Aroma Shield Safety Center
These safety guidelines for using essential oils ensure that you and your family members have a safe, positive experience with essential oils. Essential oils are extremely concentrated plant extracts, so you should use them differently than the plants they are distilled or extracted from.
Follow these guidelines to use essential oils safely:
- Eyes, ears, mucous membranes, and sensitive skin
- High blood pressure and blood thinner medication
Diluting essential oils is the most important way to ensure a safe experience when using them. Essential oils DO NOT mix with water. Never attempt to dilute essential oils with water. If you have a skin reaction to an essential oil—redness, stinging, burning or a rash—applying water will drive the oils deeper into your skin, making the reaction even worse. These recommendations will help you use and dilute essential oils and use them safely.
(Aroma Shield considers it so important that recommended dilution rates are printed on our oil bottle labels.)
For safety, essential oils should be diluted with a high-quality vegetable oil or vegetable oil mix. A vegetable oil that is used to dilute essential oils is referred to as “carrier oil.” Grapeseed oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and jojoba nut oil are ideal carrier oils (although olive oil has a stronger odor). You can also use hazelnut, sesame, and almond oils as effective carrier oils. If you are allergic to nuts, do NOT use nut oils as a carrier oil.
There is conflicting information regarding the proper dilution of essential oils for topical use. Some sources insist that ALL essential oils must be heavily diluted before applying to the skin. Others claim that some essential oils can safely be used ‘neat,’ or with no dilution. Adding to the complexity is the fact that every person has a unique tolerance level for essential oils, and there is huge variation between oils when it comes to sensitization.
General dilution rules
Redheads, blondes, Asians and very fair-skinned people tend to be more sensitive to the oils, so you may need to dilute them more before using them. Use the skin patch test to determine your sensitivity level.
Avoid applying essential oils on warmed skin (following exercise, after a warm bath or shower, or after sunbathing). Heat opens up the skin pores and makes the dermis much more sensitive to essential oils.
Be careful when applying essential oils on or around broken skin, such as cuts, scrapes, or burns. You are more likely to be sensitive to essential oils if your skin is broken or damaged.
Most essential oils can be diluted 50% or more without significantly reducing their effectiveness. Not only is this a wise practice for safety reasons, it also has an economic benefit, doubling the amount of usable oil.
For many people, very small amounts of essential oil can stimulate powerful positive responses in their body. Most clinical research on the therapeutic value of essential oils is done with diluted essential oils, with concentrations as low as 5-10%.
Sensitization can mean anything from mild skin discomfort to severe skin reactions that permanently sensitize someone to an essential oil. Severe reactions can create a semi-allergic condition that triggers a strong systemic reaction anytime someone is exposed to a particular essential oil. For these reasons it is important that a person begin topical applications slowly and carefully, using only diluted oils at first.
You can reduce the possibility of having a reaction to an essential oil by not using the same essential oil over time. Vary the essential oils you use every few days. Also, if you use essential oils daily, use them for 10 days or less. Then take a one week break from using them daily.
Always do a skin patch test before you use an essential oil for the first time.
- Dilute the oil according to Aroma Shield recommendations.
- Place one drop of essential oil on the inside crook of your elbow. Leave if there for 12-24 hours and check to see if you can any reaction to the oil.
- If you develop redness or soreness at the test site, avoid that essential oil or dilute it further and retest.
A few Aroma Shield oils specify ‘neat’ for their dilution instructions. This means the oil can be used neat (without dilution) in small amounts (1-3 drops) and on small areas (1-3 square inches). These oils include cedarwood, Roman chamomile, helichrysum, lavender, myrrh, rosewood, and sandalwood. A small number of Aroma Shield blends also carry this classification. However, if the quantity of oil to be used or the area to be covered exceeds the above minimal levels, the oil should be diluted before application. For example, when used in massage oils, essential oils are typically diluted to 5% concentrations (1 drop essential oil to 19 drops carrier oil).
Oils should be fully diluted especially for initial applications. General tolerance to essential oils increases slowly with use, as long as no sensitivity reaction occurs. With time and experience a person will know better what he/she can safely tolerate.
Some essential oils must ALWAYS be substantially diluted before topical use. They include cinnamon bark, clove bud, hyssop, lemongrass, oregano, thyme, thyme linalool, and wintergreen. (Again, Aroma Shield labels specify recommended dilution rates.)
The safest place to apply essential oils topically is always the soles of the feet. This is also ideal for absorption, since this area has a higher density of skin pores than any other place on the body. Oils applied to the soles of the feet are absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream within 30 minutes.
When essential oils are stored properly, they can be used safely. If they are not stored properly, they can become toxic and unsafe.
