How to use essential oils

We’ve all wondered how to use essential oils, quizzing friends for advice or scouring the web for the latest tips. There’s no trick to using essential oils, though. You don’t need training or a degree. With a little practice and the suggestions you’ll find here, you’ll become the go-to expert on how to use essential oils in no time! There are three primary ways to use essential oils. First there’s aromatically, when you inhale the oil’s aroma either from the bottle or via steam or a diffuser. You can also apply them topically—just be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil like olive oil before application. With most oils you can dispense a few diluted drops on your skin. With others you’ll want to add them to your favourite lotion, cream or bath gel. Finally, you can even ingest small amounts of a few select essential oils to enjoy their flavors as well as their benefits.

However you use your essential oils, we recommend you always check the label on how to best apply them. Essential oils are highly concentrated natural extracts located in a plant’s seeds, leaves, bark, flowers, roots, stems, rinds and other parts. Distillers of essential oils use various methods to extract these oils that render them even more potent than they were in their respective plants. In such a concentrated form, it’s important to know how to use essential oils safely and what precautions to take.

We’ll explore how to use essential oils and what steps you can to enjoy their natural benefits while also handling them safely.

How to Apply Essential Oils

Stumped on how to apply your essential oils? How you apply an oil depends on what benefit you want to get out of it. Different oils offer different benefits, depending on how and where you apply them. So, before using any new essential oil, be sure to check that oil’s uses and benefits and read any labels and instructions that come with it. If you have questions or concerns, check with your healthcare provider.

Using Essential Oils Aromatically

Let’s start with the hallmark way to use essential oils: aromatically. All essential oils feature a signature aroma you can smell and inhale for various effects. One oil’s crisp scent can invigorate you when you need a midday pick-me-up. Another’s soothing aroma can help you unwind after a tough day. You can use essential oils aromatically by simply opening the bottle and inhaling its aroma. They can also be applied topically as a personal fragrance, but always dilute them with a carrier oil, which is a plant-derived oil like coconut or almond oil. Dilute a few drops of essential oil with your carrier oil and then rub it into your palms and inhale or dab some behind your ear or on your neck. You can also use a diffuser to disperse the essential oil into the air.

Using Essential Oils Topically

Another favourite way to apply essential oils is topically, where you allow the oil to absorb into your skin. As mentioned before, always dilute oils with a carrier oil before you apply them topically. Topical oils can become part of a massage or added to your preferred lotion, moisturizer or other personal care product. Some oils, particularly those from the citrus family, can cause photosensitivity. A carrier oil is a plant-derived oil like coconut and almond oil that can be used to dilute an essential oil’s concentration.

Using Essential Oils Internally

If you think an oil smells terrific, wait until you taste it! You can season your favourite dish or flavor a drink with certain grades of essential oils. Ingesting oils lets you savor all their savory, herbaceous, spicy, fruity potential. The simplest ways to take essential oils internally is to add them to a glass of water, take them in a capsule or use them as seasoning. Start off with a small amount. A little goes a long way, and even a single drop might overpower your recipe. One recommendation is to dip a toothpick in the oil and stir that little bit in as a starting point. Of course, before you use any oils internally, make sure the oil is safe to ingest. Unless it specifically says on the label that it’s safe for ingestion, assume it’s safe for external use only.

What Are the Best Essential Oils for Beginners?

Getting started with essential oils can be intimidating. How do you know what oils to start with and how to use them? With hundreds of different oils, each with unique uses, applications and benefits, it can be like drinking from a firehose.

The ideal oils for beginners are those that come with many benefits and applications. You can find a use for each of them in about every corner of your home and facet of your life. Here are the top ten oils recommended for those who are new to essential oils.

