Diluting Essential Oils - What You Need to Know

"Fresh aromatic plant material typically yields 1-2% by weight of essential oil on distillation, although a typical yield from roses is .015%."


With their scientifically proven health benefits, it’s no wonder why people are starting to utilize Essential Oils in their day-to-day lives. Prior to becoming a Certified Aromatherapist I was using essential oils on a daily basis. Did I know about their health giving properties? Sure, but not to the extent that I do now.

When I first started my essential oil journey, I was utilizing essential oils more for their aroma than anything else. I mean who doesn’t love the soothing smell of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)? I was experimenting making my own products at that time and after gaining my Aromatherapy Certification I realized I hadn’t been using essential oils within the dilution guidelines.

Dilution, Dilution, Dilution

Let’s talk about dilution guidelines and why they are important.

Essential oils are highly volatile plant compounds and it takes quite a bit of plant matter to produce a small amount of oil. Fresh aromatic plant material typically yields 1-2% by weight of essential oil on distillation, roses typically yield .015%. This makes essential oils highly concentrated. A little definitely goes a LONG way and a lot of the time you only need a drop or two to experience their health giving properties. Dilution guidelines exist to ensure essential oils can be used in a safe manner without adverse effects. 


Using an Essential Oil "Neat" might not be so neat after all...

I’m sure you have seen people that say they apply “insert name” essential oil neat all the time without any ill effects. *Applying an essential oil “neat” refers to applying the essential oil right on the skin without the use of a carrier oil.* Today I am going to discuss with you why this may not be a good idea. Are there situations where neat use of essential oils is warranted?

Absolutely! But should they be applied neat every day, seven days a week? Absolutely not. Here’s why…

·         Skin reactions can be dependent on dilution. For instance, Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) essential oil may be sensitizing and cause allergic reactions when used in a blend at more than .7%. Lemongrass may also cause skin and mucous membrane irritation. With the guideline for Lemongrass essential oil, you can see that applying this oil neat would not be a wise idea.

·         When applying an essential oil to your skin neat the risk of systemic toxicity is greater than if you use a carrier oil. Remember our skin is our largest organ and absorbs roughly 64% of what we put onto it. According to Robert Tisserand “About 5% of applied EO is absorbed into the body through the skin, but more if undiluted oils are used. When you first apply an EO to the skin, 100% of it is there for a while. This is when any adverse skin reaction will occur, so while it is true that most of it evaporates with time, this is not as relevant as the initial dilution.”

·         Adverse reactions or skin sensitivities may not occur right away, but can occur after a few applications of neat use. Sometimes it can occur after months or even years of neat use of a particular essential oil. Once that adverse reaction or skin sensitivity occurs, chances are you will be sensitive to that essential oil (Or other essential oils that share a similar chemical makeup) for life.

Essential oils are highly volatile, what does that mean?

In this blog post and others I have stated that essential oils are highly volatile plant compounds, let’s explore what that means.

When referring to something as being volatile it means that it evaporates quickly. So knowing that an essential oil is a highly volatile plant compound, we can see that essential oils evaporate quickly. Their note (top, middle, base) determines just how quickly they evaporate. For example, Lemon (Citrus limon) is a top note and would evaporate more quickly than Patchouli (Pogostemom cablin) essential oil which is a base note. In perfumery the composition of top, middle and base notes in a fragrance is important and why the aroma changes over time.

Carrier oils and their importance in Aromatherapy.

A carrier oil is used to “carry” the essential oil onto the skin. Carrier oils are derived from the fatty portion of a plant (typically from seeds, nuts or kernels). Essential oils are lipophilic (fat loving or fat soluble) which means they are not water soluble. Adding an essential oil to a carrier oil allows the essential oil to be evenly dispersed onto the skin, minimizing the risk of an adverse reaction. 

The use of a carrier oil also allows the essential oil to evaporate slower than with neat use. This means less essential oil needs to be used and will be just as effective. There are times when neat use is warranted, such as when utilizing an essential oil like Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) for a bug bite or using Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum) for a minor cut or wound.

