Concentrated substances are rarely intended for use “as is” – and essential oils are no different. There is almost never a time when you would not want to dilute the potency of an essential oil before applying to the skin.
Diluting essential oils is done by adding a drop (or more) of the essential oil into a carrier oil, such as jojoba oil or almond oil (more about carriers here). This not only provides a good medium for the oil to absorb into the skin, but spreads the oil over a larger surface of your skin for more effect.
Even essential oils with strong safety concerns can be used safely if properly diluted. Knowing how to dilute properly will help one use essential oils safely.Knowing how to #dilute properly will help one use #essentialoils safely. Click To Tweet
Why do I want to dilute essential oils?
Properly diluting essential oils provides a measure of safety against topical irritation, sensitivity, photosensitivity and sensitization.Properly #diluting #essentialoils provides a measure of #safety against topical #irritation,… Click To Tweet
Robert Tisserand says in this post, “Essential oil dilution is important for two safety reasons. One, to avoid skin reactions: irritation, sensitization, and phototoxicity. Two, to avoid systemic toxicity, such as fetotoxicity, hepatotoxicity, carcinogenicity, and neurotoxicity. Adverse skin reactions are obvious when they happen, but systemic toxicities may not be. Skin reactions are totally dilution-dependent, and safety guidelines exist to minimize risk.”
How much do I dilute?
How much to dilute depends on several factors including, but not limited to:
- the overall toxicity of the essential oil itself
- if the essential oil is phototoxic
- the age of the person the essential oils will be applied on
- their health issues, such as bleeding disorders, compromised immune systems, etc.
- whether or not they are pregnant or breastfeeding
- if they have sensitive skin
- if they are using prescription drugs (usually only an issue if using orally, but still a consideration)
General guidelines for diluting essential oils safely
Here are some general guidelines for diluting essential oils safely. Please note that these are general guidelines only, and other factors may be present which would over-ride these general guidelines. Keep scrolling to find a list of essential oils which need extra dilution and special attention when using topically.
Keeping safe using of essential oils in mind, always use the lowest dilution possible that gives you effective results.Keeping safe using of #essentialoils in mind, always use the lowest #dilution possible that… Click To Tweet
Remember, you can dilute in a variety of carriers: lotion, oil, aloe vera gel, etc. Read all about carriers here: What Carriers to Use.
.25% Dilution (1 drop per 4 teaspoons of carrier oil) – for children between 6 months and 6 years. Please only use for the younger ones if you absolutely must. I personally prefer to avoid using essential oils topically for children under age 2, and use herbs or hydrosols instead. Read: Herbs or Essential Oils – which one should I choose?
1% dilution (1 drop per teaspoon of carrier oil; 5-6 drops per ounce) – for children over age 6, pregnant women, elderly adults, those who have sensitive skin, compromised immune systems, or other serious health issues. This is also the dilution you want when you are applying to the face or massaging over a large area of the body.
2% dilution (2 drops per teaspoon of carrier oil; 10-12 drops per ounce) – ideal for most adults and in most situations. This is also a good dilution for daily skin care.
3% dilution (3 drops per teaspoon of carrier oil; 15-18 drops per ounce) – best used short term for a temporary health issue, such as a muscle injury or respiratory congestion. Up to 10% dilution may be appropriate.
25% dilution (25 drops per teaspoon of carrier oil; 125-150 drops per ounce) – occasionally a dilution of this strength is recommended. This might be for a muscle cramp, bad bruising, or severe pain.
Using oils “neat” (undiluted) – Sometimes an essential oil may be used without dilution for acute, short-term issue. A bug bite, burn, or sting, might be a good reason to use an essential oil in this way. Chose wisely, and don’t make a habit of this. Not only can some essential oils irritate the skin, but you increase your risk for sensitization.
Robert Tisserand says, “The higher the percentage of essential oils on your skin (i.e. “neat” being highest), the higher the chance of a reaction and risk.”Click To Tweet
Essential oil dilution chartsThe best #ruleofthumb is one drop of #essentialoil per teaspoon of carrier oil for a 1% dilution. Click To Tweet
Here is a chart you can use to help you calculate various dilutions. The best rule of thumb is one drop of essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil for a 1% dilution. For a 0.50% dilution you can’t exact measure half a drop, so instead you will increase the amount of carrier oil. Of course when I say “carrier oil” I mean any carrier, including a lotion, or even aloe vera. Read all about carriers here: What Carriers to Use.
This chart shows you how to make a 0.25% dilution in various amounts of carrier oil. Why “1-2 drops?” Well, because technically it would be 1.5 drops. If you can manage 1.5 drops, go for it 😉
This chart shows you how to make a 1% dilution in various amounts of carrier oil.
This chart shows you how to make a 2% dilution in various amounts of carrier oil.
This chart shows you how to make a 3% dilution in various amounts of carrier oil.
Diluting in a 5ml roller bottle:
- 1% dilution – 1 drop
- 2% dilution – 2 drops
- 3% dilution – 3 drops
- 5% dilution – 5 drops
- 10% dilution – 10 drops
Diluting in a 10ml roller bottle:
- 1% dilution – 2 drops
- 2% dilution – 4 drops
- 3% dilution – 6 drops
- 5% dilution – 10 drops
- 10% dilution – 20 drops
Diluting in a 20ml roller bottle:
- 1% dilution – 4 drops
- 2% dilution – 8 drops
- 3% dilution – 12 drops
- 5% dilution – 20 drops
- 10% dilution – 40 drops
Essential oil measurement equivalents
Here is a chart showing different measurement equivalents. A 5ml bottle of essential oil is 1 teaspoon.