Top 10 Essential Oils for Those Who Are New to Oils

  • Lavender - This gentle oil can be used almost anywhere—added to water to make a room-freshening spray, in the bath or mixed with your favourite lotion.
  • Peppermint - Peppermint’s cool, crisp scent and tingling touch make it one of the most versatile oils. Rub it into fatigued muscles after a run or fitness class for a refreshing post-workout cooldown.
  • Lemon - The tangy scent of lemon can liven any day. Diffuse it to share its summery aroma, apply a couple drops to a cotton ball to rub away sticky adhesive or promote the appearance of youthful skin by adding it to your nighttime skin care routine.
  • Frankincense - Its grounding, complex aroma is often diffused during prayer or meditation to encourage self-reflection
  • Tea Tree - Tea Tree is widely used for its cleansing properties, particularly when applied topically to the skin, hair and nails or to neutralize unwanted odours.
  • Cedarwood - This essential oil’s balmy, rich scent can chase away unwanted smells and invites an atmosphere of coziness and peace.
  • Oregano - With its warm, herbaceous aroma, Oregano can be added to a carrier oil and rubbed into your joints after a long day.
  • Lime
  • Orange - Orange’s sweet smell makes everything feel right. Add it to your linen spray to give your wash some citrus-scented freshness.
  • Eucalyptus Radiata - You can literally use this Australian oil from head to toe, to rejuvenate your hair; help hydrate dull, dry skin; or to inhale as you wind down for bed. ™
  • Grapefruit - Want your house to feel like a sunny beach house? Grapefruit brings a welcome burst of freshness, whether you’re diffusing it or using it to zest up your household cleaners.

As you take each of these oils for a test drive, you’ll find ones that work for you and others that don’t. To guarantee the best experience when trying out essential oils, be sure to select oils known for their quality and potency.

The Basics Tenants of Essential Oil Safety

When learning how to use essential oils safely, remember that these oils are extremely potent and should always be handled carefully. With that in mind, here are a few basics on how to handle essential oils carefully.

Always check the label
Before using any new oil, be sure to check the label for directions and warnings.

A little goes a long way
Less is more when it comes to these concentrated oils. You can always add more, so whether you’re using oils aromatically, topically with a carrier oil or internally, start slow. Use the smallest recommended amount and then work your way up as needed.

Watch for a reaction
Everyone is different, so as you start out with small amounts of these oils, watch for any reactions to the essential oils you use. If your skin becomes irritated, apply a carrier or fatty oil to the affected area to dilute the essential oil.

Use one oil at a time
Only use one new oil at a time to see how your body will react to it. After applying the new oil, wait at least 30 minutes before applying another new one.

Avoid applying oils to certain parts of the body
Don’t apply essential oils to your eyes, ears, nose or other areas with sensitive skin.

Consult your healthcare provider
If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication or have a medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before trying any oils.

Be aware of oils that cause photosensitivity
Some oils, mostly those from the citrus family, can cause photosensitivity to direct sunlight for at least 12 hours after application. Make sure you stay out of direct sunlight after applying these undiluted essential oils to your skin.

How to Use Essential Oils Aromatically

Knowing how to use essential oils aromatically helps you use those famous aromas to their full potential. Their powerful scents can evoke strong emotional, mental and even physical reactions. That’s because our smell receptors connect directly to where your emotions and memories are stored in your brain’s limbic system.

There are countless ways to use essential oils aromatically. The simplest way is to put a few drops into the palms of your hands, then cup your hands around your mouth and nose and inhale, breathing deeply to allow your receptors to absorb the oil’s aroma. You can also mix oils in a spray bottle with water and use it to spritz surfaces, furniture, linens and the inside of your car.

Here are some other ways you can use essential oils aromatically.

How Do You Diffuse Essential Oils?

To diffuse essential oils, you can add 8–20 drops to a water oil diffuser. With a diffuser, you can create any atmosphere you like—cozy and calming or grounding and invigorating. Here are a few tips if you’re pulling your first diffuser out of its box.

Find the best location for your diffuser
You’ll need to place the diffuser near an outlet, unless yours runs on batteries. Choose an open area where the diffuser has the most access to the space. Don’t place it near a fan or heat source and avoid direct sunlight if possible. These outside elements can affect the potency of the oils. Make sure the diffuser is kept out of the reach of small children.

Check the instructions on your diffuser
Review any directions that come with the diffuser and on your oil label. Look especially at the ratios of oil to water to know how to get the most aroma from your diffuser.

Avoid overfilling the diffuser
Use only as much water your diffuser can handle or your diffuser may not function the way it should.

What to do if you don’t have a diffuser
A DIY workaround when you don’t have a diffuser is to simply add a couple drops of your favourite oil to a cotton ball and place it wherever you think it would best disperse the scent. Over a vent can help you circulate the scents you love so they fill your home or workspace.

Effective Ways to Use Essential Oils Aromatically

You’ll discover countless effective ways to use essential oils aromatically. Even absorbed from the air, you’ll find that essential oils can have a dramatic effect on your environment. That’s because the scent you’re inhaling contains small particles of the oil itself, bringing with them the oil’s benefits as well as its aroma. Here are effective ways to use essential oils aromatically.

