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Safely Using Essential Oils

While essential oils have been used around the world since ancient times, those who are new often wonder: Are essentials oils safe to use?

Our ancestors have long known that with the right know-how, essential oils can enhance personal hygiene, cooking and emotional and physical wellness. Now, with the backing of modern science, you can confidently begin to incorporate essential oils in a way that is safe and effective for you and your home.

When it comes to safety, the first step is to find an essential oil company you can trust. Because essential oils can be contaminated or compromised during the extraction process, it’s important to verify sourcing ethics and practices. Those with a strict protocol will produce oils that are consistently authentic, providing you with an experience you can count on.

Once you’ve found an essential oil distributor you can trust, the next safety step will be to dive into the many uses and benefits for each oil you use. Just like with any product you’re introducing to your system, you’ll want to understand the purpose behind the product you’re using, along with recommended application methods. Soon, incorporating essential oils will become second nature!

Essential oil safety guidelines

While some oils will come with specific safety guidelines to look out for, there are some general guidelines you should follow for every essential oil that is welcomed into your home:

Do a patch test

Add one drop of oil to an area of your skin without hair, such as your inner arm. Wait one hour, and if any irritation occurs, dilute the area by adding a carrier oil (see below).

Dilute first

When applying an essential oil for the first time, we recommend diluting the oil upon the first application to learn how your skin will react. You can dilute your oils by adding one drop of essential oil to every two drops of carrier oil, which is a neutral, plant-derived oil such as coconut or olive oil. For oils that are particularly hot, we suggest diluting with one drop of essential oil to every five drops of carrier oil.

Dilute hot oils

Some oils have a particularly strong chemistry profile that creates a “hot” sensation on the skin, such as Cinnamon Bark and Oregano. Hot oil warnings can be found on their labels, and these oils should always be diluted before applying them to your skin. To dilute a hot oil, add one drop of oil to every five drops of carrier oil.

Read the labels

If there’s something specific you need to know, it will be stated on the bottle. Before using a new oil, make sure to read the label for any specific warnings or recommendations.

Avoid certain areas

Some areas of the body do not react well to essential oils, such as your nose, inner ears, eyes, broken skin or other sensitive areas.

Check for sun sensitivity

Some oils, especially citrus ones such as Tangerine, Lime and Grapefruit, can burn the skin when exposed to sun after application. Use these oils when you know your sun exposure will be limited—such as during the evening—and check the label for sun sensitivity warnings before you apply the oil topically. Once a sun-sensitive oil has been applied to the skin, avoid direct sunlight or UV rays for at least 12 hours, including tanning beds.

Store them safely

To avoid accidental ingestion or improper application, essential oils should be stored in a safe place that’s out of reach of children. Because the compounds within the oil can be altered due to excessive light or heat, we suggest storing them in a place that is room temperature and out of direct sunlight.

Watch the kids

Essential oils have many wonderful benefits for children, but because your little ones’ small bodies are still developing, it’s important to always supervise them with essential oils. Before applying any oil topically to a child’s delicate skin, always dilute it. Start by applying the diluted oil to the feet before trying it on other areas.

Consult a health care professional

If you have any concerns about how essential oils may interact with your body, we highly suggest consulting a health care professional.

The provided guidelines are intended for the U.S. market only.

How to handle essential oil sensitivity

All bodies are different, and as you begin to explore the different ways essential oils can improve your physical wellness, you may find that some bodies react differently from others. Essential oil sensitives aren’t uncommon, but most can be remedied with a few extra steps! Begin by diluting the oil to see how your body reacts to a lower concentration. For particularly sensitive skin, use half of the recommended concentration for that oil. If your skin is still having negative reactions, you may need to refrain from that particular oil. But don’t fret! Many essential oils contain similar chemical compounds to each other, so if one oil didn’t work, you can easily find a replacement that your skin will love. If you have any concerns or would like additional guidance on using a specific oil, our Member Services team is available to answer any questions.

Can I have an allergic reaction to an essential oil?

When asking whether people can be allergic to essential oils, the answer is a little complicated. Allergic reactions happen when the body comes into contact with a harmless protein that the body identifies as a threat. High-quality essential oils do not contain any proteins, so they don’t cause allergic reactions in the same way one might experience an allergic reaction to peanuts or wheat. If you are experiencing similar symptoms to an allergic reaction after using an essential oil, the molecules in the oil may be causing irritation. These sensitivities are rare, but users should be conscious of their body’s reaction when using a new oil for the first time.

