If you apply an essential oil ‘neat’, then you are applying it without a carrier oil – directly on your skin without blending or diluting it.
The Essential Oils We Have Used Neat in Our Family:
That’s all, but I’m even rethinking that.
I Based that on Robert Tisserand’s Warning Words:
“Essential oil dilution is important for two safety reasons. (source)
- One, to avoid skin reactions: irritation, sensitization and phototoxicity.
- Two, to avoid systemic toxicity, such as fetotoxicity, hepatotoxicity, carcinogenicity and neurotoxicity. Adverse skin reactions are obvious when they happen, but systemic toxicities may not be. Skin reactions are totally dilution-dependent, and safety guidelines exist to minimize risk. This does not mean of course that every time a person uses an undiluted oil there will be an adverse reaction.
“Many times there won’t. But more is not always better, and minimizing risk is generally a good idea. A phototoxic reaction for example, can be very, very nasty.”
Can You Become Sensitized to an Essential Oil if Used Neat?
We’ve been taught that a few essential oils (lavender, tea tree and several others) can be applied topically to your body neat, straight from the bottle.
But there are many, many more should NEVER be applied neat (including Thyme, Oregano, any Thieve’s blend, Cloves, Citronella, Lemongrass, Cinnamon, sometimes Peppermint, and the list goes on). These later oils give a sensation of heat or ‘hot’ on the skin as they produce a strong detox reaction.
The undiluted application of essential oils is a highly controversial topic within the aromatherapy industry.
Give Care in Using Any Oil Neat (undiluted)
Lavender sensitization has been heavily documented in Great Britain. (source) Once an individual has become sensitized to an essential oil, the reaction can be permanent. At the very least, it takes several years before the oil can be reintroduced without causing further irritation.
According to Marge Clarke, in her book Essential Oils and Aromatics,
“One of my mentors reminds me ‘sensitization is forever.’ And I know she is right. Years ago I read the books saying that lavender oil could be used neat (undiluted). I very unwisely used undiluted lavender on broken skin, and consequently set up a sensitivity reaction. Today, almost two decades later, if I come in contacts with lavender in any form, I will immediately start a new round of contact dermatitis that can take months to heal.” (source)
It’s important to understand that all essential oils, no matter the quality of the oil, are an extremely concentrated combination of multiple naturally-occurring chemical constituents. Used wisely they are very safe and effective.
Blended essential oils have long been our go-to antibiotic!
Because they’re so concentrated, if you don’t dilute, you may end up with unhappy skin, possible tears, or severe sensitivity with an inability to ever use that precious healing oil again. Additionally, it is never wise to apply essential oils to your eyes or private areas.
Diluting never hurts and takes so little time.
It does not decrease the effectiveness of the oil. It may help to increase absorption by preventing evaporation, as well as decreasing the likelihood of a skin reaction, so unless you have reasons not to (such as a painful bee sting away from home), it’s a good idea to dilute. It can also save you money in the long run.
Please do not use an essential oil neat on a child. Children have much thinner, more delicate skin than adults have and tend to be very sensitive to the potency of essential oils. Less is more in this application.
Essential oils should be combined with a carrier oil such as Coconut Oil, virgin olive oil, sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, etc.
Below is a basic dilution chart that is taught in many aromatherapy schools.
How To Do a Skin Test
You can do a small patch test first. Combine one drop of essential oil with 1/2 tsp carrier oil (like olive, Coconut Oil, jojoba or sweet almond oil). Rub this on the inside, upper portion of the arm and wait a few hours. If no redness or itching develops, you’re most likely not sensitive to that essential oil.
The Feet Have It
So while we might still use diluted ginger on the stomach for nausea or upset stomach or diluted peppermint on the temples or wrists for a headache, it might come as a surprise the the soles of the feet are an excellent place to apply EOs.
The bottom of your feet has some pretty tough skin on it. Feet are a less sensitive place and most people, even babies and people with sensitive skin have no adverse reaction because of sensitive skin when the oils go on their feet.
Some of the largest pores on your body are on your feet. The oil will absorb quickly and readily into your tissues. We still use a carrier oil (again, it can be as simple as coconut or olive oil) and then cover with warm socks.
For a baby, you only need a tiny amount – one drop of your chosen oil. Add ONE drop to 1 TBSP of a carrier oil and rub on the soles of their feet. Here is my list of safe essential oils for children and babies.
Please beware: A few companies, their sales people, and some therapists promote using essential oils on the skin full strength. Several EO companies in particular have a reputation for promoting the neat use of various essential oils on the skin. I will not name them, but I will say this: by giving directions and promoting the use of undiluted essential oils, they will make a lot more money because consumers will need to purchase more quantity of oils than if they don’t dilute the product. What is being taught isn’t in our best interest. Think about it.
Many essential oils when stored properly will last 7 or even 10 years. I have some that I’ve had for a decade and know the oil is still quite potent. I use them sparingly and with knowledge, and they have served my family well. See my post on Building a Complete No-Side-Effect Medicine Chest.
For additional reference:
Toxicity Myths – the Actual Risks of Essential Oil Use
Undiluted Application of Essential Oils