How to Apply Essential Oils Topically: Safely Diluting Essential Oils for Topical Use

Learning how to apply essential oils topically is one of the most confusing parts of using essential oils. Dilutions... carrier oils... safety concerns -- it's a lot to figure out! This post looks at each aspect and breaks it all down into manageable steps.

Learning how to apply essential oils topically is one of the most confusing parts of using essential oils. Dilutions... carrier oils... safety concerns -- it's a lot to figure out! This post looks at each aspect and breaks it all down into manageable steps.

What you need to know about how to apply essential oils topically

FYI - affiliate links below!

Essential oils are easy to apply to the skin. Add a drop or two to your hand and apply directly to the skin. Seems simple, right? Well, there is one important thing to consider.

Essential oils are strong natural substances and very easily absorbed throughout the body. It's important to remember that they are powerful and treat them accordingly -- and that means diluting them properly.

Essential oils can very occasionally be applied 'neat' (meaning no dilution). But neat application is NOT recommended for everyday use. 

Some oils feel "hot" (meaning they will feel very warm, even uncomfortably warm, to the skin) -- so you definitely want to get in the habit of properly diluting your oils.

Dilution is especially important -- for babies, small children, animals, and those with sensitive skin.

One important thing to note -- dilution does not change the efficacy of the oil -- it just allows you to use less essential oil per application.

And, hey, dilution saves money!


Essential Oil Dilution Guidelines

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How to Dilute Essential Oils

Dilution always begins with a carrier oil. 

What's that?

Carrier oils are simply vegetable-based oils that you can use to dilute your essential oils.

For general use (on an average adult), all you need to do is put a bit of carrier oil in your hand, add a few drops of essential oil and apply directly on the skin. Some oils may stain clothing so wait a few minutes for your skin is dry after the oil application before dressing.

Need some carrier oils? Here's a 3-pack of my favorites!

Dilution Ratios

While I think dilution is important, it can be a bit tricky to know how much carrier oil you need. Basically, the smaller the person, the more you should dilute.

  • Infants - 1-2 drops essential oil to 1 tablespoon carrier oil

  • Children - 1-2 drops essential oil to 1 teaspoon carrier oil

  • Sensitive skin - 1-3 drops essential oil to 1 teaspoon carrier oil

  • Daily use - 2-3 drops essential oil to 1 teaspoon carrier oil

Once you have figured out your dilution ratio (depending on who it is being applied to), it's simply a matter of combining the carrier oil and essential oil and applying directly to the area of concern. For new oils, be sure to check for reactions and don't apply more than two oils or blends at a time (in case of reaction).

Read more: How to Read an Essential Oil Dilution Chart

I LOVE the pre-diluted oils and blends from Rocky Mountain Oils! They have a line that's perfect for everyday use and a Kid's Line that's diluted for kids older than 2 years old. Best of all - no messy hands with those roller-ball tops!

What if an essential oil causes a reaction?

Essential oils can sometimes cause a skin reaction for a variety of reasons:

  • strong oils that need heavier dilution

  • ingredients in cosmetics or lotions that are reacting to the oil

  • overuse of an essential oil can cause contact sensitization

  • a photosensitive oil that is reacting to sunlight

  • you're allergic to a certain oil

Reactions to look for: rash, discoloration, burn, hives, pain

If an oil causes any discomfort, immediately wash it off with soap and water.

Once the reaction has cleared you could try applying the oil again but watch for any issues.

The main reason skin reactions occur is because of improper dilution or applying the oils too much.

If you develop a sensitization to an oil or you're allergic, avoid the particular oil that caused the problem and look for a replacement oil - many essential oils can often be used for the same issue. So instead of depending on just one oil, use two or three different oils individually, diluting as needed.

For oils that are phototoxic - you’ll need to exercise caution and properly dilute them if they’ll be applied to skin that will be exposed to the sun.

Be sure to download the free dilution guide - it includes a list of oils that should be more carefully diluted because they are more likely to cause skin irritation if improperly diluted.



Essential Oil Safety

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Put your email address in the form below to join the community & learn how to create a healthy home with essential oils - and learn what you need to know about safely applying essential oils. 


Best Carrier Oils

There are plenty of options for carrier oils (even the olive oil you keep in the kitchen cupboard will work in a pinch) but the best carrier oils are organic and unrefined.

A few options:

  • Coconut oil

  • Jojoba oil

  • Almond oil

  • Grapeseed oil

Besides the carrier oils listed above, you can also use aloe vera gel, shea or cocoa butter, or even your favorite unscented lotion.

Applying essential oils topically doesn't have to be hard!

Just remember to dilute your essential oils and remember - more isn't necessarily better. A few drops is really all you need.

Tonia L

Hey! I'm the owner of Happy Homeschool Nest - a website devoted to helping homeschool moms balance the needs of homeschooling with managing a healthy and happy home.