Essential oils have a variety of therapeutic benefits and the way they are used is chosen depending on the oil used. In case of their external application (on the skin), it is absolutely necessary to dilute them in water or basic / carrier vegetable oils: of coconut, of almonds, of jojoba, of olives etc.
All about essential oils
Essential oils (also known as volatile oils) are highly concentrated natural extracts, obtained from the leaves, stems and flowers of plants, by various methods. They can be added to creams and other cosmetics, in water, in vegetable oils. Thanks to the medicinal and therapeutic properties of these extracts, they can be used as antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-neuralgic, for relaxing, for treating skin diseases, for a healthy sleep and digestion etc.
You don’t need a degree in chemistry or aromatherapy to successfully use essential oils. If you clearly understand how to use them and do not forget about the safety measures you need to take into account, then you can start using them immediately! In this material we tell you - in short - how to choose and use volatile oils, and then we explain - in detail - why you need to consider about diluting them in a basic vegetable oil and which are the most used options in this regard.
How do you choose the right essential oil?
The answer is as simple as possible: depending on what you want to get after using it. For example, tangerine (Citrus reticulata) can relieve children's stomach aches, with eucalyptus oil (emEucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus smithii) treat respiratory infections, while lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) fights minor burns and wounds of skin, insomnia and pain. Therefore, find out exactly why volatile oils can help you and read the tips on the product label carefully.
How to use essential oils?
Now that you have chosen the right oil for you, follow the second step of the process: the application method. It depends on the effect you want to get and the essential oil you have selected. For example, most can irritate the skin, so you do not have to massage them directly on the body. On the other hand, if you want to get well and relax, you can apply locally or inhale such an oil, but the second method will be faster.
The essential oil can be used in 3 ways: aromatherapy / inhalation/ aromatic use (inhalation using your own palms or steam, dry evaporation, home use of a spray solution, addition to bath water, shower gel, conditioner or a lotion for massage), local application / external use (after dilution with a vegetable oil) and internal use / swallowing (addition to water or other drinks, in yogurt, in various sweet or salty recipes, a few drops placed under the tongue).
How is the local application of the essential oil on the skin?
The volatile oil penetrates the skin quickly and offers localized benefits, this way of use being perhaps the most popular. From a more beautiful, younger, hydrated and healthier complexion, to healing wounds, burns, irritations and insect bites, there is an oil for almost all your skin problems.
Dilution of essential oils
Volatile oils can be used externally through a variety of techniques, but the important thing to know is that they should not be applied directly (because they can cause irritation and other side effects), but diluted before (in water or in a vegetable oil, which is called carrier oil or base oil).
What is a carrier oil (base oil)?
Base oils are extracted from nuts, seeds or plant seeds, most are odor-neutral, do not evaporate (unlike essentials) and complement volatile oils, without interfering with their therapeutic properties. The mixture of the two gives rise to homemade care products (DIY), such as massage oils, scrubs, lotions, creams and balms. The result can also be incorporated into cosmetics purchased from mass market, to enhance them.
Percentage for dilution
The standard concentration is a maximum of 3-5% essential oil (equivalent to 3 drops of volatile oil per 1 teaspoon of base oil), but this depends on the type of volatile oil, the health and age of the person concerned, but also where the result is finally applied.For example:
- for massage or application on large areas of the body, a 1% solution (1 drop of essential oil to 1 teaspoon of base oil) is recommended for adults; if applied in limited areas, the percentage of dilution may be increased to 2,5% (2,5 drops of essential oil per 1 teaspoon of base oil);
- for aromatherapy, it reaches 3% (3 drops of essential oil to 1 teaspoon of base oil); for the treatment of muscle pain, it can go up to 5-10% (5-10 drops of essential oil to 1 teaspoon of base oil);
- for babies, a 0.25% solution is recommended (1 drop of essential oil to 4 teaspoons of base oil);
- for children up to 2 years, a 0.5% solution is recommended (1 drop of essential oil to 2 teaspoons of base oil).
