When we talk about a dilution in aromatherapy we are generally talking about making diluting essential oils for topical application to the skin.
Essential oils are the concentrated essence extracted from a plant part. These can include the flowers, leaves, twigs, bark or even the resin.
The oils can be extracted by steam distillation, cold pressing, solvent extraction, or an old process called enfleurage.
Whichever method of extraction is used, the resulting essential oils are generally too concentrated for undiluted application to the skin. There are only a few essential oils that can be applied “neat” to the skin. Neat in this context means undiluted.
Lavender would be an example of an essential oil that can be applied neat.
If not added to a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil many essential oils can cause skin sensitization. Skin sensitization is a localized reaction to the essential oil.
This is the reason we use carrier oils in aromatherapy massage. The carrier oil dilutes the essential oil to a safe concentration for use on the skin. When the carrier oil is applied to the skin it is absorbed, carrying the molecules of essential oil with it into the body.
Whether you are mixing a dilution for a massage oil or using essential oils in a finished DIY skin care product there are some basic guidelines for safe dilution.
A general rule of thumb for a safe dilution for a healthy adult is a maximum 2% dilution.
- 1oz = 30ml = Approximately 600 drops
- 2% of 600 = 12
- Add no more than 12 drops of essential oil per 1oz of carrier oil.
Be sure to check the specific essential oil for recommended maximum concentrations for topical application. Some essential oils have recommended maximum dilutions of less than 2% due to increased risk of skin sensitization.
For children or the elderly the general maximum safe dilution is a 1% dilution. For 1oz of carrier oil you would only use 6 drops of essential oil.
It is also worth noting that the use of essential oils with children, the elderly who are debilitated and pregnant women should be undertaken with extreme caution. It should also be discussed with a physician prior to use.
Some oils such as those with a high 1,8-cineole content may cause respiratory depression in young children.
Safety when using essential oils should always be the first priority. Use this guide for safe dilutions and do the research on any essential oil you plan to use.
Essential oils are wonderful when used responsibly. However, they also have the ability to be dangerous if used haphazardly or incorrectly.
For further information on safety guidelines please read our Essential Oils Safety page.