If you use essential oils without dilution you are putting yourself at serious risk. It’s so important to properly dilute before applying to your skin. And it doesn’t have to be difficult or confusing! Once you understand how to read a dilution chart, you’ll be well armed to apply essential oils safely.
Guidelines for Diluting Essential Oils
It’s imperative that you properly dilute essential oils before applying them to your skin. They are potent substances! There are also a number of risk factors if you apply them undiluted:
Hot or burning sensation
Risk of developing a sensitization to a particular oil
Potential for rashes or hives or burns
Even though you may understand the importance of dilution and may even be familiar with a dilution chart, many people aren’t quite sure how to ‘read’ the chart. It’s easy once you recognize the different pieces of information the chart contains.
How to Read an Essential Oil Dilution Chart
Once you know what you are looking at, it isn’t very difficult to decipher all those numbers on a dilution chart.
Let’s look at each section of the chart:
The row across the top of the dilution chart shows you how much carrier oil and the size of the container.
Select the container you’ll be using - it could be a 10ml roll-on bottle, or an empty 15ml essential oil bottle that you’re reusing, or even a larger container for a massage blend. Once you have your container and the carrier oil you’ll be using, move on to the next section of the dilution chart - the dilution rate.
The column at the left of the dilution chart shows the dilution ratio.
Important Essential Oil Dilution Rates
Different people and situations need different rates of dilution.
Kids (younger than 6 years old) use a 0.25% dilution
Kids (6+), pregnant women, elderly, or those with sensitive skin should stick to a 1% dilution
Adults can use a 2% dilution for everyday things
A 3-10% dilution can be used for short term health issues
For more serious short term issues you can go as high as 25% safely
After checking the chart and selecting the appropriate dilution rate, you’re ready for part three of the dilution chart.
The numbers in the middle of the chart (taking up the largest area) are the TOTAL amount of drops you’ll need for your blend.
Once you’ve determined the size of your container (and amount of carrier oil) and the dilution rate you want to use, find the square where those two numbers meet and that is the amount of essential oil drops you need. Remember, this is the TOTAL number of drops - if you are combining two or three oils, you’ll divide that amount of drops between those essential oils.
Still confused? Let’s look at a real life example:
Using the image above, say that you have an empty 15ml bottle you’d like to reuse for a skin serum that you plan to apply a few times a week. A 2% solution is fine for everyday use (for an adult). Looking at the chart, you can see where the size of the container and the dilution ratio meet - 9 drops of essential oil. Grab the oils you’re using and add nine TOTAL drops to the bottle. Fill the bottle with carrier oil and replace with the orifice reducer and cap. Add a label so it’s clearly marked and ready for use.
If you need to add some carrier oils to your essential oil supplies, here's a 3-pack of three different carrier oils that I love to keep on-hand.
Maximum Dilution Rates
With all this blending and mixing don’t forget about those essential oils that have a max dilution rate.
What does that mean?
Certain oils should only be used up to a certain dilution rate. For example, Cinnamon Bark has a max dilution of 0.1% because it can cause serious adverse reactions. If you’d like to read more about those adverse reactions you’ll find more details here: Dangers of Not Diluting Essential Oils at the Tisserand Institute.
So, while you’re creating and diluting your blends, remember that certain essential oils need more specific dilutions. For example, if you are making a 5% cold and flu blend in a 10ml roll-on bottle that includes Oregano (which has a 1% max dilution rate), your total essential oil blend would be 15 drops but only 3 of those drops can be Oregano.
Here’s a short (not comprehensive) list of common essential oils with a maximum dilution rate:
0.1% Cinnamon Bark
0.6% Cinnamon Leaf
0.05% Clove Bud
15% Tea Tree
0.8% Ylang Ylang
For a more comprehensive list, check out this list at Plant Therapy.
Once you understand these basics you’re well prepared to properly dilute your essential oils for safe use. Just remember the different parts of the chart, how they work together, and note the oils you’re using that have a maximum dilution rate.
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