Skin application techniques (after dilution)
- soothing, invigorating or sporty massage;
- application in the key areas of the body (on the temples, on the forehead, on the top of the head, on the soles, on the chest);
- application on the face, to improve the appearance of the skin, eliminate irritations and a brighter skin;
- inclusion in lotions and creams bought or made at home (to give them extra flavor and improve their effects);
- inclusion in hot or cold compresses (soak an absorbent cloth or a small towel in water in which a few drops of essential oil have been added, squeeze lightly and apply on the desired area for 10-15 minutes);
- adding to the bath water, dissolved either in bath salts (10 drops of essential oil + 2 tablespoons of base oil + 64 cups of bath salt, to a full bath), or mixed well, in jojoba, coconut oil or almonds (15 drops of essential oil + 57 ml carrier oil, in a full bath).
How do you choose the best carrier oil?
The type of vegetable oil chosen to dilute a volatile oil depends on their flavors, skin type (presence or absence of allergies), how to apply the final result, how easily it will be absorbed into the skin and the lifespan of the former. The best options are cold pressed oils, 100% pure, organic or bio, without additives or chemicals. They should be stored in a cool, shady place (resist about 1 year in the refrigerator, for example) and should be discarded if they catch a rancid odor.
Experiment with different types of carrier oils to determine which one best suits your skin, but also the DIY creams and lotions you usually make:
- a blend for the face should include, especially for acne-prone skin, a thinner base oil in terms of consistency (like grape seed oil);
- a mixture for soft hair should include a thin base (like argan oil);
- a mixture for dry / damaged hair should include a thicker base (like coconut oil);
- for massage (which combines aromatherapy and external application), dense oil are recommended to help the therapist do his job (such as coconut oil, jojoba, sunflower, apricot kernels).
Examples of base oil
Carrier oils have their own therapeutic strengths, because they contain essential fatty acids and natural nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants). The most well-known and used base oils are the following:
- coconut oil (Cocos nucifera), obtained from the pulp of coconuts, is solid and creamy at room temperature (and liquid above 24o C), rich in lauric acid and Vitamin E, has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, is hardly absorbed by the skin, it is excellent for massage and DIY cosmetics for hair, skin and lips;
- jojoba oil (Simmondsia chinensis), obtained from the seeds of the shrub of the same name, best mimics the natural sebum of human skin, is rich in Omega-9 fatty acids, is antifungal, is quickly absorbed, fits in mixtures for the face, neck and skin;
- apricot kernel oil (Prunus armeniaca), derived from the seeds of these fruits related to plums, is emollient, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, rich in fatty acids and Vitamin E, easily penetrates the skin, can be used in massage, lotions for hair and for irritated skin;
- sweet almond oil (Prunus dulcis), obtained from the eatable seeds of almonds, contains Vitamin E, is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, penetrates quickly into the skin, is perfect for massage, moisturizing irritated skin and cosmetics for the whole body;
- argan oil (Argania spinosa), extracted from the fruits’ seeds of the tree with the same name (originally from Morocco), has a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins (A and E), also called "liquid gold", does not leave a greasy film on the skin, moisturizes, can fight inflammation, wrinkles, hair and dry cuticles;
- avocado oil (Persea americana), obtained from the fruit with the same name, is rich in oleic acid (Omega-9) and linoleic acid (Omega-6), vitamins (A, D and E), is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, leaves a viscous film when applied, moisturizes old and dry skin, fights wrinkles, but is not recommended in lotions that fight acne (may increase sebum production);
- wild rose / rosehip oil (Rosa moschata, Rosa rubiginosa, Rosa canina), derived from wild rose or rosehip seeds, derived from wild rose or rosehip seeds, is rich in essential fatty acids and vitamins (A, C and E), antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, quickly enters skin, protects it, restores its elasticity, moisturizes it and is perfect for massage;
- light oil (Oenothera biennis), obtained from the seeds of this yellow wild flower, has a high content of essential fatty acids, is anti-inflammatory, is immediately absorbed, fights dry skin, acne, psoriasis, eczema and irritations;
- hemp seed oil (Cannabis sativa), extracted from the seeds of the homonymous plant, has high concentrations of Omega-3 and Omega-6, is anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antioxidant, effectively penetrates the skin, is suitable for massage and prevention of premature aging of skin;
