Essential Oils 101- Methods of Application: Topical

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. The skin regulates your body temperature, keeps bacteria out and excretes toxins out of your body through sweating. Most importantly, it circulates 33% of your blood. There are two layers to the skin, the epidermis which is about as thick as a piece of paper and the dermis which has got your blood vessels, nerve endings and hair follicles. When you apply an essential oil, the molecules are so crazy small that your porous skin rapidly absorbs it. Once the oil seeps into your hair follicles and sweat glands, it reaches the blood and is then dispersed throughout your entire body. Here are some things to look out for when applying essential oils topically:

PHOTOSENSITIVITY

There are some oils you want to avoid applying while the sun is out because they are more prone to absorb the sun’s rays and increase your chances of burning. There are two ways you can easily avoid these problems. 1. Apply them at night before bed 2. Apply them on skin that is covered by clothing. Most citrus oils are photosensitive as well as patchouli, some cedar wood varieties and clary sage. Again I just want to emphasize common sense on this one. If you apply clary sage on your ankles and are wearing shorts, you’re probably not gonna get burned.

IRRITATION

Irritation happens when you apply an oil that your skin considers abrasive and has a reaction. It would be red and irritated within about 5 minutes. If this happens, you can put a fatty carrier oil like coconut or almond oil on it to absorb it. Milk will also help.

SENSITIZATION

This reaction is a little different. As opposed to affecting your skin, your immune system would react. The essential oil attaches itself to a protein in your body and your body releases histamines. The result would be similar to an allergic reaction. In this case you can take an antihistamine (homeopathic or regular, your choice) and find another oil with the same chemical properties you’re looking for just from a different plant. The cool thing about oils is that they’re not like nut or shellfish allergies. You don’t have to swear off the whole category when you have a reaction to something in the family it belongs to.

Now that we’ve got the scary stuff outta the way! We can get into the fun stuff!

SKIN PATCH TESTING

Skin patch testing is one of those optional preventative things you can do to make sure your skin doesn’t have a reaction to essential oils. I personally don’t have sensitive skin and don’t do them anymore unless I know it’s a “hot” oil like peppermint, cinnamon or thyme. There are two ways you can do a skin patch test.

The first is to dilute an essential oil in a carrier oil cover it in a piece of gauze and wait 24 hours if there no reaction, you’re good to go! If there is, try diluting it a bit more and do it again. If there’s still a reaction then don’t use that oil topically, try diffusing it instead. If you have any type of sensitivity reaction though, do not diffuse it either.

The second way is to apply an essential oil “neat” meaning undiluted to the crook of your arm. Close your arm and wait five minutes, again see how your skin react and the same rules apply as above. I’m personally impatient and always do this option.

BASE OILS & DILUTION

Just like essential oils, base oils have different properties. Base oils are fatty and their molecules are bigger, which slows the absorption rate and also creates a barrier between your skin and the essential oil. If you do not have sensitive skin, you don’t need to dilute if you don’t want to. There are a lot of folks out there including myself who prefer to use them neat. Again, it’s totally your choice. If you like to err on the side of caution then by all means, dilute away! If you’d like to start using essential oils neat but want to start off with really mild ones try Lavender, Tea Tree and Chamomile. A few popular base oils are coconut oil, olive oil and almond oil.

Lastly, here is a handy dilution ratio chart they gave me in school to use as a reference:

Dilution Ratio Chart

**For Children and Preggos, stay in the 1-6% ratios**

HERE’S A FREE CHART TO DOWNLOAD AND HANG UP!

Dilution Ratio Chart

Essential Oils 101- Methods of Application: Aromatic

The most common way to apply essential oils is aromatically. There are several methods you can do that with, but first lets talking a little bit about our sense of smell. A lot of people don’t realize it but your sense of smell is one of the most important senses you have. Think about it, if you’re in your home and left a candle on, fell asleep and that candle just so happened to light a drape on fire what do you think would wake you up? The smell of your burning house! How do you usually check to make sure a Tupperware of leftovers or ground meat in your fridge is still good? You smell it! Your sense of smell’s first function is to protect you. Another function your sense of smell has is to help you digest food. Think of when dinner is about to be served, what happens? You smell that amazing meal that’s cooking and you start to salivate. Your saliva aids in the digestion of food by assisting you to swallow, moistening (I hate that word) your food so it’s easier to chew and lastly helps break down the starches in your food before it even gets to your stomach.

EMOTIONS AND SMELL

Without getting super nerdy, there are four parts of your brain that your sense of smell directly effects. The olfactory cortex, the limbic system, the hypothalamus and the reticular formation. When you inhale a smell there are receptors that grab those molecules and disburse them through the brain. The olfactory cortex receives the smell first; this is where you consciously perceive a smell. Next it goes to your limbic system which is responsible for two functions, your sense of fear and long term memory storage. Next step is when it reaches the hypothalamus which is responsible for the action, remember when we were talking about salivation and waking up in the middle of the night? This is where that happens. Think of it as the command center for basic emotions and drives. Lastly the reticular formation, it acts as glue between emotion, memory and smell. Think of a smell that reminds you of a loved one who has passed on, or a smell that makes you feel energetic and aware. That feature right there, is the key to using oils for emotional support. When you throw all of these things together you’ve got a great tool at your hands. For instance, Lemon is amazing for helping maintain a sense of focus and aids in retaining information, imagine how beneficial that would be for a late nigh study session?

THE BEST TIME TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS AROMATICALLY

Sometimes one method of use is better than others. Aromatic use is most beneficial for your sinuses, respiratory system and for emotional support. Aromatic use is the fastest indirect method of delivery and takes sixty seconds to five minutes to absorb. Now let’s get into how you can aromatically use them:

A COTTON BALL IN FRONT OF A FAN

I have a really cool story about this method. My mom had surgery and was super nauseous from the stuff they use to knock her out with. When I loaded her up in my car, I put a drop of peppermint on a cotton ball and put it in my a/c vent. She didn’t hurl or even so much as dry heave in my car once. Peppermint for the win! Any who, you can put few drops of oil on a cotton ball and stick it in a vent or fan and its disperses the aroma that way.

A CLOTH OR TISSUE

This would be a good method to use if you’re on the go and need to sniff an oil in a pinch. You can put a drop of oil on a cloth or tissue and smell it as you walk. A great way to relax would be to put a drop of lavender on a cloth and put it on your face to help unwind before bed.

A POT WITH SOME HOT WATER

Boil a pot of water and turn off the heat, add a few drops of oil to the hot water and inhale the vapor. To make it more potent you can drape a towel over your head, making the vapor go straight to your nose. This would also be a great way to use oils if you were doing a facial at home.

A DIFFUSER

This is by far the easiest way to disperse oils. You remove the cap put some water in the designated reservoir, drop five to ten drops of oil, push a button and voila! You’re done. The cool thing about diffusers is that they disperse the oils in a fine mist so that you’re inhaling the particles. That way you can have oils go through your house for hours without much effort at all.

I hope this was helpful!