Inhale directly
You can breathe in the oil’s aroma directly from the bottle or by dripping some into your hands and cupping them over your mouth and nose while you breathe deeply.

Use a diffuser
This is perhaps the most effective way to disperse an essential oil’s scent throughout your work or living space

Add to your surfaces
Essential oils can give your pillowcases, sheets or clothes a calming, soothing scent. Simply drop the oil onto a tissue and then brush the tissue over the clothes or linens. Or drop oils onto a wool dryer ball before tossing it in the dryer with your clothes.

Use Steam
Boil a pot of water, remove it from its heat source, then add a couple drops of essential oil. Lean over the pot and drape a towel over your head to create a tent that captures the steam as you lower your face close to the water and inhale deeply.

Apply like purfume
Turn heads by dabbing a drop of your go-to oil on your wrist, behind the ears or on the neck to create your own personal fragrance. Dilute as needed with a carrier oil, such as olive oil, according to label directions.

Mix with your DIY cleaners
Add oils to your household cleaners so you can enjoy their fragrance while you make your space sparkle.

How to Use Essential Oils Topically on Skin

Using essential oils topically on skin is another popular application method. Oils absorb easily into the skin, so you can quickly and directly enjoy their beneficial properties. When applied topically, essential oils can improve the appearance of healthy-looking skin. Mix them with your favourite cosmetics to include them in your skin care routine. Add them to carrier oils to take a massage to the next level, making it that much more soothing or invigorating, depending on the oils you use. A few drops have the power to transform a warm bath or hot shower into a spa-like experience.

Knowing how potent essential oils can be, remember to always read label instructions before applying a new oil topically. Look for warnings about photosensitivity and dilution and, as mentioned earlier, always start small.

How Much Essential Oil Should I Use on My Skin?

Remembering how potent essential oils can be will help you know how much essential oil you should use on your skin. When applying a new oil, whether you’re using it topically or using another application method, check the label and follow the directions. Look for warnings about photosensitivity and dilution and, as mentioned earlier, always start small.

Many oils can be applied directly to the skin when diluted with a carrier oil like olive oil—usually to soothe fatigued muscles or for skincare. Water doesn’t mix well with essential oils and isn’t a good way to dilute. For topical applications to the skin, you’ll usually want to mix one to three drops of essential oil with one teaspoon of a carrier oil, unless the label recommends a different ratio. For larger applications, like a massage, you might want to lower that to one drop for every teaspoon of carrier oil.

Bear in mind that the effects from topically applying essential oils to your skin can last for a few hours. If you’re test-driving a new oil, apply small amounts of the oil during the day. Give yourself a few hours between applications to see if you have a reaction to the oil. With their high levels of concentration, essential oils can irritate your skin if you don’t apply them correctly.

Where Should I Put Essential Oils on Your Body?

There are many beneficial areas of your body where you can apply essential oils. You can gently rub oil into places such as your neck, forehead, temples, wrists, chest and stomach. This also includes extremities like your arms, legs and the bottoms of your feet. In fact, the bottoms of your feet are one of the safest places to apply essential oils topically.

There are a few areas where you shouldn’t put essential oils on your body. You’ll want to avoid your eyes, ears, nose and the skin around them or places where the skin is sensitive.

How to Blend Essential Oils for Topical Use

Learning how to blend essential oils for topical use frees you to mix and mingle the oils you love the most so you can create unique, personalized scents your skin will love, too.

One important factor to consider is how potent are the oils in your blend? Some oils are gentle enough to be applied directly to the skin. Others require dilution before they’re safe for topical use. Always be aware of the safe handling procedures for any oils you put into a blend. Read the labels and follow the instructions provided.

If dilution is required, use a carrier oil. In a blend like that, the carrier oil should make up the greater part with only a small percentage being essential oils.

It’s also critical to know that some oils, especially citrus oils, can cause temporary photosensitivity. Any blend that includes these oils will also likely cause photosensitivity. If applied to the skin, avoid sunlight for the next 12 hours just to be safe.

If you’re not sure how your skin will react to a blend, simply perform a patch test. A patch test involves applying a small amount of an essential oil or oil blend to the inside of your forearm. Then you wait an hour or two to see if your skin reacts to it. If there is no reaction, then you’re free to move forward with applying that essential oil blend to your skin.

How to Use Essential Oils Internally

Did you know you can use some essential oils internally? With aromatic and topical oil applications, the oil has to penetrate the skin or other obstacles so we can enjoy their benefits. By ingesting the oils, we can introduce those benefits directly to the body.

