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How Safe Are Essential Oils?

You would have probably heard from others how the use of essential oils can improve the lives of people. Some stories are about how essential oils can miraculously heal cuts and burns, while some people swear by using certain essential oils to help with medical ailments like sinuses or headaches.

While the stories we hear or read about are mostly talking about what therapeutic benefits an essential oil can bring, how well-versed are you on the contraindications of using essential oils?

Are essential oils 100% safe to use?

This is a controversial topic touch on, but it does not make it any less important for consumers to know this - Essential oils do come with contraindications when used improperly.

"100% pure essential oils are safe to use."

We hear this many times when we are shopping for oils. But did you know that safety also depends on several factors such as age, methods of use and underlying health conditions? Many consumers are unaware of the potential risks if using essential oils, mainly due to the fact that retailers these days do not properly educate consumers on the correct usage or fail to point out the consequences of using essential oils without following proper precautions.

Read on to learn how to safely use essential oils to prevent contraindications; and what to do if you experience side effects from using an essential oil.

Essential oils for topical use

Under normal circumstances, essential oils are not recommended to be applied neat onto the skin. Applying neat refers to the direct topical application of essential oil onto the skin without diluting beforehand. However, there are some essential oils that are deemed safe to use neat onto the skin. These essential oils are: Lavender, Tea Tree and Roman Chamomile. If you are using any other essential oils apart from the mentioned three, be sure to dilute the essential oils with a carrier oil using the recommended guidelines.

Carrier oils

Carrier oils are unscented vegetable oils extracted from the fatty portions of plants, seeds and/or nuts. The purpose of a carrier oil is to carry the essential oils onto the skin. Do read up on what carrier oils are there in the market as there are plenty of carrier oils ranging from texture, moisturizing levels and shelf life.


Citrus essential oils can cause skin sensitivity when applied before sun exposure. This should not be taken lightly as phototoxic essential oils can cause irritations such as a burning sensation, itchiness and skin tenderness when exposed to UV light. The agent that is present in citrus essential oils is bergaptene. If you are purchasing essential oil infused body, face or hair care products, do check with the retailer if the essential oils is bergaptene-free. Alternatively, you may wish to wait at least 12 hours after application before going into the sun.

Some essential oils that cause sun sensitivity are:

Essential Oils for children and infants

Children have thinner skin and less developed immune systems from adults. This makes them more vulnerable to the potential dangers of essential oils, but that doesn't mean that we, as parents, should refrain from using essential oils on our children.

As a rule of thumb, children over the age of 2 are generally in the safe zone when using most essential oils for aromatherapy.

When it comes to topical application, supervising adults should always practice caution by lowering the concentration during dilution. A safe dilution ratios is usually between 0.25% to 2%.

Essential oils that should be avoided on children below the age of 6 where necessary are:

 General precautions

Essential oils are like medications and should be treated with precautions. This also means that essential oils should be kept in a place where it is out of reach of children and pets. Should any side effects occur when using essential oils, please stop using the essential oils immediately and remove the oils from any skin surface by rinsing the area with water.