Those with a sensitivity to essential oils may experience:

  • Pain, swelling or tenderness in the skin

  • Skin irritation (such as itching, rash or hives)

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Upset stomach

How to treat a reaction to essential oils

If you’re having any kind of negative reaction after using an essential oil, immediately stop use. For topical reactions, dilute the skin by applying a carrier oil to the affected area. If you inhaled the oil aromatically, turn off the diffuser and go to an area where you can breathe without the presence of the oil, such as another room or outside. For internal use, call our hotline number (1.800.371.3515) for guidance. If the reaction is severe, seek medical attention.

Those with an essential oil sensitivity may be able to dilute the oil, use a smaller amount or change their application method in order to avoid negative reactions. For example, they may have a sensitivity to an oil when using it topically but have no reaction when diffusing the same oil. It’s important to start slow, with low quantities, and track which application methods and doses cause a sensitivity.

Removing essential oils from the skin

For those experiencing skin sensitivity after applying an essential oil, it’s important to remove the oil from the skin as soon as possible. To do this, simply apply a carrier oil to the area and gently scrub. The carrier oil will help to “pick up” the essential oil off the skin, which then can be gently wiped off. This may need to be repeated a few times. If you don’t have access to a carrier oil, using soap and water will also do the trick. Apply soap to the affected area, wash and repeat until the area is clean. Let the area air dry and then apply a moisturizer that your skin has reacted well to in the past. Before using that essential oil again, make sure to dilute the oil with a carrier oil to possibly avoid future skin sensitivities.

What are sun-sensitive essential oils?

We love essential oils for the natural compounds found within them; however, some oils contain furanocoumarins, which can greatly increase UV sensitivity. If a sun-sensitive oil is applied to the skin, the application area may have a negative reaction, such as burns or rashes, when exposed to direct sunlight. Sun-sensitive oils should not be applied to the skin if you plan on going into direct sunlight within the next 12 hours; if sun exposure is unavoidable, cover the area where the oil was applied with your clothing to avoid direct sunlight. Sun-sensitive oils will be specified on the product label, so always check before applying to the skin. Some oils have the furanocoumarins removed, making them safe to wear in the sun. The following Young Living oils and blends are sun sensitive and should be used as directed:

Do essential oils need to be diluted?

Diluting your essential oils doesn’t lessen the effects of the compounds found within the bottle, but it does help to distribute the oil in a way that can be gentler on your skin. The following are guidelines on when to dilute your essential oils:

Hot Oils

Some oils are considered “hot” and should always be diluted since they tend to be harsher on the skin, such as Cinnamon or Clove. Hot oils will be labeled as such, so always read the product label before using a new essential oil.

First-time try

Because some people can experience skin sensitivities to essential oils, we highly recommend diluting an oil upon your first application and doing a patch test. This will help you determine how your body reacts to a diluted version of that oil, and you can make decisions on concentration and application method from there.

Ongoing sensitivities

Due to genetics, some people may experience skin sensitivity even to milder oils, such as Lavender. In these cases, essential oils can still be enjoyed by diluting before application. If sensitivities persist after dilution, it is recommended to discontinue use of that oil and blends containing that oil.

Kid Care

Children have much more sensitive systems than adults. Because their bodies are smaller, they should never have essential oils applied to their skin undiluted. Start by applying the diluted oils to the soles of the feet and watch for reactions before testing other areas.

Furry Friends

Animals benefit greatly from essential oils, but it’s important to give them the right amount that won’t overload their sensitive systems. Always dilute essential oils when applying to your pet’s skin or fur.

Dilution is a very simple process. Just add one drop of oil to every five drops of carrier oil,* such as fractionated coconut oil.


The provided guidelines are intended for the U.S. market only.

How much essential oil should I use?

Premium essential oils are extremely potent, which means a little will go a long way! A few simple drops can bring a wealth of health and emotional benefits, but because of skin sensitivities, we always suggest starting with just a single drop and then slowly increasing the amount you use to the directions on the product label.

There are many ways to soak in the benefits of essential oils, and the amount you use will also vary depending on application method. For example, most oil labels suggest using 1–3 drops topically, while the suggested usage for diffusing usually ranges from 8–20 drops. Always look at the recommended amount per application method to ensure you’re using just the right amount.

If using an oil internally, a popular method utilizes a toothpick to extract a low amount from the bottle. Simply dip the toothpick in the bottle, then swirl the toothpick into your food or drink.

Are essential oils toxic?

It all comes down to quantity. Are a few drops of Peppermint oil in your tea toxic? No, but in very large quantities, Peppermint can be considered toxic and make you sick. Toxicity happens when the body experiences an overabundance of a compound that in turn damages the body. Any substance taken in large quantities can cause toxicity, and because our oils are highly concentrated, it’s important to always follow the usage amount and application method recommended on the product label. Some essential oils should not be taken internally, so always read the label before ingesting.