Generally, essential oils are antioxidant, which means they oxidize (or deteriorate) very slowly. But when exposed to direct sunlight, oxygen in the air, or temperatures above 70° F, essential oils oxidize faster. Essential oils last longer when they are kept in a dark room, in tightly-closed, child-proof, amber glass containers, and at cool temperatures (50-60° F).
When stored properly, most essential oils will last for several years. If the essential oil is not completely pure or has been adulterated in some way, the oil acquires a sharp, rancid aroma within about a year. In this condition, these essential oils may be toxic and should not be used.
All essential oil storage containers should have an integrated orifice reducer in the neck of the bottle. This makes it easy to dispense individual drops, but also protects against accidental ingestion or spilling. For essential oils that have a thicker consistency (such as vetiver, sandalwood and patchouli), you may have to remove the orifice reducer in order to dispense the oil.
To maximize the shelf life of your essential oils, limit the amount of air in the bottle. The more air in the bottle, the faster the oil may oxidize. Store your essential oils in smaller containers to reduce their exposure to the air and prolong their shelf life.
Do not use essential oils on children under 2 years of age, unless directed by a licensed health professional. Because children are smaller and have more sensitive skin, reduce the amount of essential oil you use on children to at least one-third the amount you use on adults. Unless you have determined otherwise through a skin patch test, the only safe place to apply essential oil topically to children is on the soles of their feet.
Kid-friendly essential oils
Some Aroma Shield essential oils and oil blends are gentle enough to be used for diffusion or without dilution (neat) on children aged 2 or older. These include:
|Aroma Shield single oils||Aroma Shield oil blends|
|Cedarwood||Anxiety Shield (applied only to the soles of the feet)|
|Chamomile, German (Blue)||Citrus Armor (for diffusion only)|
|Chamomile, Roman||Evergreen Armor (for diffusion only)|
|Frankincense (applied only to the soles of the feet)||Holiday Armor (for diffusion only)|
|Geranium||Lullaby (applied only to the soles of the feet)|
|Helichrysum||Quiet Mind (applied only to the soles of the feet)|
|Lavender||Sinus Armor (for diffusion only)|
|Orange (Sweet)||Stress Shield (applied only to the soles of the feet)|
You can also use other essential oils on children aged 2 or older if you dilute them appropriately and do a proper skin test beforehand to ensure that the child does not have an allergic reaction to it.
Peppermint oil is about 40% natural menthol. Due to its high menthol content, peppermint can be dangerous to young children. Never use peppermint oil near the nose or throat of a child under 30 months of age. Pharmacological research has shown that menthol, if used around the nose and throat of very young children, can cause spasms of the larynx resulting in suffocation.
Some essential oils are photosensitive, which means they absorb and enhance the energy of UV rays. If you apply a photosensitive oil to your skin and then expose the skin to sunlight or UV radiation (i.e. tanning beds) within 12-16 hours, your skin will actually burn faster and deeper. In severe cases, this can permanently change your skin pigment, leaving dark blotches. Aroma Shield recommends waiting 24 hours after applying photosensitive oils to expose your skin to sunlight or UV radiation. (There's no danger if you apply a photosensitive oil to your skin, but don't expose your skin to sunlight or UV radiation for at least 12-16 hours.)
Aroma Shield labels indicate whether an essential oil is photosensitizing or not.
Most photosensitizing oils have varying degrees of photosensitivity. Bergamot and lime are strongly photosensitive, while lemon, grapefruit, and dill seed are considered only mildly photosensitive.
Eyes, Ears, Nose, and Sensitive Skin
Never apply essential oils near the eyes, ears, or nostrils, which can cause serious injury and painful stinging. These locations—and mucous membranes in general—are extremely sensitive to essential oils.
When you use essential oils near the eye, carefully apply a minimal amount of oil above the eyebrow. Caution: Even if you wash your hands after handling essential oils, there may be small amounts of residual oil or constituents on your skin. Be careful not to touch or rub your eyes to avoid stinging or discomfort.
If you accidentally get essential oils in your eyes, use an eyedropper to flush the eye with an oil-friendly (lipophylic) liquid such as whole-fat milk or a pure vegetable oil (such as olive oil or sunflower oil). This neutralizes the oil. Do not flush your eyes with water because it can increase the potency and penetration of the oils. If this does not relieve the discomfort quickly, seek emergency medical attention.
For ear infections, do not apply essential oils in the ear. You can apply essential oils carefully behind the ear lobes and along the rear of the the jaw on each side.
For nasal infections, you can inhale essential oils or apply them carefully above the eyebrows.
Avoid applying essential oils topically on the most sensitive skin areas, including behind the knee, the crotch area, the inside crook of the elbow, the underarms, and any skin folds. The safest and most effective location for applying essential oils is the soles of the feet.