- grapes seed oil (Vitus vinifera), a by-product of the wine industry, contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants and Vitamin E, is antiseptic and slightly astringent, does not leave a greasy film after application, can be used for massage and for general care of skin and hair;
- oil from black cumin seeds (Nigella sativa), extracted from the seeds of the homonymous plant, is rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 unsaturated fatty acids, is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, analgesic and antifungal, penetrates the skin quickly, can help heal wounds, burns, acne, eczema, psoriasis, can fight hair loss and help maintain healthy scalp;
- flaxseed oil (Linum usitatissimum), obtained from the seeds of this plant used in the textile industry, contains the highest concentration of alpha-linoleic acid (Omega-3) of all base oils (so it is a powerful anti-inflammatory), penetrates hardly the skin, can treat psoriasis, eczema and joint inflammation;
- olive oil (Olea europaea), derived from the pressed fruits of the olive, is full of oleic acid and plant sterols, cleanses and moisturizes, is quickly absorbed, is an excellent choice for massage and skin and hair care;
- sunflower oil (Helianthus annuus), extracted from its seeds, has antioxidants, vitamins (C, E and K), fatty acids (Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9), it is easily absorbed, creates a barrier against germs and toxins, it is perfect for irritated skin and for massage;
- castor oil (Ricinus communis), obtained from the seeds of this plant, contains Omega-6 and ricinoleic acid (rare unsaturated fat), is antibacterial, antifungal, detoxifying and anti-inflammatory, penetrates hardly into the skin, is excellent for hair treatments, for skin infections and burns, for abdominal compresses and an optimal circulation;
- neem oil (Azadirachta indica), derived from the seeds of the homonymous Indian tree, contains over 100 biologically active compounds (including Vitamin E, Omega-6, nimbidine and nimbine), is quickly absorbed, repels insects naturally, can treat hair and skin (reduces old scars, stimulates collagen production);
- wheat germ oil (Triticum aestivum), extracted from the kernels of wheat grains, represents 2.5% of their weight, but contains a quarter of their minerals, vitamins and proteins, is rich in Omega-6 and Vitamin E, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, it quickly penetrates the sunburned and aged skin;
- moringa oil (Moringa oleifera), obtained from the seeds of the tree with the same name, contains almost 70% oleic acid and nutrients that can repair affected skin cells (Vitamin A), is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, is quickly absorbed, nourishes hair, fights eczema, psoriasis and rosacea;
- babassu oil (Attalea speciosa), derived from the nuts of the homonymous palm (native to South America), contains 50% lauric acid, penetrates the skin quickly, cools, moisturizes and is suitable for massage;
- tamanu oil (Calophyllum inophyllum),extracted from the nuts of the tropical tree with the same name (native from SE Asia), contains strong antioxidants and stearic acid, is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, is quickly absorbed, rejuvenates, regenerates and heals tan and skin, helping healing.
Precautions related to essential and base oils
- always read the label and instructions of a volatile oil before use.
- Before using any essential oil or carrier on your own skin, test it: put a drop of diluted oil on your own skin, under the ear or inside the wrist; cover the place with a patch; check the area after 24 hours; if irritated, wash the area thoroughly and do not use the oil in the future.
- Some essential oils can trigger allergic reactions at people who are sensitive to nuts (sweet almond oil, argan oil, apricot kernel oil);
- Even after dilution, essential oils can have side effects: local irritation, contact dermatitis, reactions after sun exposure.
- Volatile oils should only be used with your doctor's approval for pregnant / breastfeeding women, children under 12, the elderly, people who want to administer them internally, who are ill or taking medication.
- Do not use the volatile oils near sensitive areas (eyes, ears, mouth), on open wounds or on areas that will be exposed to the sun for the next 12 hours.
- Do not use hot essential oils on the face: cinnamon, cloves, oregano, thyme, lemon grass, hyssop, ocotea/ laurus.
- Some essential oils can be dangerous for pets, so be careful when storing them.
Did you know that...?
- If you dilute the volatile oil in water, shake the container well with the solution obtained before application.
- Essential oil is volatile Essential oil is volatile because it evaporates easily at normal temperatures and decomposes molecularly when exposed to fire (therefore, it should never be burned directly).
- When you add essential oil to food, remember that it is much stronger than fresh or dried spices and herbs, so start with a very small amount and use a toothpick for very strong oils.