How to Dilute Essential Oils
Does diluting essential oils give you a headache? Or the thought of diluting for your baby give you a panic attack? Looking for a simple graphic that's easy to understand and know how much carrier oil and essential oils to use?
When using an essential oil topically, most should be diluted with a carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut oil to use them safely. Remember, essential oils are highly concentrated and are too potent to be used straight from the bottle. You many only need a drop or two to achieve a specific outcome. To use more than necessary will waste your oils and increases your chances of having irritation, sensitization and phototoxicity.
Dilution makes your oils last longer, reduces adverse reactions, prolongs aromatherapeutic effects and doesn't dilute the effectiveness of the essential oil.
You may come across the term “hot oils”; this pertains to oils that must be diluted prior to using. These oils can cause severe burns, blisters, burning sensation or sensitization when used straight from the bottle. Examples include but are not limited to: Cinnamon bark or leaf (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), Clove bud (Syzygium aromaticum), Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus), Cumin (Cuminum cyminum), Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), Oregano (Origanum vulgare), Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Certain essential oils can cause sensitization; a type of allergic reaction often displaying as skin irritation, inflammation or photosensitization. Examples include but are not limited to: Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia), Cinnamon bark or leaf (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), Clove bud (Syzygium aromaticum), Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus), Cumin (Cuminum cyminum), Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), Oregano (Origanum vulgare), Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Phototoxicity or photosentisization will cause burning, blistering or discoloration of the skin and can occur when using certain essential oils - primarily citrus - and then spending time in the sun or UV light. Photosensitive oils include but are not limited to: Bergamot (Citrus bergamia), Cumin (Cuminum cyminum), Distilled or expressed grapefruit (low risk) (Citrus paradisi), Expressed lemon (Citrus limon), Expressed lime (Citrus medica), Bitter Orange (expressed) (Citrus aurantium)
Once you’ve diluted your oil, do a small test spot on your skin to see if your skin is sensitive to that particular oil in that particular location. If irritation develops, dilute the oil with more carrier oil and it should subside. If you have a reaction where the spot is inflamed for several hours, discontinue use and avoid that oil as you are allergic to that oil.
Top Certified Aromatherapists around the world repeatedly recommend a safe dilution ratio range of .5 to 5%.
The chart below illustrates 0.5% to 3% dilution ratios. To determine the dilution ratio, consider who will be using the essential oil and how often they will be using them.
Fore example, if you're an adult using the item daily, you would use a 2% dilution. For a 10ml Rollerball bottle, you would only need 4 drops of Essential Oils, TOTAL. Let’s look at the math on that. A 10ml bottle holds approximately 200 total drops. Thus, 4 drops essential oils and 196 drops (or so) carrier oil.
If you were making a blend for your Child (1% dilution) and wanted to put it in a 10ml Rollerball, you would use only 2 drops of essential oil and 200 drops of Carrier Oil.
Anything more than the guidelines is wasteful and can be unsafe. Don't waste your oils or compromise your safety. Be smart about using essential oils and educate yourself prior to using.
Worth noting... top Certified Aromatherapists don't recommend using certain essential oils while pregnant [link], [PDF download] and stress that extreme caution should be used.
MYTH: If essential oils are pure, they are safe to use undiluted.
Just the opposite! If essential oils are pure, they are highly concentrated and should be diluted. Though Lavender is considered one of the most mile, people have reported sensitization from prolonged Lavender use.
MYTH: Only "Hot" oils or those with sensitive skin should dilute oils prior to using.
"Hot" oils and mostly all other oils should always be diluted prior to using.
MYTH: If using an oil neat and there is a skin reaction, this is a "detoxifying" process.
Not true. A reaction is something to be taken seriously and can be permanent.
MYTH: "I you use oils all the time neat and have never had a reaction"
Possibly true that you may not have had an outward reaction. Not every risk is outwardly apparent. Think of long-term tobacco, drug or alcohol usage.
These are general guidelines and should be considered a starting point. For those with sensitive skin, health issues, and frequency of use, these ratios may be different.
- Robert Tisserand - Why is Essential Oil Dilution Important?
- Aromatherapy United - Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy Injury Report 2016 [PDF download]
- Alliance of International Aromatherapists - Aromatherapy Safety
- National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy - Essential Oil Safety Information
- Tisserand Institute - New Survey Reveals Dangers of Not Diluting Essential Oils
- Tisserand Institute - Dilution Chart [PDF download]
- Alliance of International Aromatherapists - Undiluted are we in denial? [PDF download]
- Naturopathic Pediatrics - When to Not Use Essential Oils
- Aromahead Institute - Essential Oil Dilution Chart [PDF download]