A Guide To Diluting Essential Oils

Essential oils are the highly concentrated essence of a plant and must always be diluted before use. I have come across some references that say some of the more common essential oils, such as lavender, can be used directly on the skin, but I disagree. In my personal experience I find that sensitivities and allergies are much more likely to occur when oils are used neat (undiluted).

Some effective diluting agents for essential oils include;

  • Carrier oils
  • Creams & lotions
  • During soap making
  • Shampoos & conditioners
  • Body butters & moisturisers.

There are some general guidelines when it comes to diluting essential oils and times when you have to use your judgement e.g. in the case of a frail or elderly person, your blend would tend to be more dilute. Dilution ratios generally depend on age, health condition, medications being used, skin sensitivity and sense of smell (some people dislike a strong aroma).

Essential oils have become very popular in recent decades and are widely used in aromatherapy, for massage, in diffusers, in rubs, balm and creams and in baths. Most people don’t think twice about using them topically and they sometimes fail to realise their potency. It is crucial to always dilute essential oils before applying them on your skin, or in the case of a bath to make sure that only a drop or two is used and is well mixed into the water.

If a sensitivity or allergy occurs then you should immediately discontinue using the oil.

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Why Do You Need To Dilute Essential Oils?

Plants are more potent than you think. Over their millennia of evolution, plants, flowers, trees, wild herbs etc have developed internal anti bacterial, anti microbial, anti fungal and anti viral properties to protect themselves, in the form of phytochemicals, against outside threats. When harvested and distilled, these phytochemicals become very concentrated (it takes a lot of plants to distill a little oil) meaning that these distilled essential oils can be very very strong. Essential oil can cause skin and other allergies when used undiluted. By blending them with other mediums you get to enjoy their full potential and all the benefits they can bring to your wellbeing without any downside. 

Essential oils are highly volatile, meaning that their active components can evaporate quickly when left open to the air or stored in direct sunlight. Blending them with another medium allows them to stay active for much longer, giving you more time to reap their amazing benefits.

Another reason for diluting essential oils is to do with their aroma. Essential oils smell absolutely wonderful but while the blended version smells amazing, you wouldn’t want to be near their concentrated version for too long, the scent can soon become overpowering and even trigger headaches and/or nausea.

And one of my favourite benefits of diluting essential oils is that your little bottle will go a long long way and become a very cost effective way of adding to your health and wellness.

How To Dilute Essential Oils

There are many products or mediums that you can use to dilute essential oils. While the most common option is a carrier oil you can also dilute with  shampoo, conditioner, creams, lotions, body butter and even water in room misters or baths. The most important thing to consider is what you wish to do with the oil. Is it for a hair treatment, to apply to your skin, an additional to massage oil or to add to a diffuser to inhale?

Some essential oils may have phototoxic properties (they react with sunlight) and should be avoided if the user will be exposed to the sun after use, citrus oils are an example of such oils. Some essential oils such as Lavender, Camphor, Wintergreen, Wormwood, and Tarragon should be avoided if pregnant. All essential oils should be avoided if breastfeeding. Other oils such as Peppermint Eucalyptus, and Rosemary can be toxic to animals as well as having a higher risk of causing allergies in young children. We always recommend doing some research before using essential oils.

Regardless of whichever oils you use, make sure they are of good quality, contain no artificial ingredients and are 100% natural. See our range of pure and natural essential oils.

In general a 2% dilution of essential oil is the norm and considered a safe guideline for topical application of essential oils on adults. For children or elderly we recommend a 1% dilution. With children, only use essential oils that are regarded as safe for children.

People have become used to heavily scented fragrances, room fresheners, sprays, creams, lotions and oils, which are mainly scented with chemical fragrances. To this end, many find a 2% dilution to be weak and sometimes lacking in distinctive aroma, but do not be tempted to increase the strength. Once your senses have adjusted to a more delicate fragrance, rest assured that you will savour the subtle and aromatic nuances of a 2% dilute blend of natural aromatherapy oils.

For adults you can use the following dilutions;

  • 1-3 drops essential oil to every 30ml / 1oz of carrier oil (or other diluting agent)
  • 10-20 drops essential oil to 30ml carrier oil or medium (this is approximately 3% solution) and is suitable for long term use
  • 30-50 drops essential oil to 30ml carrier oil or medium (10% solution) for one off or short term use only (no more than 2 weeks).
Bear in mind that children, the frail, the elderly and people with medical conditions will have thinner and more sensitive skin so make sure to adjust your solutions accordingly. If in doubt err on the side of a weaker solution.

There are some essential oils where an even weaker solution is recommended. Grapefruit oil is acidic and should have no more than 4% solution, clove is recommended to be no more than 0.5% solution, due to their active compounds. These are 2 non typical examples but are used to show that you need to look into the  essential oils you decide to use in a blend. 

An approximate measure of use for carrier oils or mediums is that 1 teaspoon carrier oil is approximately 5ml and 1 tablespoon is approximately 20ml.

0.5% solution is

  • 1 drop essential in 2 teaspoons carrier oil
  • 2 drops essential oil in 1 tablespoon carrier oil
  • 10 drops essential oil in 100ml carrier oil

1% solution is 

  • 4 drops essential in 1 tablespoon carrier oil
  • 2 drops essential oil in 100ml carrier oil
  • 4 drops essential oil in 2 teaspoons carrier oil
2% solution is
  • 8 drops essential in 1 tablespoon carrier oil
  • 40 drops essential oil in 100ml carrier oil
  • 6 drops essential oil in 2 teaspoons carrier oil
3% solution is
  • 12 drops essential in 1 tablespoon carrier oil
  • 60 drops essential oil in 100ml carrier oil
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Essential Oil Blends

Below are approximate guidelines for essential oil blends. Please note that these are approximate guidelines only and your own judgement should be used depending on the use of the final blend;

  • Massage Oil 2-3% solution : 4-5 drops essential oil in 2 teaspoons carrier oil
  • Massage Cream 2% solution : 4 drops essential oil in 2 teaspoons cream (level teaspoons)
  • Baths : up to 10 drops maximum per full bath, reduce for frail or elderly persons or those with certain medical conditions
  • Foot Baths : 4-5 drops maximum for 1/2 basin of water
  • Shampoo & Conditioner : 2 drops per 2 tablespoons or 10 drops per 100ml (3.5oz)
  • Diffusers : 2-3 drops per full container
  • Air Misters : 5-80 drops per 300ml water.

Essential Oil Top, Middle & Base Notes

The most successful essential oil blends are those that include a balanced combination of top, middle and base notes. Essential oils are made up of dozens of individual active aromatic compounds, each of which evaporate at different rates. Top notes evaporate the fastest and base notes the slowest. Blends that evaporate quickly are known as top note blends whereas blends with mostly base notes evaporate very slowly. A ‘middle note’ blend is one that has a stable rounded aroma and the middle note oils bridge the top and base notes in a harmonious balance. 

Read more about Essential Oil Notes here.

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