This question is one of the most commonly asked questions in regards to essential oils and essential oil safety.
I studied in Australia and although I don’t know exactly what other education institutions teach, I’m positive there is a general feeling about this subject.
Short Answer: NO
Do not use essential oils directly on your skin as a general rule.
Essential oils are concentrated volatile substances extracted from plants. A couple of important actions in some essential oils are classed as:
If you apply one of these oils to your skin and go outside, the oil can cause a skin reaction when the suns hits you. It can be really bad, or mild, or you may not get a reaction at all. Oils to watch out for are bergamot and all the citrus oils.
Many oils can be classed as sensitising, meaning if you use to much, or in a strong dilution it may cause a skin reaction. Oils to watch out for are black pepper, cinnamon, clove, wintergreen, maybe oregano and thyme, and other oils which you wouldn’t be able to buy retail.
According to Essential Therapeutics “irritation” may occur with many different oils in very strong dilutions. However, most essential oils contain different molecules that could potentially cause irritations on the skin, but are not classified as toxic. It really depends on each person and how sensitive you are generally.
The most important thing is not to drink essential oils – this will cause poisoning and potentially harmful long term effects.
Use your common sense and dilute essential oils in the ratios listed in my articles “Ratios for Blending Essential Oils – A Reminder of the Basics” and “Aromatherapy – It’s Easy as 1 2 3”.
If you are a very sensitive person then always patch test before using essential oils all over your skin – even if it is in the correct dilution.
I’m not going to say I don’t use essential oils directly on my skin, but I’m not going to say I do. I have 20 years of experience using essential oils with clients and various scenting projects so I feel confident about what I can do on my skin.
What about anointing with essential oils?
Once again the general rule is not to use essential oils directly on your skin. I recommend diluting with a carrier oil and then anointing.
What about perfume straight from the bottle?
Same as above. if you want a stronger effect, try putting a couple of drops of oil on a makeup pad in your bra or even your handbag.
PATCH TEST FIRST – especially if you are a person who is very sensitive! Just because essential oils are natural does not mean they are always safe.
Don’t use essential oils in strong dilutions, or neat on kids either. if a reaction does occur the only way to get the oils off the skin is with a carrier oil like olive or almond. Smooth it all over the area, wipe off and seek medical advice if necessary. See my article ‘“Aunty, something is biting my legs” – 10 things NOT to do when using Essential Oils” for more info on the general rules of using essential oils.
You are the expert on you, so use common sense, the information that is available to you and patch test first.
Enjoy the beautiful scents of nature and allow miracles through scent!