Concentrated substances are rarely intended for use “as is” – and essential oils are no different. There's 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 you use essential oils safely.
Why do I want to dilute essential oils?
Properly diluting essential oils provides a measure of safety against topical irritation, sensitivity, photosensitivity, and sensitization.
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.”
In other words, we dilute essential oils before applying to the skin to minimize adverse reactions and systemic toxicity.
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, including phototoxicity
- your age
- your health issues, such as bleeding disorders, compromised immune systems, etc.
- if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
- if you have sensitive skin
- if you 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 use of essential oils in mind, always use the lowest dilution possible that gives you effective results.
Remember, you can dilute in a variety of carriers: lotion, oil, aloe vera gel, etc. Read all about carriers here: What Carriers to Use.
Diluting by Age Group
6 months – 24 months – avoid unless urgent
Please only use for the younger ones in an urgent situation, such as a bee sting or bug bite. Otherwise, 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?
2 – 6 years – 0.25% Dilution (1 drop per 4 teaspoons of carrier oil)
Hydrosols and herbs are still a good choice for this age group and should be considered before essential oils. Children in this age group have skin that s getting a bit thicker, and their immune systems are maturing, so it is okay to use essential oils if properly diluted.
Over 6 years of age – 1% dilution (1 drop per teaspoon of carrier oil; 6 drops per ounce)
Recommended 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.
Average healthy adult – 2% dilution (2 drops per teaspoon of carrier oil; 12 drops per ounce)
Ideal for most adults and in most situations. This is also a good dilution for daily skin care.
Temporary health issue – 3% – 10% dilution (2-20 drops per teaspoon of carrier oil; 12-120 drops per ounce)
Best used short term for a temporary health issue, such as a muscle injury or respiratory congestion. For an acute issue, such as a muscle cramp, or severe pain, 25% may be appropriate (25 drops per teaspoon of carrier oil; 150 drops per ounce).
Using oils “neat” (undiluted)
Sometimes an essential oil may be used without dilution for acute short-term issues. bug bite, burn, or sting might be a good reason to use an essential oil in this way. Choose 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.
Remember the lower essential oil dilution you use, the lower the risk of adverse reactions. Be stingy with high dilutions.
Essential Oil Dilution Charts
Here are charts 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 exactly measure half a drop, so instead, you will increase the amount of carrier oil. Understand that you don't have to use an oil exactly, you can use any carrier, including a lotion, butter, or even aloe vera. Read all about carriers here: What Carriers to Use.
Diluting to 0.25%
Diluting to 0.50%
Diluting to 1%
Diluting to 2%
Diluting in 5ml (1 tsp)
Diluting in 10ml (2 tsp)
Diluting in 20ml (4 tsp)
I like these colorful aluminum and glass 20ml roller bottles.
Essential Oil Dilution Guide
I like using these 1/2 ounce amber Boston round glass bottles and 1/2 ounce amber glass dropper bottles, as well as these 1-ounce amber Boston round glass bottles and 1-ounce amber glass dropper bottles for storing pre-diluted blends.
Like this chart? Grab the magnet and sticker versions (while supplies last!).
Essential Oil Measurement Equivalents
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 isn't an extensive list. I've 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%|
Craving more knowledge? Learn the benefits of essential oils and what you can use them for, as well as important safety information for the essential oils you use. Available in print book (while supplies last), ebook, and app formats by clicking here, or the image below.