Essential oils are one of the most lovely and simple natural care ingredients around, and an important part of many crafters’ stash of ingredients. Their potency makes them both a very powerful ingredient and gives them the potential to be hazardous if not used properly – which includes diluting them sufficiently to be safe for use on the human body.
While there are a few essential oils (lavender and tea tree being good examples) that are safe to use “neat” (undiluted) on healthy, unbroken, human skin, the vast majority of essential oils are too potent for “neat” usage. Some essential oils – such as bergamot and sweet orange – are also phototoxic, causing increased sensitivity to the sun. Even the “safe” oils can cause reactions in some individuals. For that reason, it’s always best to perform a patch test when trying an essential oil for the first time, or if you haven’t used it in awhile.
Performing a Patch Test – To perform a patch test, dilute one drop of the essential oil you are testing into ½ teaspoon of a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil, olive oil or jojoba. Apply this to your inner elbow or your forearm and wait 24 hours.
If no irritation occurs, it should be safe to use the diluted form of this essential oil in skin care products for yourself.
So – how much should you dilute it?
Dilution for Sensitive Skin (1%) – The dilution for the most sensitive of skin is approximately 6 drops of essential oil per ounce of finished product. 1% dilutions are generally suitable for natural body products used by those with sensitive skin, as well as by pregnant women. (Please be aware that there are some essential oils which are contraindicated for use in pregnancy, and make sure the essential oils you are using are safe in pregnancy as well as sufficiently diluted).
General Use Dilution (2%) – The dilution for general usage is approximately 12-14 drops of essential oil per ounce of finished product. 2% dilutions are generally suitable for body care products used by healthy adults on healthy, unbroken skin. (Avoid use on irritated or injured skin).
Special Use/Occasional Use Dilution (3-4%) –
A 3% dilution is approximately 16-20 drops of essential oil per ounce of finished product
A 4% dilution is approximately 24-26 drops of essential oil per ounce of finished product
3% and 4% dilutions are generally reserved for products created for a small and specific area of the body – such as a foot butter or a muscle rub. They are also generally too potent for daily usage and are designed for just occasional usage.