*Note – Helichrysum essential oil heals the tissue fast and should not be used on puncture wounds. Puncture wounds need a slower healing time and need to be healed from the inside out. Helichrysum should not be used on a puncture wound until it’s healed.*

What dilution of essential oils should I use?

When it comes to the dilution of essential oils in a blend there are a multitude of factors that come into play, such as:

1.       What is the blend for? (Did you have an accident where you hurt yourself? This may require a higher dilution of essential oils to help with bruising and pain. Are you making yourself a blend to help with sleep? This would require a lower dilution of essential oils to be used.)

2.       Which essential oils are you using? Some essential oils can be extremely skin irritating which requires them to be used at a lower dilution. (Remember Lemongrass essential oil was mentioned above; to avoid skin irritation it is recommended to be used in a blend at .7% or less.)

3.       What part of the body is the blend for? (For facial usage typically a blend at a 1% dilution or less is recommended; where a blend for the body would be 2% or more depending on what the blend is for.)

4.       Who is the blend for? (Is this blend for an adult, child, elderly or pregnant individual? Typical healthy adults you could make a blend at a 2% dilution for daily use or higher depending on what the blend is for. Children carry their own set of dilution guidelines since their systems are quite a bit more delicate than adults. The same goes for the elderly and pregnant population which would require a blend at a lower dilution than a typical healthy adult.)

5.       What is the overall health of the person you are blending for? (Caution should be exercised when blending for those that are immune compromised, as well as, those that are taking medications. Certain essential oils may be contraindicated depending on the medication they are taking.)

The examples above are only some of the factors to consider when making a blend.

How do I figure out a safe dilution for a blend?

Ah! The burning question! When formulating the dilution for a blend you want to keep in mind that a 1% dilution consists of 5-6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier. When I first began my aromatic journey, I found it helpful to make a chart that looked something like this:

 Dilution                Ounces of Carrier             Drops of Essential Oil

1%                          1oz.                                        5-6

2%                          1oz.                                        10-12

3%                          1oz.                                        15-18

1%                          2oz.                                        10-12

2%                          2oz.                                        20-24

3%                          2oz.                                        30-36


What Dilution Should I Use?

If you are a typical healthy adult and are planning on using a blend daily a 2% dilution or less is recommended. If you are making a blend for a specific purpose such as to help with pain and bruising after a fall, you could make a blend at 3-10% dilution to use for a short period of time  then make another blend at a 2% dilution for daily use until the bruising and pain has subsided. *Please be sure to consult a Certified Aromatherapist when making blends at higher dilutions* As always, certain essential oils carry their own blending guidelines in order to be used in a safe manner. Some common examples include:

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) – contains traces of Bergapten which is extremely phototoxic and should never be applied undiluted. When utilizing Bergamot in a blend for the skin, safe use (No phototoxic response) would consist of a dilution of no more than .4% or 1-2 drops per ounce of carrier.

Clove (Eugenia caryophyllata) – is comprised mostly of the chemical constituent Eugenol which can be skin and mucous membrane irritating or sensitizing and should be used in a topical blend at no more than .5%. Clove should also avoid being used on damaged or sensitive skin.

Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) – this oil is regarded as hot and spicy and recommended dilution in a topical blend should be kept at 1% as it may cause skin irritation.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – due to the chemical constituent anethole this essential oil may inhibit blood clotting and should only be used short term at a recommended topical dilution of 2.5%.

As you can see from the examples above there are some essential oils that carry special considerations that have to be taken into effect when formulating a safe blend. *The examples noted above are not an extensive list. Please be sure to research any safety considerations for each essential oil prior to using it in a blend.

Stay Tuned!

There is so much information to share when it comes to properly diluting essential oils. Want to know about blending considerations for children, those that are pregnant or elderly? Check out my blog post on Natural News here.

Where are you in your essential oil journey? Did this post inspire questions? Please feel free to leave a comment below or email me at Sara@Pneuma.online I would love to hear from you!