Using Essential Oils – Topical Use

Options for Topical Essential Oil Use


So you’ve bought (or are considering a purchase of) some essential oils. The brochure has some diffuser blends in pretty colors, a dilution chart, and some ideas for ways to use it for health. But exactly how do you get it into your body? Lots of ways. We’ve discussed diffusing oils and internal use safety, so here’s some basic info on the topical use of essential oils.


On Topical Safety

It is important to properly dilute essential oils before use. Some aromatherapists recommend using essential oils “neat”, or without dilution under certain conditions. It’s your call. But there can be serious consequences. Some oils can become toxic to the body in high concentrations (there’s a list of some here). Other times, even the most gentle of oils can react poorly with your body, causing a severe reaction which can be permanent for certain people.

Never drop essential oils or blends directly into the ear canal or too near your eyes. Period. That is all. Yup, you’re free to do so, and should be, but consider yourself warned. There are other natural remedies for those areas, and other people will make fun of you online if you know better and still do dumb stuff. Rita Skeeter will write viral stories about you.

Some companies claim their oils are safe for use without dilution, because they are really pure oils. It’s the really pure oils that are more likely to cause harm. Because they’re so potent, really pure essential oils are more likely to cause a reaction if you’re going to have one. That’s not to say lower-quality oils are safer – you never know for sure what’s in them, so that’s not cool either. Be safe, fully understand your oils, and patch test anything you put on your skin, even if it’s diluted. Now let’s get on with some ideas!


My Body is Amazing and I Don’t Need a Carrier Oil

Perhaps your body reacts well to some oils, and there’s no risk of toxicity in the oils and amounts you’re using. Great! You’re welcome to continue wasting your precious, pricey oils. Wasting? That’s right. They’re called “carrier oils” for a reason, Jack. These oils help the essential oils penetrate the skin and get into your body, Without them, some of the components you want might not make it to where they’re supposed to go. (“Pitch Perfect” fans, all I can hear is “Fat Amy” in my head saying, “Still not a good enough reason to use the word, ‘penetrate’.” For those of you who are not fans, her moniker is not a taunt, but how she introduces herself. Fun movie. Moving on…)

With a carrier oil, essential oils applied to the bottoms of your feet can reach every part of your body in about two minutes. Without the carrier, it can take much longer, and you have the risk it won’t work at all. You use more oils, you spend more cash, and you take unnecessary risks. That’s not cool, really.*


The Basic Roller Bottle Blend

Acquire a roller (or “roller ball”) bottle. Find yourself a reliable dilution chart, like this one. Put the correct number of drops in the bottle, depending on our needs. Top with Fractionated Coconut Oil (FCO), filling the bottle to just below the shoulder.

And it’s that simple if you are using just one oil. If you need to make a blend with two or more oils, it gets trickier. Some folks are very precise about which oils are used in which order, or how they are mixed. For the purposes of health and amateur scent-building, it really doesn’t matter too much. If you’re one of these folks, you already know it. But you do need to ensure that whatever you’re using, you’re diluting the entire recipe to the correct levels for topical use. It can be best to mix the essential oils in one bottle, then use a dropper to add the correct amount to the final roller bottle.


Salves, Balms, and Creams

These are mixtures made with solid butters and waxes, frequently with some liquid oil. They may range in texture from goopy to solid at room temperature. It’s important to remember that the percentage of essential oil should stay safe for topical use, even though these take a different form.

Salves, balms, and creams may be used anywhere on the body safe for essential oils. These are generally used at higher concentration rates to resolve issues over smaller areas of the body. Most salves, balms, and creams are made to be used on the lips, a sore joint, or a healing wound.


Massage Oil

These are usually liquid oils, made to be used over a larger portion (or the whole) of your body. Sometimes, these will contain “hot” oils to help the body relax or to ease pain. Use hot oils in very low concentration if used topically over the whole body – as low as 0.25%. Most frequently, massage oils use very low concentrations of oils safer for topical use, still in very low concentrations. Typically, these will contain relaxing or sensual blends, and the scent should not be overpowering or it can offset the massage itself, causing tension and headache. Dilute general massage oils, for full-body or large-area use, to no more than 1%.



Lotions may be thicker, similar to a cream, or lighter with more liquid oils. Either way, lotions contain water. This means that for making at home, they’re one of the more complex ways to use an essential oil topically. Why? Because to make a lotion, you have to start using a bit more chemistry in order to combine the oils, waxes, and butters with the water. This usually means you’ll need an “emulsifier” – anything that helps to combine oil and water. It also means that when any step in the process goes awry, you could ruin the batch. But, when it works well and you get the hang of it, homemade lotion is a thing of beauty. Just add your EO last, so you know the lotion is coming together first. You’ll be less frustrated if you just waste a little coconut oil and time than if you had added the oils, too. This is a great lotion recipe, just be sure to read the full instructions and some comments before you get started.