Please note that not all oils are fit for internal use, so always check the label instructions to see if the oil is safe for ingestion. If it doesn’t mention internal use, then simply assume the oil is meant for aromatic and topical application. As for those oils that are safe for internal use, they have a variety of uses you’ll want to try. When you do, check the label directions for the amounts to use and make sure you never exceed them.

Add to a glass of water
Add a drop or two of your favourite essential oil to water to make every sip satisfying.

Take in a capsule
Put a few drops of essential oil into a vegetable capsule and take with water.

Spice up your favourite dish
Add essential oils to give your favourite dishes an array of rich, unique flavors.

Drop directly onto your tongue
You can drip these oils directly onto your tongue to leave a good taste in your mouth.

Can You ingest Essential Oil Safely?

Yes, you can safely ingest some essential oils. Oils you can take internally make it easy to add a splash of flavor to your food and drinks. You can also take these oils in a capsule as a dietary supplement.

Many people enjoy cooking and baking with essential oils. However, you should always be careful whenever you add a new ingredient to your recipe, such as essential oils. Review any labels that come with the oil and make sure it says that the oil is safe for internal use. Also remember to only use a little at a time. You can always add more oil if you think the dish or beverage needs more of a kick!

Essential Oil Safety FAQ

Using essential oils can seem complicated and confusing. That’s why we published a page dedicated to answering your questions about essential oil safety. Here are a few answers to questions asked by those who are beginning to learn and use essential oils.

Q. What is a carrier oil?
A. A carrier oil is a neutral, non-aromatic, plant-derived oil such as coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, etc. Carrier oils can be used to dilute essential oils to ensure that they are comfortable and safe for topical application to the skin.

To perform a patch test, apply 1¬–2 drops of essential oil to a patch of skin such as the forearm. Observe that area of skin over the course of 1–2 hours for any noticeable reaction. Normally any reactions will occur within 5¬¬–10 minutes. If you experience a hot or burning sensation or develop a rash, add a carrier oil to the affected area as often as needed.

Q. What is a "hot" oil?
A. Hot oils are any essential oils that create a hot or warming sensation when applied to the skin. Some examples of hot oils include cinnamon bark, clove, lemongrass, oregano and thyme. It’s recommended that you use a patch test on these or any new oils you intend to use topically.

Q. What if I experience skin discomfort or irritation after applying an essential oil topically to my skin?
A. If you feel any discomfort or irritation, stop using the essential oil and apply a carrier oil to the affected area. There are some documents that suggest diluting essential oils with water. Unfortunately, water actually drives oil into the skin and eyes. Avoid using water in an attempt to flush the oil off of the skin; this may increase discomfort. If all you have on hand is water, you can use it in place of a carrier oil. In this case, focus on flushing the affected area with a large amount of water with consistent flow. If an essential oil gets in your eye, flush it out using a carrier oil as quickly as possible to alleviate any discomfort. If eye discomfort does not subside within five minutes, seek medical attention.

Q. Can essential oils be applied to sensitive areas?
A. Avoid contacting sensitive areas such as eyes, ears, genitals and mucous membranes with essential oils.

Q. How often can I apply essential oils? How much should I use?
A. Follow the proper usage instructions printed on each essential oil label. Essential oils can be very powerful, so start with a small amount and go slow. Excessive use of essential oils may increase your risk of having an adverse reaction. In most cases, 1–2 drops are adequate—using more may be a waste of the oil. Depending on the essential oil, you can gradually build up to 3¬–4 uses per day, if desired.

Q. Can I use essential oils during pregnancy or when I’m nursing?
A. As with any medical condition, it’s recommended that prior to using essential oils you seek the advice and recommendation of a competent, trained health care advisor who is experienced in essential oil usage.

Q. Can children use essential oils?
A. Many essential oils are appropriate for use on children but should be diluted with a carrier oil prior to use.

Q. Should I avoid exposure to the sun after using essential oils?
A. Some essential oils, especially citrus oils, contain natural molecules that react with sunlight (UV light) and cause a sensitivity reaction. Any essential oils or blends that contain these compounds should come with a warning to avoid sun or any other UV light for 12 to 48 hours after applying.

Q. Should I use essential oils if I have a medical condition? Can essential oils interact with prescription medications?
A. If you have a disease or medical condition or are using a prescription medication, it’s recommended that prior to using an essential oil you consult with a health care advisor who has experience with essential oils. Seek the advice of the prescribing physician and a pharmacist about potential interactions between any medication and essential oils.