Aromatic guidelines for essential oils

Diffusing has been a longtime favourite for essential oil application. This method helps the oil distribute throughout your home, opening up the benefits to anyone who takes in a deep breath. The recommended quantity for diffusion ranges from 8–20 drops, but we suggest starting small when you’re diffusing an oil for the first time. The size of the room, proximity to the diffuser and air ventilation will determine how much of an oil you should use. For larger rooms with increased ventilation, higher drop counts are acceptable.

Are essential oils safe to inhale?

Many prefer to inhale their essential oils, and there are many application methods that can be used to enjoy maximum benefits. The easiest method is simply removing the lid and inhaling the aroma from the bottle with deep, slow breaths. Another option is to place a few drops of the oil into the palm of your hands, then cup your palms near your nose and breathe deeply. One of the most popular methods for aromatic application is to use a diffuser. We suggest starting with 15- to 20- minute sessions when diffusing a new oil to check for sensitivities and ensure everyone in your home can enjoy the diffuser method. Once you know how your body will react to your chosen application method, you can adjust accordingly.

Is it safe to use essential oils on the skin?

Using essential oils topically can provide many benefits to the user, but many wonder whether it’s safe to put such potent oils directly on the skin. The answer comes down to amount and individual skin sensitivity.

Essential oils are lipid soluble, meaning they easily absorb into fatty tissue such as the skin. Whenever you’re applying a new product, it’s important to start with a patch test to see how your body will react. Simply add one drop of an oil to your skin and wait at least 1 hour, but ideally 48 hours, to see if any skin irritations develop. If you’re in the clear, start increasing your quantity.

For those who do have a skin sensitivity, this doesn’t mean you have to completely avoid that oil—at least not yet. In extremely rare cases of sensitivity, a person may need to avoid an oil altogether, but for most people, simply diluting an oil with a neutral, plant-based carrier oil such as olive oil can reduce skin irritations and allow the user to enjoy the benefits in comfort. If you’re still experiencing sensitivity even after diluting, immediately stop using that oil.

How to dilute essential oils

For those with skin sensitivities, a simple solution is to dilute the oil in a carrier oil before application. To do this, add one drop of essential oil to every five drops of carrier oil, such as olive or coconut oil.

Some oils will be labeled as “hot,” meaning they should always be diluted when being applied topically, especially if you have skin sensitivities. For hot oils, we suggest 1–4 drops of essential oil to every five drops of carrier oil.

Is it safe to ingest essential oils?

When used internally, essential oils can provide many health and emotional benefits; however, there are certain precautions that should be taken to ensure safe use.

Essential oils are made of natural compounds that our bodies are already designed to absorb and metabolize. Because essential oils provide these compounds in such highly concentrated levels, some essential oils should never be taken internally. However, there are plenty of oils that can easily be incorporated into teas or meals or used as dietary supplements, such as the following:

Basil

Cinnamon Bark

Lavender

Lemon

When deciding on an essential oil for internal use, it’s important to look to the label for guidance. If an oil should not be used internally, it will be listed on the bottle. While this is not a complete list, the following essential oils should never be ingested:

Cedarwood

Cypress

Eucalyptus

White Fir

Wintergreen

How to use essential oils internally

When used internally, essential oils should be taken with the same precautions that you would take when starting any new supplement. Begin by only ingesting one to two drops at a time, giving your body plenty of time to absorb the compounds and noting how your body reacts. Once you’ve ruled out any possible sensitivities, we recommend only ingesting one to two drops per day or the recommended amount on the product label.

Keep in mind that excessive amounts of any compound, including essential oils, can create toxicity in the body. While this is rare, you can avoid any accidental mishaps by ingesting only the recommended amount every four to six hours as needed, never exceeding more than two applications in a 24-hour period.

Daily ingestion of an essential oil over an extended period of time can provide several health and emotional benefits; however, it’s recommended to only take the lowest amount possible if taking the oil daily. This will help you avoid any accidental buildup in your system while still providing your body with the natural properties you love.

Are essential oils safe for children?

While many parents have seen the benefits of using essential oils on themselves, they are left wondering whether these oils are safe for their kids. Because of their smaller, still-developing bodies, children can be more sensitive to the compounds inside of essential oils than adults. However, with the right direction and recommended amounts, children can easily reap the benefits found within the bottle.

To ensure safe application and a positive experience for your child, keep the following guidelines in mind when administering essential oils:

Smaller amounts: Because their bodies are so much smaller, children benefit from a smaller amount of essential oils than adults. Whether you’re administering the oil topically, aromatically or internally, always start with the lowest amount possible and never exceed the smallest amount recommended for adults.

