When I first started experimenting with bath and body recipes, I just mixed essential oils any old how, making up my own combinations to add to body scrubs, bath salts, and the like. But gradually I learned more about the properties of essential oils, and I how to use them to the best effect. So, here's a summary of what I've found - I hope you find it useful too!
Essential oils can be marvellous for your skin, but they must be used properly. The first rule of essential oil skin care is...
Don't apply undiluted oils directly to skin. They are super-concentrated, and can cause allergies or chemical burns if used undiluted. Be especially careful if you have broken skin (e.g. cuts). Exposure to undiluted oil can cause life-time sensitivity. I read about a woman who spilled undiluted lavender essential oil on a cut, and years later she still gets dermatitis if she uses any lavender-containing products.
So, how much should you dilute your essential oils?
For massage oils and body scrubs, a safe dilution is 1 or 2%. That means 1 or 2 drops of essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil. Equivalently, 25-50 drops of essential oil per cup of carrier oil. Good carrier oils include sweet almond oil and grapeseed oil.
To make a foaming cleanser, a good dilution is to use 20 drops essential oil, 5tsp carrier oil, and 3.5oz (100mL) liquid castile soap. Shake well before use.
Part of the fun with concocting essential oil skin care remedies is to experiment with different oil combinations, and see what you find pleasing. But before you do, make sure you read the sections on this page about toxic oils, irritating oils, and precautions for pregant women. After that, go ahead and experiment!
To get you started here are some oil combinations suitable for different skin types...
Carla Oates, in her book Feeding Your Skin suggests the following essential oil combinations for different skin types. You could use them, for instance, in making a body scrub. These quantities are to be added to 3.5oz (100mL) of carrier oil.
normal - 10 drops lavender, 6 geranium, 4 ylang-ylang
oily - 8 drops sandalwood, 6 lemon, 6 lavender
dry - 8 drops sandalwood, 6 geranium, 6 rose
sensitive - 6 drops chamomile, 4 rose, 2 neroli
dehydrated - 10 drops rose, 8 sandalwood, 2 patchoulli
mature - 8 drops neroli, 6 frankincense, 6 ylang-ylang
acneous - 10 drops lemon, 10 cypress, 5 lavender
devitalised - 10 drops geranium, 6 rose, 4 cypress
broken capillaries - 8 drops rose, 6 chamomile, 6 cypress
Are you looking for a pick-me-up scent combo before a party, or are you just winding down to relax after a long day? Choose one of the following combinations to suit your mood. Each essential oil recipe is to be blended with 3.5oz (100mL) of carrier oil.
Energising: 8 drops grapefruit, 8 bergamot, 4 peppermint
Detoxifying: 8 drops graefruit, 8 lemon, 6 juniper
Bliss: 5 drops cypress, 5 lemon, 5 patchoulli, 5 rose
Relaxing: 8 drops sandalwood, 5 neroli, 5 rose
Romantic: 8 drops orange, 5 patchoulli, 3 cinnamon, 3 ylang ylang
Soothing: 10 drops lavender, 10 mandarin
Tranquil: 6 drops chamomile, 4 rose, 2 neroli
Essential Oil Skin Care
Oils that Might Irritate Your Skin
A small proportion of people experience rashes or other skin irritations after using essential oils. If you have very sensitive skin, then either avoid the following oils or make sure you dilute them well:
If in doubt, perform a patch test before using any essential oil for the first time. Mix one drop essential oil with 1tsp (5mL) carrier oil (e.g. grape seed oil or sunflower oil), and apply some to the soft skin on the inside of your forearm. Leave 24 hrs without washing off. If no irritation occurs after 24 hrs, it should be safe for you to use the essential oil in question.
Certain essential oils, especially citrus oils, are "phototoxic". That means they make your skin more sensitive to the ultraviolet light. Strange, but true! So, avoid sun exposure for 12 hours after applying any of the following oils to your skin:
These oils contain a class a class of chemicals called furanocoumarins (what a mouthful!) Furanocoumarins aren't toxic in themselves, but they cause accelerated skin damage in ultraviolet light. In the past, they were used in tanning lotions!
Bergamot oil contains a specific type of furanocoumarin calle bergaptene. These days you can also buy bergaptene-free sun-safe bergamot oil. Just check the label.
Part of the fun with essential oils is experimenting and coming up with your own combinations and recipes. But some oils are just plain poisonous, and should be avoided. Don't put any of these in your essential oil skin care concoctions:
There's a lot of controversy over which essential oils, if any, are safe for use by pregnant women. I'm not a medical professional, but here's a summary of what I've found...
Which oils are safe for pregnant women? According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, the following oils when well diluted have "less potential for adverse effects" compared to other oils:
*At higher concentrations, chamomile and jasmine can stimulate menstruation, so make sure you dilute them well if you're pregnant.
Which oils should pregnant women avoid? The short answer is, "anything not on the fairly-safe-to-use list above". Interested in the longer answer? Keep reading.
Aniseed and fennel essential oils are best avoided by pregnant women because they contain an oestrogenic (oestrogen-like) substance called anethole.
Also, some oils have an emmenagogue effect, meaning that they stimulate menstrual flow. The following oils fall into this category, and should be avoided by pregant women:
If you'd still like to find out more, take a look at the Esoteric Oils website, which has a good discussion of essential oils and pregnancy.
If you enjoyed my essential oil skin care guide, you might also like to check out my pages on
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