Essential Oils Safety Guide

Essential oils are plant-derived products that can be a natural way to support your overall health and well-being. Essential oils are generally considered safe, but there are some considerations and best practices to be aware of. If you're new to essential oils and wondering how to use them, every bottle of Young Living essential oil has a label that provides directions for use. Make sure to follow all label instructions and warnings carefully. Learn more about the ins and outs of essential oil safety below.


Topical Use

Topical application is one of the most popular ways to use essential oils. Depending on the type of oil and the sensitivity of your skin (defer to each individual oil’s label instructions), the essential oil can be diluted in a carrier oil first and then applied to pulse points on the skin or used as a massage oil. Be sure to use caution around your most sensitive skin. Topical uses can also include mixing a few drops of an appropriate essential oil with some of your favourite bath products for an aromatherapy bath, since the oil will penetrate the skin as you soak or simply using essential oils for a much-needed, relaxing massage at the end of a long day. Below, we've covered some of the more popular questions about using Young Living essential oils topically.

Are essential oils safe for skin?

Most essential oils are safe for skin applications as long as you follow the dilution and application instructions on the bottle label. If you're using a new essential oil, it's a good idea to dilute it in a carrier oil and do a patch test for irritation before you use it over a larger area of skin.

I see the term "carrier oil" used in several places. What is a carrier oil, what does it do and why should I use it?

The term "carrier oil" simply refers to a vegetable oil or base oil that's used to dilute essential oils. Young Living's essential oils are concentrated, which means you only need a few drops. Mixing essential oils with a carrier oil helps reduce their concentration without diminishing their properties and makes application more comfortable for your skin, especially for a first time essential oil user. Using a carrier oil can also help prevent waste from excessive application. Any vegetable oil, including coconut oil, grapeseed oil and olive oil, can be used as a carrier oil, but we recommend our V-6™ Vegetable Oil Complex. Petroleum derivatives, including baby oil, mineral oil and petroleum jelly, should not be used as carrier oils and butter, shortening and margarine should also be avoided.

What is a "hot oil"?

Some essential oils are referred to as "hot oils" and this means that they may cause a warming sensation when applied topically. Popular hot oils include Thyme, Lemongrass, Clove, Cinnamon and Oregano as well as the Thieves® blend. Peppermint is also sometimes classified as a hot oil because of the intense cooling sensation it can create. Hot oils, in particular, should be patch tested before extensive use. We recommend applying 1-2 drops of the oil to the forearm and then watching the area for 1-2 hours for any burning sensations or visible skin irritation. If irritation does occur, go over the area with a carrier oil as often as needed.

What if I experience skin discomfort or irritation?

Anytime you experience any kind of skin discomfort or irritation after using an essential oil, stop use immediately and apply a carrier oil to the area. Sometimes a rash is a sign of detoxification and may be your body trying to release toxins built up from other skin care products, soaps or perfumes [8]. It could also be that the essential oil mixed with products already on your skin and caused a reaction. If you want to try the essential oil again, make sure to do a patch test as discussed above and use a carrier oil for dilution.

Keep in mind that water can make the reaction more intense as it actually drives the oil further into the skin. Always dilute with a carrier oil and not water. If you get an essential oil in your eye, flush with V-6 or another carrier oil quickly. If eye discomfort doesn't go away in 5 minutes, it's best to seek medical care.

Can essential oils be applied to sensitive areas?

Essential oils should not be used in sensitive areas, including the ears, eyes, genitals and any area with mucous membranes. If you have sensitive skin, it's always best to patch test first. You might also want to dilute the oil down further than the label directions, such as 1 drop of oil to 5-10 drops of a carrier oil.

How often can essential oils be applied? Can you overuse essential oils?

Even though essential oils are natural products, they are still very powerful. The general rule of thumb is to start low and go slow. This means to use just a few drops of an oil and to only use one oil at a time until you know how your body reacts. Diluting essential oils in a carrier oil doesn't dilute their effects, which means that just 1-2 drops of essential oil is enough for most applications. Start with one application a day. If that doesn't give the desired effects, you may slowly add up to 3 uses per day. Keep in mind that using too much essential oil or using it too often can increase the chances of an adverse reaction.