Lotions may be of varying concentrations, due to their wide range of purposes. Some lotions are used over a small part of the body, others intended for full-body use. When making your own, please use the dilution table and solid information so that you know the appropriate topical uses for your finished product.


Bath Salts

We’re not talking synthetic, mind-altering drugs. This is healing magnesium salt, usually sold as Epsom salt. And here’s the thing – they don’t dilute your oils, they help to disperse them. If you just add the oils to the salt, the droplets that wind up on your skin are still not diluted. Dilute first, in oils great for your skin! Try argan or jojoba oils for something new, or use what you have. This way, you don’t risk drops of fully pure essential oil separating out of the water and being on you. I stick with a 15 to 20% concentration, then add that to the salt. Add the blend to the salt until the salt is fully coated, usually a little less than a tablespoon of oil to two cups of salts.

Bath bombs are a popular way to incorporate bath salts and other benefits into your tub and topical use. You can make them right at home, and most recipes contain a liquid carrier oil already! Just add your essential oils to whatever oil is in the bomb recipe, and off you go! This is a nice basic recipe to try. I don’t have to say “proper dilution” again, right?

With both of these methods, it’s cool to experiment. With strongly-scented oils, like rose or patchouli, you might need a drop or less in each bomb or portion of bath salts. If you’re making something to use in an urgent situation like a panic attack, more may be both wise and necessary. Study up, read lots, and make good choices!


Infused Adhesive Bandages or Gauze

That’s right, you can DIY those anti-microbial bandages, with your oils kit! Tailor them to meet your needs, whether you’re trying to minimize scarring with helichrysum and frankincense (and several others), or trying to soothe with chamomile or lavender (and many others). Dilute the oil, and drop it right on the bandage or gauze. The amount of oil you use will vary, depending on the size of the area being treated and the oils being used.

I like a 2% concentration of frankincense and chamomile in FCO for regular use. I keep a dropper bottle of the blend on hand, and add 2-3 drops to a “regular”-sized bandage. You know the ones, the strips that come in every assortment, whether you need them or not? It’s not precise, just use care and remember that the essences will spread over the bandage and through the body on their own – you needn’t cover every spot.

Unfortunately, while there are some ideas out there for making these in advance, doing so does risk contamination of the bandage. You’re using the oils to kill germs, and they should help protect the bandage as well, but there’s no reason not to be as safe as possible. Keep your blend around, and take 30 seconds to drop it onto the bandage when you need it. They make really tiny bottles for samples that are great for travel!



If you haven’t heard about the possible toxic effects of regular antiperspirant, you probably just haven’t read those articles. Suffice it to say, most contain aluminum, which has been accused of all sorts of ill will toward your body, including Alzheimer’s. I’m not trying to convince you. I provided no links on purpose. If you’re interested, hit your search bar. For our purposes, it’s enough to look at the other ingredients in most deodorants on the market. That’s enough to make me want to make my own! With all those pores in my pits, I prefer putting properly- OK, I can’t do it. I’ve run out of the “p” words I need. I just prefer making my own, so that what goes into my body is helpful, rather than neutral or harmful. And it’s a great way to make topical use of your essential oils!

This is my favorite deodorant recipe. Yes, you can also buy it from her site. No, I have not done so, and no, this is not an affiliate link. But it’s my go-to formula, and I’m not about to try and claim I came up with it! I’ve changed the blend of essential oils each time, but I always include Sacred Frankincense. I’m not a fan of tea tree, and frankincense is a good substitution in this case.


Add It to Commercial Products

You don’t have to make your own lotions and creams. If you have a topical product you love, add essential oils straight to the bottle. Better yet, remove a small amount from the original bottle first, and give it a go before you use the whole container! Think of tea tree oil in your regular shampoo, for helping tame dandruff, itchy scalp, and oily scalp (I know, it just works somehow!). Add your favorite scent to your conditioner or commercial lotion. If you’ve already made good choices in your products, keep using what works and get creative! (Do use caution if you are mixing oils with over-the-counter medicinal creams or ointments. Some contain the same compounds as the oils, and too much may lead to overdose, even through topical use.)


Your Turn

What’s your favorite topical use for essential oils? Do you generally stick to the basics, or do you DIY everything that goes on your body? Let me know, so I can find or write the articles that meet your needs! Comments are open!


*There’s an exception to every rule. If you are working with an aromatherapist, or have studied your particular needs, a neat application might be your best option. When the list of warnings is no longer worse than what you’re facing, when the benefits outweigh them, you may make decisions that are different from “normal”. I just want you to know I fully support your educated decision, and hope like crazy that it works for you!

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