Never put neat (or undiluted) essential oils directly into bath water. Essential oils don't dissolve in water, but instead float--in full strength--on top of the water. When someone enters the bath, the undiluted oil sticks to sensitive skin in the genital area, causing unpleasant and potentially serious irritation. The warmth of the bath water increases the irritation.
To use essential oils safely in a bath, mix 10-20 drops of essential oil into 1-2 tablespoons of non-iodized salt or sea salt. Mix the essential oil and salt thoroughly for at least 1 minute before slowly adding the salt mixture to your bath water.
Essential oils are volatile oils, meaning that they are flammable. Never use essential oils near an open flame. While the flash points for each essential oil varies widely, the oils with the lowest ignition temperatures (and therefore the highest flammability) include conifer oils (such as Pine, Spruce, and Cedarwood), eucalyptus oils (Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus radiata), citrus oils (such as orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, and tangerine), peppermint, rosemary, and frankincense.
Because some essential oils can impact hormone levels and because the hormonal state of pregnancy is so complex, we recommend that you avoid using all essential oils during pregnancy, unless directed by a licensed health professional who understands how essential oils impact pregnancy. If you are pregnant, consult your doctor before using ANY essential oil.
Some essential oils can trigger spontaneous labor or abortion, including sweet basil, cedarwood, clary sage, clove, cypress, sweet fennel, hyssop, jasmine, juniper berry, sweet marjoram, myrrh, peppermint, rose, rosemary, sage, thyme, and wintergreen or any blends that contain these essential oils.
Allergies and Asthma
People with known allergies, including asthma, will be more sensitive to essential oils than others. In these cases extra care must be taken, using skin patch tests and additional dilution, to insure there is no allergic reaction to the oils.
If you use makeup or lotion that contains synthetic compounds, may experience a skin reaction (redness or rash) when using essential oils. This is a reaction between the residual synthetic or petroleum compounds in the skin with the essential oil. If this happens, stop using the make-up, lotion, or product for at least 1 week before using the essential oils again.
Most essential oils have strong aromas and, when inhaled, may trigger or irritate asthma. While some essential oils help asthma, we recommend that you apply these oils topically rather than inhale them--until you know that inhaling them will not trigger an asthmatic response.
High Blood Pressure and Blood Thinner Medication
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Some essential oils are hypertensive, meaning that they raise your blood pressure if you use them. If you have been diagnosed with or are being treated for hypertension, avoid using hyssop, rosemary, rosemary verbenone, sage, and thyme essential oils or any blends that contain these essential oils.
Blood thinner medications
A few essential oils have anti-coagulant properties, meaning that they affect how your blood clots. If you are taking blood thinner medications such as aspirin, Heparin, or Warfarin, avoid using clove bud, ginger, and wintergreen essential oils or any blends that contain these essential oils.
A few essential oils may induce or exacerbate epilepsy. If you have been diagnosed with or are being treated for epilepsy, avoid using fennel, hyssop, and sage essential oils or any blends that contain these essential oils.
Some doctors and very well-trained aromatherapists can safely prescribe beneficial regimens for ingesting essential oils, in diluted form, inside gelatin capsules. However, the complexities of ingesting essential oils are such that we recommend against it unless done under the care of a licensed health care professional with experience in this arena.
This oral approach to using essential oils is common in French medicine, and, when directed by skilled doctors, has often proven effective. Shirley Price, a world-renown English expert in the use of essential oils states: “It has become unsustainable on scientific grounds to maintain any opposition to ingestion of essential oils. Not all practitioners should prescribe for use in this way because the majority are not competent: it is the prejudice that needs to be addressed - and the inadequate training.”
Hence, our recommendation against ingesting oils stems not from a belief that it is inappropriate, but rather from our first-hand knowledge that safely doing so requires the individualized counsel of a trained health care professional.
To assist health care professionals in identifying oils that are generally safe for ingestion, Aroma Shield labels contain information classifying the contents as GRAS (generally regarded as safe by the FDA), GRAS/FA (approved both as GRAS and as a food additive/flavoring agent), FA (approved only as a food additive/flavoring agent), or none of the above.
Essential oils normally absorb into the skin within 10-15 minutes after topical application. Once they've been absorbed, you should be able to wear clothing over the application area without staining.
Because all essential oils are lipids, they will leave an oil spot if you spill them on clothing. Some essential oils also contain additional pigments that may also stain clothing. For example, blue tansy and German chamomile contain a biochemical called chamazulene, which has a deep blue color. Aroma Shield's ReBalance blend contains blue tansy and should be used carefully to avoid stains. Patchouli and vetiver contain dark-colored constituents that may also stain clothing. Tangerine essential oil has a vivid orange color. If you accidentally spill essential oils on your clothing, clean the area with alcohol immediately.