Essential oils are very popular these days, but many people feel uncomfortable using them in topical applications. Often they aren't sure how to dilute essential oils without an exact recipe to follow. In this post we'll discuss how and why you should dilute your essential oils so you can feel more confident using them topically. We can't cover every situation but this will give you a basic understanding of a safe way to dilute your oils properly.
Many essential oils can be used safely on the skin. When an essential oil is used directly on the skin it is called "neat" application. This might be appropriate for first aid applications for a few oils. For example a drop of lavender can be used directly on a mild burn, cut, scrape, or blemish to help aid in healing. Likewise tea- tree essential oil can be used in this way as well. On the other end of the spectrum, some oils if used directly on the skin, such as oregano or clove bud, can cause severe irritation and burn. (If you do get oils on your skin you can use carrier oil to help dilute oil and remove essential oil from the skin. Water can further drive oils into the skin). And many cold-pressed citrus oils directly on the skin can result in photosensitization reactions with UV exposure -- that is the skin is more likely to blister or burn when exposed to the sun. So it is important to know your oils and how to dilute them.
In general essential oils should be diluted and used in the smallest quantity necessary to achieve the desired effect. This saves you money but using less essential oil, reduces the risk of developing skin sensitization (or a reaction to being overexposed to a substance), and reduces the chance of contact dermatitis. So how does one dilute essential oils?
First start with a suitable carrier oil. This could be any number of oils such as coconut, jojoba, almond, apricot kernel, hemp, olive oil, avocado, or a combination of them. My personal favorite is jojoba oil as it is similar to the skins natural sebum, has a very long shelf life, absorbs well, and has no odor. Likewise I also like using unscented, preferably organic lotion as a carrier as well.
Now how oil to add? Generally this will depend on who you are making the blend for and what it is being used for. In general aromatherapists make blends at a 1%, 2%, 3% or higher dilution using the following "oil math". It's not an exact measure but it works well for most blends. It's estimated that there are 500-600 drops of oil in an ounce of carrier oil, therefore:
1% = 5-6 drops per ounce (30 ml or 2 tablespoons) of oil or lotion
2% = 10-12 drops per ounce (30 ml or 2 tablespoons ) of oil or lotion
3% = 15-18 drops per ounce (30 ml or 2 tablespoons) of oil or lotion
Do you see the trend? How many drops would you need to make a 4% dilution in an ounce of carrier oil?
If you said 20-24 you're following the trend. And 5% would be 25-30. We just multiply our 5-6 drops by the dilution we want to make.
Now how do we know which dilution to use?
1% is great for kids and frail or older people. It's also a great dilution for gentle skin care products.
2% is a great all - purpose dilution for kids over 12 and adults. It's great for massage lotions, sleep soothing oils, cold-fighting chest rubs, and so forth.
3% and higher are good for acute circumstances. Very sore muscles, injury, skin infection, short term joint or back ache relief and such. It's good to start on the lower end as you can always add more oils if needed.
So we've learn how to dilute essential oils and which dilutions to use for a variety of topical applications. If you prefer to use a calculator to do your math you're in luck. Check out this handy essential oil dilution calculator that makes diluting essential oils even easier -- just be sure to scroll down to the bottom.
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