other phototoxic oils such as angelica root adding them to a topical blend and going out into the sun could lead to increased sensitivity to the sun and some potential skin damage such as discoloration or a burn. For some essential oils such as lemon or grapefruit there is a phototoxic dermal limit. So as long as you keep the oils in a blend below the limit you be ok.

How do I know how much to dilute an oil or if it is phototoxic? Your aromatherapist will know and can share. Or if you are purchasing from a company check their oil safety data. Or you can find safety data in books like "Essential Oil Safety" by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young.

So I know a dermal limit -- it's 1% -- what does that mean? We'll get to that in a bit.

The bottom line is that essential oils can be used safely on the skin -- provided you know the dermal limits and phototoxic potential of the oils.

2. The age and sensitivity of the client (or yourself): When using essential oils topically it is important to consider the age and sensitivity of the user. Essential oils are potent and for therapeutic use, more is not necessarily better. In the same way you'd moderate an herbal or allopathic blend for a child, aromatherapists use a gentle touch with children. Likewise if a client has sensitive skin keeping essential oil dilution low is important. In addition many aromatic compounds such as linalool or limonene and others should be considered as they can irritating to sensitive individuals. This is why I love my LabAroma tool -- it alerts me to aromatic compounds that might be irritating to sensitive individuals in addition to labeling guidelines to alert clients to potential compounds that may cause sensitivity reactions.

3. The intention behind using a blend on the skin: A diffuser blend is breathed in and can offer many benefits. Topical blends are best for localized issues or if you want to enjoy the aromatic benefits of essential oils on areas near the face/nose such as wrists or neck area.

If a blend is intended for facial use a 0.5% to 1% blend is generally sufficient. For everyday use for adults -- say a massage blend or body cream a 2% blend works well. For therapeutic intent -- such as a chest rub to open airways or a rub to ease achy joints or muscles a 3% or perhaps higher blend used for a short time is warranted. It's important to consider the purpose and potency of the essential oils being used.

So in a nutshell if you plan to use essential oils topically it's wise to know the dermal limit of the oils you plan to use and take into consideration age and sensitivity as well as intention of use. For example cinnamon is a great anti-microbial but it can burn the heck out of your skin if used topically if you don't know maximum dermal limits. Or likewise is you create a lovely bergamot scented lotion or lip balm and apply and go out in the sun you could get a nasty burn.

So what does 1%, 2%, 3% dilution mean anyway? In making large batches it means measuring by weight or volume -- but for small batches using drops works well.

A typical ounce or 30 ml of essential oil contains between 500-600 drops -- so 1% of that is 5-6 drops per oz or 30 ml of carrier.

Breaking that down:

5-6 drops of essential oils per oz or 30 ml of cream or carrier is a 1% dilution

10-12 drops of essential oils per oz or 30 ml of cream or carrier is a 2% dilution

15-18 drops of essential oils per oz or 30 ml of cream or carrier is a 3% dilution

sometimes for acute situations a higher dilution is warranted for a short time -- this might be to fight an infection, an injury, or acute skin issue. Consult your aromatherapist or holistic health care provider for guidance.

Featured Recipe: Focus Blend for Adults: This cream features rosemary, peppermint, and orange to support focus and open airways. This cream can be used for study, work, or to ease stuffiness.

Materials needed:

1-2 oz jar

1 oz unscented cream

4 drops rosemary essential oil

3 drops peppermint essential oil

3 drops orange essential oil

add cream to jar and add oils to the cream. Mix well using a glass stirring rod or clean utensil. Apply to chest, wrists, neck, or areas as needed to support memory and focus. Can be used as a refreshing body cream as well.

I hope this blog helped you better understand the how and why of using essential oils topically. If you have additional questions please leave them in the comment section or contact Tricia

Aromatic blessings friends,


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