Dilute the oil: Children have very sensitive systems and require less of an essential oil to reap all of the benefits.

Dilute oils for children by age:

Age 0–1: 1 drop of oil to 8 drops of carrier oil

Age 2–6: 1 drop of oil to 3 drops of carrier oil

Age 7–11: 1 drop of oil to 1 drop of carrier oil

12+: Use the recommended amount on the label with 1 drop of carrier oil

First-time application: When applying a new oil for the first time, always dilute first and begin by massaging the mixture into the child’s feet. The feet tend to be less sensitive than other areas of the body, providing a safe space to try out new oils and check for possible sensitivities. Keep in mind that oils should always be diluted for children under the age of five.

Safety check: Educating your children about essential oils will go a long way, helping to ensure they take these potent oils seriously. Essential oils are not a toy and should be put out of the reach of children when not in use. Once the oils have entered your home, sit down and have a discussion with your kids about not using the oils without adult supervision.

Are essential oils safe to use during pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a miracle of nature, and while many women find themselves happily awaiting the birth of their new one, there are many moments within pregnancy that leave expectant mothers looking for relief. From extensive back pain to restless nights, mothers often find themselves experiencing at least some level of discomfort throughout their pregnancy. When used correctly, essential oils can aid in providing a relaxing experience using the power of nature.

Keep in mind that some oils can be used during specific terms of pregnancy, while others should be avoided during pregnancy. While the following list is not comprehensive, these oils should be used with caution and supervision or should be avoided altogether during pregnancy:

Peppermint

Rosemary

Mugwort

Basil

Clary Sage

While it’s extremely important to consult with a doctor before using essential oils while pregnant, the following essential oils have been used to bring comfort during pregnancy:

Ginger

Lavender

Rose

Lemon

Geranium

Is it safe to use essential oils while breastfeeding?

Now that your sweet little one is cradled in your arms, you may be excited to start using all your favourite essential oils again. Once we introduce a compound to our system, it’s often distributed throughout the body. For those who are breastfeeding, it’s important to remember that compounds introduced to the body can often be found in breastmilk, and those compounds may be harmful to your new baby.

efore introducing an essential oil to the mix, consult with your health care professional. The following list is not comprehensive but can provide a good beginner’s list for essential oils that can be used while breastfeeding:

Lavender

Myrtle

Roman Chamomile

Frankincense

Is it safe to use essential oils around pets?

We know how essential oils react in human bodies, but those of our furry friends can be a bit different. Generally, if you’re using essential oils just for yourself, your pets may not even come in contact with the oils you’re using. However, caution should be taken when diffusing essential oils in a room that is being shared with your pet. Their systems don’t process natural compounds the same way our bodies do, and some oils may end up being toxic to your pet. However, this is rare, and it’s generally safe to diffuse oils in the same home as your pet.

Can I diffuse oils with pets in my home?

Diffusing essential oils has become a fan-favourite way to incorporate oils into your daily life; however, you may be wondering whether it’s safe to diffuse with animals in the home. Generally, this comes down to two deciding factors: proximity and oil choice.

Some oils can be toxic to animals, so it’s important to stay aware of oils that shouldn’t be diffused if your pet is in the room. However, if your pet is able to escape to another room where there aren’t essential oils diffusing, it is generally safe to diffuse essential oils around your pets.

Are essential oils safe for dogs?

Your pup’s sense of smell is stronger than yours, so although there are many essential oils that are safe to use around dogs, it’s important to use low concentrations when applying an oil directly to their skin or fur. While the following list is not comprehensive, these essential oils should be avoided when applying directly to your dog or while diffusing:

Eucalyptus

Tea Tree

Cinnamon Bark

Citrus

Ylang Ylang

Are essential oils safe for cats?

There are many essential oils that are safe for cats; however, felines lack some of the enzymes that help to break down the compounds found in essential oils. Oils that contain citrus/phenolic or methyl salicylate are especially toxic to cats and should be avoided. When applying essential oils directly to your kitty’s fur or skin, it’s important to start small and dilute the oil upon the first application. While the following list is not comprehensive, these essential oils should be avoided when applying directly to your cat or while diffusing:

Wintergreen

Pine

Clove

Eucalyptus

Lavender

Tea Tree

Are essential oils safe for birds and pocket pets?

Much like cats, birds and pocket pets are highly sensitive to oils that contain citrus/phenolic or methyl salicylate. Always do your research before using an oil on your pet, and avoid diffusing certain essential oils in the same room as your pet’s cage or enclosure, as they won’t be able to separate themselves from exposure like cats and dogs can.