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:
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 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.
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:
**For Children and Preggos, stay in the 1-6% ratios**
HERE’S A FREE CHART TO DOWNLOAD AND HANG UP!