Essential oils are wonderful things with a great range of uses from treating colds to preventing hair loss and even helping with erectile dysfunction. And if you use your oils properly the risks involved with them are tiny. Having said that, there are some important essential oil safety guidelines you must follow in order to make sure you don’t cause yourself any harm, so let’s take a look at some of those now…
Essential oil safety guidelines
Skin and essential oils
There are a few things to take into consideration when applying essential oils topically, i.e. directly to your skin:
- Always do a patch test before applying a new essential oil to your skin to make sure you don’t have any bad reactions to it. This is easy to do – just apply a small amount of diluted oil to your inner arm, then look out for any reaction, such as skin reddening, or irritation. Any reaction could show up straight away or it could be up to 24 hours before it becomes apparent, so it’s always best to patch test well in advance of when you want to use your oil. If you do suffer any reaction to the oil, then don’t use it.
- You should nearly always dilute your oils before applying them to your skin. Some of them can be caustic and can cause nasty burns if used undiluted. So always read the instructions that come with your oils and dilute them appropriately.
- If you’ve got sensitive skin, you should be particularly careful when applying essential oils. The soles of your feet are usually the least sensitive area so a good tip is to apply any new oils to that area first. If the oils don’t cause any problems on the bottom of your feet, you can try applying small amounts of them to other areas of your body.
- You should also avoid applying essential oils to any area of skin that’s already damaged or inflamed. This can result in more of the oil being absorbed than usual, and could also cause more skin damage.
- Some essential oils, such as Bergamot oil, are phototoxic. This means that they can cause tanning or sunburn when your skin’s exposed to sunlight. You should avoid applying such phototoxic oils to your skin for between 24 – 48 hours prior to exposing your skin to direct sunlight. This is especially true if you’re thinking of using a tanning booth or going out into very strong sunlight.
Other essential oil safety tips
- Some essential oils are suitable for ingestion but many others aren’t. You must always follow the instructions and guidelines for a particular oil before using it. In fact, I don’t recommend that you use any essential oils internally unless you’ve been trained in such use.
- You should make sure you always store your essential oils in a safe place, where pets and children can’t get to them.
- If you know that you have an allergy to a particular food, you shouldn’t use any essential oils or carrier oils that come from the same plant.
- You should take extra care when using essential oils on children as they’re more sensitive to them. As always, you should consult the instructions that come with your oils but in general you should dilute your oils more when applying to children. Similarly, elderly people may have more sensitive skin and so you should tend to use more diluted oils for them too.
- Many essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy and I recommend that you definitely avoid ingesting oils or using undiluted oils during this time anyway.
- Always be aware of the safety data and guidelines for any essential oil that you’re planning to use.
- Take great care not to get essential oils in your eyes when using them.
- Avoid using the same oil regularly for long periods of time.
- You should be aware that essential oils are highly flammable. So you need to take great care to keep them from coming into direct contact with flames, for example from candles.
The risk from using essential oils is very small if you use them correctly. Follow the essential oil safety guidelines above and you’re unlikely to encounter any problems.