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15 July 2022 / Laura Garvin Gomez

How to Dilute Essential Oils: A Complete Guide

Learn how to best dilute your essential oils for safe and proper use.

Woman applying oil to her skin with a dropper

When searching for essential oils, you may have heard about the importance of diluting, and how failing to do so may be a safety hazard.

While there's no need to panic at these claims, diluting essential oils is certainly a very important practice if you wish to apply the oil topically (onto the skin).

Choosing to apply the oil undiluted, or "neat", as it is sometimes known, can lead to potential reactions on the skin, and should never be attempted if you do not have significant expertise.

Even essential oils that are considered to be "lighter", like lavender, can produce harmful reactions if used undiluted.


Why should I dilute my essential oils?

Since essential oils are natural products, sensitivities may vary depending on which plant the oil comes from, where the plant is grown, and what season the plant was picked in.

All of these factors can affect the chemical concentration of the essential oil, so there's no way to guarantee an oil is safe to apply undiluted - even if you've used it this way before.

Failing to safely dilute your essential oils before use can lead to two main safety risks for the skin:

  • Irritation and sensitization
  • Systemic toxicity

While the first set of risks may be obviously identified by a red mark or a rash, the second set could be harder to locate and could lead to adverse health effects. Never simply ignore any reactions you get from undiluted essential oils.

Sensitization can be particularly troublesome for a frequent essential oil user, as once your skin becomes sensitized to a particular oil, the reaction will return for all future uses, regardless of if you choose to dilute the oil or not.

How to dilute essential oils

The best and safest way to dilute an essential oil is by using a carrier oil.

Carrier oils are unscented (or lightly scented) vegetable oils usually made from the fatty portion of plants, Many carrier oils will come from seeds or nuts, and are named as such because their purpose is to "carry" the essential oil into the skin.

Combining your chosen essential oil with carrier oils like sweet almond or jojoba will not only prevent risks and ensure safe use on the skin, but also provide a whole host of new benefits to refresh and moisturise the body.

Carrier oils are often specifically formulated for use on the skin and hair, and can be applied in higher quantities to the body without adverse effects. Using carrier oils will also help your essential oils last longer, as their benefits can be spread over a larger area without wasting a lot of product.

Some of the most popular carrier oils for topical use are:

  • Jojoba
  • Sweet almond
  • Coconut
  • Argan
  • Rosehip

Not all carrier oils are made equal, however, so be sure to try out a few different varieties to find the best one for you.

If you are looking for a more full-proof guide on the best carrier oils for skin care and massage, check out our blog post here.

 Zoomed in picture of clary sage flower.

How much carrier oil to essential oil should I use?

In general, a 2% essential oil dilution is recommended for topical use. This is considered to be a safe percentage for daily application regardless of skin type or oil type.

If you don't know what this means or how to measure it, don't worry! The easiest way to figure out a 2% dilution is by using the dropper provided on your essential oil bottle.

A good rule of thumb is to simply add two drops of essential oil for every teaspoon of carrier oil, or 5 drops for every 10ml of carrier oil.

One drop of essential oil equals one percent of dilution (1 drop = 1%), so be sure not to go overboard if you want to ensure safety for your skin!

Dilutions up to 10% are suitable for adults or teenagers above the age of 15. Be sure to only use higher dilutions on smaller, more concentrated areas of the skin to avoid irritation.

If you are applying essential oils on children or the elderly, a 1% dilution is preferred as their skin tends to carry greater sensitivities.

If you do decide to use an essential oil topically on a child, always ensure you are using oils that are regarded as safe for children. You can learn more about how to safely use essential oils around children here.

Do I always need to dilute essential oils?

There is no need to dilute your essential oils if you choose to diffuse them into the air, although it is always advised to follow the instructions on your diffuser for proper use.

It's also not required to dilute the oil if you choose to smell it directly from the bottle or from a tissue, but do try to avoid contact with your face when doing so.

Any time topical application is involved, such as with skin care, hair care, or a massage, carrier oils must always be used. We also advise performing a patch test on your skin before applying any essential oils.

In summary:

  • Essential oils must be diluted before use on the skin to ensure proper safety
  • Carrier oils are the most popular ingredient for dilution
  • Always carry out a patch test before applying any oil onto your skin

Shop our essential oil range here.

Shop our carrier oil range here.

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