Using Essential Oils Topically: A Basic Guide


Topical application of essential oils is a popular and time-tested model. However, using essential oils on your skin can be a bit more complicated than applying your regular body lotion. In general, you apply essential oils where you need them for their localized effect. For example, to soothe your body after exercise, you would apply Deep Blue® oil to the muscles in your back or legs. Another reason to use oils topically is to experience them aromatically by putting the oil on your wrists, palms, or behind your ears.

Before going to use any oil or blend on your skin, make sure to follow these basic guidelines to get the best results.

Determine if it needs to be diluted.

All doTERRA oils and blends are classified into three categories: Neat, Dilute, or Sensitive. Neat means that no dilution is necessary, Dilute means an oil should always be diluted for everyone, and Sensitive means it should be diluted for sensitive groups including young or sensitive skin.

Remember that diluting an oil does not make it less effective. When in doubt, even the Neat oils can be diluted to your comfort level. Especially if you are using an oil for the first time, dilute it. See more about different carrier oils and dilution rates here.

Apply only to certain areas.

The potency of oils means that you should not use them in sensitive areas. But, there are many places they can be used safely:

  1. Face (useful for helping with complexion and beautifying the skin)
  2. Forehead, neck, and temples (a target area for dealing with feelings of tension)
  3. Roof of the mouth (for help with balancing emotions and your mood)
  4. Base of the skull (an external option for emotional and mood support)
  5. Abdomen (to apply over major digestive organs)
  6. Chest (a good area to apply for feelings of clear breathing)
  7. The soles of the feet (to limit sensitivity, soothe the feet, or for massage. Massaging the feet can stimulate nerve endings and generate whole-body benefits.)

Know what to do in case of reaction.

Having a reaction to an oil is rare, but it does happen. You will know if you are having a reaction based on responses in the skin, like irritation or increased tenderness. When trying a new oil, always perform a patch test by applying one drop of oil (with five to ten drops of carrier oil for hot or sensitive oils) to a patch of skin on your forearm. Observe that area of skin for one hour for any reaction, though you are most likely to react within 10 minutes. Keep Fractionated Coconut Oil on hand to immediately reduce the effects should a reaction occur.

Other Safety Tips

The citrus oils (Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Tangerine, and Wild Orange) are photosensitive oils, or oils that make your skin more sensitive to UV radiation and sunburn. For up to 12 hours after applying these oils, avoid any exposure to direct sunlight or artificial UV rays. Instead, opt to diffuse the citrus oils, use them internally, or use them on skin that will not be exposed to light.

Special caution should also be taken with any of the oils that are considered “hot.” These include all the oils in the Dilute category mentioned above. Always dilute these oils and be aware of other ways to use them other than on the skin.


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