A Basic Guide for Safe Essential Oil Topical Application

Topical Application of essential oil to the faceTopical application of essential oils to your skin has a few more things to consider than applying hand or body lotion. However, learning the basics of this aromatherapy technique is really quite simple.

In general, apply essential oils to an area for their localized effect. After exercise, for example, to soothe sore leg muscles apply the oil to the calves. Another reason for the topical application of essential oils is to experience them aromatically. Place oil on your wrists, chest, or behind the ears.

There are a few basic guidelines to follow for best results when applying essential oil to your skin.

Dilute Some Essential Oils for Topical Application

There are three categories in which doTERRA classifies oils and blends for applying to the skin. The categories are:

  • Neat – no dilution is necessary for the oil or blend.
  • Dilute – everyone should dilute the oil.
  • Sensitive – the young, or anyone with sensitive skin, should dilute the oil.

When using an oil for the first time, it is always a good idea to dilute it to see how your skin reacts to the oil. When in doubt, you can always dilute all oils, even those in the Neat category, to ensure comfort.

It is important to point out that diluting an essential oil does not make it any less effective. Dilution allows the chemical constituents of the essential oil to pass through the skin more efficiently than when applied neat. One study found that dilution actually helps expedite the process. For an explanation of this, please see our post on essential oil dilution.

You can find more information about the different carrier oils and dilution rates in this blog post.

Areas for Topical Application of Essential Oils.

All essential oils are potent. No matter the category (neat, dilute, sensitive), essential oils are potent and you should never apply them on sensitive areas. Nevertheless, there are many places you can safely use essential oils:

  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 – an excellent area to apply for feelings of clear breathing.
  7. The soles of the feet – to limit sensitivity, soothe the feet, or for a massage. Massaging the feet can stimulate nerve endings and generate whole-body benefits.

What to Do in Case of a Topical Application Reaction

A reaction to the application of essential oil on the skin is rare, but it does happen. A skin reaction can appear as irritation or an increase in tenderness.

When using an essential oil for the first time, it is best to perform a “patch test.” You can do the test by applying one drop of oil to a small skin area on your forearm. If the oil is considered “hot” or “sensitive” dilute the essential oil with five to ten drops of carrier oil. Observe that area of skin for one hour for any reaction.

If there is going to be a reaction, you will most likely notice it within 10 minutes. In case there is a reaction, use fractionated coconut oil or another carrier oil. Should there be irritation, place a couple of drops on the irritation and gently rub it into the test area. Repeat every few minutes until the irritation subsides. Washing the area with soap and water will not help (oil and water really do not mix).

Other Topical Application Safety Tips

Citrus essential oils are photosensitive oils. Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Tangerine, and Wild Orange essential oil make skin more sensitive to UV radiation and sunburn. When using these oils on the skin, it is important to avoid any exposure to direct sunlight or artificial UV rays for up to 12 hours after application.

Some users opt to diffuse citrus oils or use them internally rather than apply to the skin, but do apply citrus essential oils to skin that will not be exposed to light.

It is also important to use caution with any 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.

Topical Application Examples

Below is a chart showing some common essential oils and a common topical application for each to help you begin using oils topically.
Topical Use of Essential Oils e-bookFor more information about using essential oils topically, we invite you to download this free e-book. Click the button to download your free copy.

Essential OilTopical Application
BasilApply to the temples and back of the neck to reduce feelings of tension
Black PepperAfter an afternoon nap or when you’re dragging at work, apply Black Pepper to the bottoms of your feet for a stimulating wake-up
Cinnamon Bark*During the winter months, dilute Cinnamon with Fractionated Coconut oil to create a warming massage for cold, achy joints*
CorianderApply topically to oily skin to maintain a clear complexion and help reduce the appearance of blemishes
FrankincenseAdd to daily moisturizer to reduce the appearance of blemishes and rejuvenate the skin
HelichrysumApply to the face to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and to promote a glowing, youthful complexion
LavenderAdd Lavender to bath water to soak away stress, or apply it to the temples or back of the neck
MarjoramApply to the muscles before and after exercising to help target tired, stressed muscles
MelaleucaFor occasional skin irritations, apply one to two drops onto the affected areas
PeppermintRub on temples after you wake up for a morning energy boost
SpikenardAdd one to two drops of Spikenard to your favorite cleanser or anti-aging product to promote healthy, glowing skin
Wild OrangeDispense one to two drops in the palm along with Peppermint and Frankincense, rub palms together and inhale, then rub on the back of neck for an energizing boost
Ylang YlangApply to the back of the neck for a calming, uplifting effect

*Essential oils which should always be diluted.