Whenever essential oils are being handled or used for therapeutic purposes, safety should always be a primary concern.
When used correctly, they can enhance your mental and physical wellbeing, giving you more tools to manage emotional changes and improve your hair and skin.
Our essential oils safety guide covers all the basics you need to know so you can get more from your oils and use them with confidence.
Are essential oils safe?
People using essential oils for the first time often ask, “Are essential oils safe?”. Essential oils are perfectly safe to use when the safety guidelines are followed, and appropriate amounts are applied. They are highly concentrated, which means they should always be handled with care even when you are not using them for aromatherapeutic purposes.
Each type of essential oil has its own recommended dosage level, allowing you to use them in a way that protects and enhances your wellbeing. Compared to many chemical-based products, essential oils offer a more natural way to manage stress and anxiety, encourage relaxation and improve the condition of your skin and hair.
Essential oil safety guidelines
Essential oil safety is something that should be kept in mind every time you are going to interact with an oil. Our safety tips below give you an idea of what to look out for:
- Dilute the oils: In nearly all circumstances, you should always dilute an essential oil with a carrier oil, such as jojoba oil or coconut oil. The standard dilution ratio is one drop of essential oil to five drops of carrier oil, although you should dilute it further for young children (use a 0.5 to 2.5% dilution ratio for children aged 2 or older).
- Read the label: Always read the label, take note of any specific warnings and follow any recommendations provided by the manufacturer.
- Avoid sensitive areas: Do not apply essential oils – even when diluted – to your eyes, inner ears, mouth, broken skin and other sensitive parts of your body (you can only digest food grade essential oils – Nikura do not sell food grade essential oils). Learn more about ingesting essential oils.
- Watch out for sun sensitivity: When applied, some essential oils can make your skin more sun sensitive. If you apply the likes of grapefruit, lime, lemon, or bergamot (typically anything containing citrus oils – even essential oil blends) topically, avoid exposure to UV rays or direct sunlight for at least 12 hours.
- Store your oils safely: Essential oils should be kept in a dark or amber glass bottle in a cool, dry space away from direct and indirect heat and light sources. Always make sure to keep them out of reach of children and pets.
- Seek medical advice: If you are unsure about using essential oils due to an existing condition or ailment, speak with your doctor about using any essential oil.
- Take care if pregnant: There are some essential oils that should never be used during pregnancy, although there are some that are perfectly safe. Seek advice from your doctor before using essential oils if you are pregnant.
- Don't use out of date oils: Essential oils that have passed their use by date can cause more severe allergic reactions due to the chemical makeup changing over time.
Do essential oils have side effects?
In most instances, and when proper safety guidelines are followed, essential oils should not cause an allergic reaction. Essential oils that are Certified Pure Tested Grade (CPTG) contain aromatic compounds, so they do not cause allergic reactions in the same way as those triggered by some protein molecules.
However, some people have skin types that are more sensitive than others, and the oil can bind to proteins to create a molecule that leads to an allergic response. This can be influenced by the type of oil applied, how much was used, how long it was used for and how it was applied.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include:
- Skin irritation (rashes, itching or hives)
- Swelling, tenderness or pain in the skin
- Difficulty breathing
- Upset stomach
If you have an underlying health condition or are currently using supplements or medication, you should speak with a doctor before using any essential oils.
Always carry out a patch test
Before you use an essential oil for the first time you should carry out a patch test, which will show you how you skin reacts before a full application.
How to carry out a patch test
To carry out a patch test, follow these steps:
- Wash your forearm with an unscented soap and dry the skin.
- Add a few drops of diluted essential oil to a small part of the upper inside area of your forearm.
- Cover with a plaster and leave for 24 hours.
- Remove the plaster and check the skin.
If you experience any inflammation, redness, itchiness or blistering, you should wash the oil off your skin using warm soapy water and do not use the essential oil any further.
While it may seem like there is a lot to remember when it comes to essential oil safety, all you need to do is take a common-sense approach to how you use them. A reputable supplier will provide relevant instructions along with safety precautions with the product, which should allow you to avoid encountering any big issues. If you have any concerns about how essential oils may affect a specific health condition or your general wellbeing, speak with a doctor who will be able to provide advice based on your current circumstances.