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

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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 are considered "hot" oils (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 Safety Guidelines

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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 get the quick-start guide that tells you exactly what you need to know about safely applying essential oils. 


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.

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).

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:

  • a "hot" oil that needs heavy 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

If an oil feels hot or causes any discomfort, add more carrier oil to dilute the oil. Don't try to wash it off with water.

Apply photosensitive oil to skin that will not be exposed to the sun. 

If you develop a sensitization to an oil or you're allergic, start varying your usage - 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.


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 get the quick-start guide that tells you exactly 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

Here are some carrier oils to get you started:

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.