12 Rules For Using Essential Oils Safely

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Essential oils are natural products, but that doesn't mean they are ok to use as-is out of the bottle. Essential oils are highly concentrated, and although come from plants made by nature, they can irritate the skin, cause headaches, or other irritations if misused.

12 important rules for using essential oils safely

  1. Keep essential oils out of reach of children
  2. Always keep carrier oil on hand
  3. Use a skin patch test to see whether you're going to react to an oil
  4. Pregnant women should be aware of safe and unsafe oils for pregnancy
  5. Essential oils rich in phenols should be used with caution while applying topically
  6. Keep essential oils out of your eyes, nose, ears, and sensitive areas
  7. If you have seizures, know which oils to avoid
  8. If you're taking medication, know which oils to avoid or consult with your pharmacist
  9. Don't ingest essential oils undiluted or just in water
  10. Only use essential oils in the tub with something to help disperse it
  11. Some essential oils are photosensitive or phototoxic… be careful what you put on your skin before being in sunlight
  12. Store your essential oils appropriately in dark glass bottles that are tightly closed
Use essential oils safely with this 12 tip safety guide

1. Keep essential oils out of reach of children.

Consider them as you would any therapeutic product in your home.

Essential oils are highly concentrated and should be respected. Children often do not understand proper dilution or why. If your child is going to have access to essential oils, please set them up for success by creating heavily diluted roller bottles for them to have.

I suggest diluting 1 drop essential oil to 1 tsp or 5ml of carrier oil. Simplest way… add one drop of essential oil to a 5ml bottle, and topping it with a roller fitment.

2. Keep a bottle of carrier oil handy.

Carrier oils dilute an essential oil, slow down its rate of absorption, and spread out its location of absorption, which will reduce, relieve, or prevent any oil-induced skin irritation.

There are many carrier oils you can choose from. Just think: cold-pressed seed oils.

3. People with sensitive skin should use a patch test to determine if they would react to a particular oil.

This is especially important for people with several food/plant sensitivities. It is generally safe to apply essential oils to the soles of the feet even for people with sensitive skin.

4. Pregnant women should be aware of oils to avoid

Please consult with a health professional well educated in essential oils, a pharmacist, or purchase a quality essential oil reference guide designed for pregnant women.

Oils with hormonal qualities should probably be avoided.

Essential oils with hormonal benefits include:

  • fennel,
  • anise,
  • sage,
  • clary sage,
  • blue tansy,
  • tarragon,
  • niaouli,
  • cypress,
  • myrtle,
  • wild tansy,
  • helichrysum
  • German chamomile.

(Taken from page 413 of The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Easy.)

5. Essential oils rich in phenols should be used with caution when applying to the skin.

Sensitive areas such as the throat & face should be avoided, as well as the tender skin of young children.

Essential oils with phenol include:

  • anise
  • basil
  • bay laurel,
  • bergamot,
  • birch,
  • carrot seed,
  • calamus,
  • cassia,
  • catnip,
  • cinnamon bark,
  • citronella,
  • clove,
  • cumin,
  • eucalyptus,
  • fennel,
  • lemon eucalyptus,
  • helichrysum,
  • hyssop, 
  • marjoram, or Spanish Marjoram
  • mountain savory,
  • myrrh
  • myrtle,
  • neroli,
  • nutmeg,
  • onycha,
  • oregano,
  • parsley,
  • peppermint,
  • petitgrain,
  • rose,
  • sage,
  • spearmint
  • thyme, Moroccan thyme, or sweet thyme,
  • tarragon,
  • tea tree,
  • thuja,
  • wintergreen,
  • ylang ylang,

(Taken from Table 48 of The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Easy.)

6. Keep essential oils away from the eye area where even the vapors can cause irritation.

Do not handle contact lenses or rub the eyes with essential oils on your fingers. Oils with high phenol contact can damage lenses and irritate eyes.

If essential oils accidentally get into the eyes, dab a carrier oil in the eyes to stop the burning. Don’t use water. Water will drive the oil in faster, increasing the burning sensation.

7. Essential oils may be applied on or around the ears, but don’t pour essential oils directly into the ears.

Seriously. Nothing should be poured into your ears. If you need to use essential oils to help the inside of your ears, instead of using them directly in your ear, you should drip them onto a cotton ball and place the cotton ball over your ear, taping with medical paper tape if needed. You'll have much better results this way without harming your body.

8. People with epilepsy, high blood pressure, or who are prone to convulsions should consult a health care professional before using essential oils.

Hyssop, fennel & wild tansy oils should probably be avoided in these cases.

Also, if your'e taking medication, please see our essential oils and medication contraindication page.

9. IF you decide to ingest essential oils… do so properly and safely

Many commonly used essential oils have been designated by the FDA as being “Generally Regarded as Safe” for oral usage. This designation is abbreviated as “GRAS.” Before ingesting them, GRAS oils may be diluted with honey, milk, rice milk, olive oil, or other lipid dissolving liquid.

Young Living makes sure we know which oils are able to be safely ingested by providing their Vitality labels on oils safe to ingest.

***Please note: do not consume oils directly out of the bottle. Although they can be safe to ingest, doing so must be done with moderation, considerable dilution, and care.

We do have more tips on ingesting essential oil safely that you're welcome to check out too.

10. In using essential oils in bathwater, first add a dispersant, like a gel or liquid soap, to avoid concentrated droplets that can sometimes gravitate to sensitive areas of the body.

There are ways to safely disperse oils in a bath given in most books on applied aromatherapy. My favorite way is by adding them to epsom salts and baking soda before adding to the bath water.

11. Some oils are phototoxic. Be aware of what you're putting on your skin before going out into sunlight

When applied to the skin, avoid direct sunlight or the rays of tanning lamps for at least 12 hours afterwards.

EO considered photo toxic are:

  • angelica,
  • bergamot,
  • bitter orange,
  • grapefruit,
  • lemon,
  • lime,
  • petitgrain,
  • rue

(More info can be found on page 381 of The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple.)

12. Keep essential oils in tightly closed glass bottles away from light in cool places.

(Normal room temperatures are cool enough.) In this way, they will maintain their balanced chemical composition and potency indefinitely.


The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple, by David Stewart.

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