Essential oils requiring extra dilution
Although I just gave information for the general dilution of essential oils, some essential oils need further dilution to stay within safety guidelines. Following these guidelines can prevent adverse reactions including (but not limited to) irritation, phototoxicity, and sensitization.
This is not an extensive list. I have chosen the essential oils that come up most often in our facebook group, and have included them below after pulling them out of the essential oil profiles included in Essential Oil Safety.
Please note that this list is limited to dilution safety only. Even when properly diluted, the particular essential oil still may not be the best choice for you or your child. The same considerations should be taken before using an essential oil (are you pregnant? taking medications? etc.). For more information read: Essential Oils and Children, Essential Oils and Pregnancy, and Essential Oils and Breastfeeding.
Essential oils which require extra dilution
|Essential oil name and Latin name||Do not exceed this dilution
|Anise (Star) Illicium verum||1.75%|
|Basil (estragole chemotype) Ocimum basilicum||0.1%|
|Basil (Madagascan chemotype) Ocimum gratissimum, Ocimum viride||0.2%|
|Bergamot Citrus bergamia, Citrus aurantium||0.4%|
|Birch (sweet) Betula lenta||2.5%|
|Camphor (yellow) Cinnamomum camphora, Laurus camphora||0.25%|
|Cassia Cinnamomum cassia, Cinnamomum aromaticum||0.05%|
|Cinnamon Bark Cinnamomum verum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum||0.07%|
|Cinnamon Leaf Cinnamomum verum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum||0.6%|
|Clove Bud Syzygium aromaticum, Eugenia caryophyllata||0.5%|
|Clove Leaf Syzygium aromaticum, Eugenia caryophyllata||0.6%|
|Clove Stem Syzygium aromaticum, Eugenia caryophyllata||0.6%|
|Cumin Cuminum cyminum||0.4%|
|Dill Seed (Indian) Anethum sowa||1.4%|
|Fennel (bitter) Foeniculum vulgare||1.8%|
|Fennel (sweet) Foeniculum vulgare||2.5%|
|Grapefruit Citrus x paradisi||4.0%|
|Ho Leaf (camphor chemotype) Cinnamomum camphora||0.8%|
|Jasmine Absolute Jasminum grandiflorum, Jasminum officinale||0.7%|
|Laurel Leaf Laurus nobilis||0.5%|
|Lavender Absolute Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula officinalis||0.1%|
|Lavender (Spanish) Lavandula stoechas||8.0%|
|Lemon Citrus x limon, Citrus limonum||2.0%|
|Lemongrass Cymbopogon flecuosus, Adropogon flexuosus, Cymbopogon citratus, Andropogon citratus||0.7%|
|Lime Citrus x aurantifolia, Citrus x latifolia||0.7%|
|May Chang Litsea cubeba, Litsea citrata||0.8%|
|Melissa Melissa officinalis||0.9%|
|Myrtle Myrtus communis||1.9%|
|Myrtle (honey) Melaleuca teretifolia||0.9%|
|Myrtle (lemon) Backhousia citriodora||0.7%|
|Opopanax Commiphora guidottii||0.6%|
|Orange (bitter) Citrus x aurantium||1.25%|
|Oregano Origanum onites, Origanum vulgare, Thymbra capitata||1.1%|
|Peppermint Mentha x piperita||5.4%|
|Pine (Ponderosa) Pinus ponderosa||0.5%|
|Ravensara Bark Ravensara aromatica, Ravensara anisata||0.1%|
|Ravensara Leaf Ravensara aromatica, Ravensara anisata||1.0%|
|Rose (Damask) Rosa x damascena, Rosa damascena, Rosa gallica||0.6%|
|Rose Absolute Rosa x centifolia, Rosa gallica var. centifolia||2.5%|
|Sage (Dalmatian) Salvia officinalis||0.4%|
|Sandalwood (East Indian) Santalum album||2.0%|
|Spearmint Mentha cardiaca, Mentha crispa, Mentha viridis||1.7%|
|Tarragon Artemisia dracunculus||0.1%|
|Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia||15.0%|
|Tea Tree (lemon-scented) Leptospermum petersonii, Leptospermum liversidgei||0.8%|
|Thyme (thymol and carvacrol chemotypes) Thymus serpyllum, Thymus vulgaris, Thymus zygis||1.3%|
|Wintergreen Gaultheria fragrantissima, Gaultheria procumbens||2.4%|
|Ylang-Ylang Cananga odorata||0.8%|
Lea Harris is a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist Scholar's Program graduate from Aromahead Institute. This website, and its sister website, LearningAboutEOs, is home to educational advice and information about using essential oils safely. Lea founded and runs the Using Essential Oils Safely facebook group, with hundreds of new members joining each week. Lea is the author of The TRUTH About Essential Oil Safety, and the creator of Safe Essential Oil Labels and the UEOS App. You can find FREE classes here: Free Essential Oil Classes.
Lea received her herbalist certification through The Herbal Academy of New England. Lea is a contributing writer for Natural Herbal Living magazine, and blogs about herbs and natural living on her website, Nourishing Treasures.
Lea is Professional level member of the Alliance of International Aromatherapists.
Businesses, groups, and individuals can hire Lea to consult on safety, product formulation, and more on her website Lea Harris CCA.