Essential Oil Skin Care Guide

"Make your skin glow with these essential oil skin care guidelines"



essential oil skin care cartoon

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 Oil Skin Care Basics

Oil Combinations for Your Skin Type

7 Great Recipes to Suit Your Mood

Oils That Might Irritate Your Skin

Phototoxic Oils - Beware Sunburn!

Toxic Oils - Don't Poison Your Skin

Essential Oils and Pregnancy


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Essential Oil Skin Care Basics

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...

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Essential Oil Skin Care 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

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Essential Oil Skin Care
7 Great Recipes to Suit Your Mood

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

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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:

  • allspice
  • aniseed
  • basil (sweet)
  • benzoin
  • black pepper
  • cajeput
  • cassia
  • cedarwood
  • cinnamon
  • clove
  • cornmint
  • eucalyptus
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • lemon
  • lemongrass
  • oregano
  • peppermint
  • pimento berry
  • pine
  • tagetes
  • thyme
  • turmeric
  • wintergreen

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.

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Sun Sensitivity - Phototoxic Essential Oils

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:

  • all citrus oils, to varying degrees
  • angelica
  • bergamot - highly phototoxic, unless it's labelled "bergaptene free"
  • bitter orange
  • cumin
  • dill
  • grapefruit - only mildly phototoxic
  • lemon
  • lemon verbena
  • orange
  • mandarin - only mildy phototoxic
  • sweet orange - only mildly phototoxic
  • tagetes
  • tangerine
  • yuzu

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.

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Toxic Oils - Don't put these on your skin!

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:

  • bitter almond
  • buchu
  • boldo leaf
  • calamus
  • camphor
  • horseradish
  • hyssop
  • jaborandi leaf
  • mugwort
  • mustard
  • nightshade
  • pennyroyal
  • rue
  • sassafras
  • savin
  • savory
  • southernwood
  • stinging nettle
  • tansy
  • thuja
  • wintergreen
  • wormseed
  • wormwood

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Essential Oils and Pregancy

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:

  • chamomile*
  • geranium
  • jasmine*
  • lavender
  • neroli
  • patchoulli
  • sandalwood
  • ylang ylang

*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:

  • angelica
  • cedarwood
  • chamomile
  • cinnamon
  • clary sage
  • fennel
  • ginger
  • jasmine
  • juniper
  • marjoram
  • myrrh
  • peppermint
  • rose
  • rosemary

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.

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What Next?

If you enjoyed my essential oil skin care guide, you might also like to check out my pages on

Body scrubs
Bath salts
Fizzy bath bombs
Other bath and body recipes

Keep up to date with the latest bath and body recipes (and other homemade gift ideas) as I add them to the site, by subscribing to my free newsletter. Learn more...

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