How does exposure to sun affect essential oil use?

Some essential oils can make skin more sensitive to sunlight. Citrus oils are the most notable for this, but any oil that may cause light sensitivity will have that warning on the label. Avoid sun and UV light exposure for 12-48 hours after applying one of these photosensitive oils and do a patch test on any oil that you haven't used before. Young Living's beauty and cosmetic products go through a process to remove the agents that cause sun sensitivity to lower the risk of a reaction.

What about the use of essential oils if I have a medical condition? Can essential oils interact with prescription medications?

Essential oils are generally considered safe, but they can interact with some prescription medications or be contraindicated for some medical conditions. Before use in these situations, it's best to talk with your health care provider. Make sure to talk to the doctor prescribing your medications or the pharmacist before using essential oils to avoid interactions.


Diffusing

Another popular use for essential oils is diffusing with a diffuser. A few drops of essential oil are added to water in a diffuser, which creates a fragrant mist for use in aromatherapy applications. You can also apply a few drops to a tissue or handkerchief and inhale occasionally.

Can breathing essential oils be harmful?

Breathing in essential oils via diffusing is considered safe for most people and oils and some oils have been shown to act as a calmative [1] . Some oils are more powerful than others, so it's important to always follow the dilution directions and instructions on the label. Steam inhalation is more concentrated than diffusing and may not be suitable for very strong oils. If you have any kind of condition that affects breathing, such as asthma, talk to your health care provider before use.[2]

Can you inhale too much essential oil?

Diffusing essential oils into the air is one of the safest ways to use them, but you should limit diffusing to 30-60 minutes at a time and make sure to diffuse in a well-ventilated area [3]. If you are using oils via steam inhalation, remember to start low and go slow and limit session times to 15-20 minutes to start [2]. If you experience any feelings of difficulty breathing or the scent seems too strong, stop use immediately.


Internal Ingestion

It is possible to use essential oils via internal ingestion, but you have to use oils specifically designed for this purpose, such as Young Living's Plus line of dietary essential oils . Using other essential oils internally can lead to stomach discomfort, stomach pain, lowered heart rate and other complications[4] . If you have accidentally ingested an essential oil not meant for internal use, contact poison control and seek medical attention as soon as possible [5].

Which essential oils are toxic to humans?

Some essential oils can be toxic to humans when ingested internally. A few of these include[6] :

Even substances traditionally used in food, such as nutmeg and some types of mint, can be toxic if ingested as essential oils because of this very concentrated form. Only use dietary essential oils for internal ingestion and always follow the label instructions.


Children

Can essential oils be used on children?

Any essential oil that you are planning to use on children should be diluted in an appropriate carrier oil. Young Living's KidScents™ line is specifically designed for use with children and has been prediluted for safe use. Dilution ratios may also need to be adjusted when using other essential oils not specifically designed for children.[3]


Pregnancy

Can essential oils be used during pregnancy or while nursing?

Before using essential oils while pregnant or breastfeeding, it's important to talk to your health care provider. Many people choose to avoid essential oil use in the first three months of pregnancy to avoid any possibility of adverse reactions during this sensitive time. However, using essential oils carefully and safely and under the direction of your health care provider can provide some benefits in easing some of the discomfort associated with pregnancy. Some oils that generally should be avoided during pregnancy include [7]:

It's also important to avoid blends that might contain these essential oils and to always check the label instructions for contraindications.


Animals

When used appropriately, essential oils can help create a balanced environment for your pet and support their feelings of comfort. Certain oils and blends can also help eliminate stale odours and freshen areas where pets spend a lot of time. Some oils, such as Eucalyptus, can irritate pets' more sensitive respiratory systems, so it's important to diffuse oils in a well-ventilated room that pets can easily get out of if the smell starts to overwhelm them[3] . For oils that are designed with pets in mind,Young Living's Animal Scents™ line, which includes a pet-safe shampoo, is a safe place to start.


Conclusion

Diffusing essential oils, applying them topically or using them as part of an overall aromatherapy practice can help promote feelings of well-being. Make sure you get the most benefits out of your use by practicing these essential oil safety tips.