Some people may hesitate to try pure essential oils for the first time precisely because of the immense power found in these concentrated natural products. But knowledge is also power. Start by learning the basics of essential oil safety, and you can feel more confident as you begin using these potent and versatile tools.
Phototoxicity & Essential Oils
Phototoxicity is an easily avoided skin rash caused by mixing certain essential oils and sunlight. When natural chemicals found in certain citrus oils absorb UVA light, it causes a molecular change that can be harmful to your skin. The chemical is found in commonly used citrus essential oils which are obtained by cold-pressing, but can occur in other essential oils as well:
- Bergamot essential oil
- Grapefruit essential oil
- Lemon essential oil
- Lime essential oil
- Bitter Orange essential oil
- Mandarin essential oil
- Fig Leaf essential oil
- Rue essential oil
- Angelica Root essential oil
- Cumin essential oil
If you use these oils on your skin and then go … say … golfing, sunbathing, or gardening, your skin can become inflamed, blistered, and develop a severe sunburn-like rash. Toxic reactions peak up to three days after exposure to sunlight, and can last for weeks afterwards.
But not all citrus essential oils are phototoxic, and steam distilled citrus essential oils apparently don’t cause the reaction. Most responsible essential oil companies (including Real Oil) provide information about the potential for phototoxicity either on the product label or product page, but do your own research to be safe. If you choose to apply phototoxic oils, you can avoid skin reactions by diluting them well with a neutral carrier oil (like fractionated coconut oil), and avoid exposing the area to sunlight for 12-18 hours after application. Using essential oils in a diffuser, or breathing them directly from the bottle also lets you avoid any adverse skin reaction.
Hot Essential Oils
If you’ve ever popped an Atomic Fireball candy into your mouth, you know that cinnamon can have a kick. Concentrated Cinnamon essential oil and other “hot” oils have the same spicy effect on your skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Hot oils can be uncomfortable and irritating on sensitive skin, or when used in too high a concentration. Some essential oils labeled as hot are obvious, while other types may surprise you.
- Cinnamon essential oil
- Clove essential oil
- Peppermint essential oil
- Oregano essential oil
- Thyme essential oil
- Cassia essential oil
When using hot oils topically, dilute them carefully in a neutral carrier oil (such as fractionated coconut oil), and use fewer drops than you typically would when adding them to a diffuser. Either way, use caution when trying hot oil for the first time, especially around children, pets, and those with sensitive skin. Don’t apply hot oils near the eyes, nose, mouth, or any sensitive area.
Since kids can be especially sensitive, introduce new oils gradually. Apply a tiny amount of diluted oil to a patch of skin, and watch it for several hours for any noticeable reaction. If there is any discomfort, apply a carrier oil to further dilute the essential oil.
Pregnancy and Nursing – Using Essential Oils While You’re Pregnant or Nursing
There is a bellyful of conflicting information about which essential oils are safe to use during pregnancy and nursing. If you use essential oils when you are pregnant or nursing, it is important to first talk to a medical professional experienced with essential oils and to be judicious with their use. But there are some essential oils that you should definitely avoid.
If you are pregnant or lactating, don’t use Anise essential oil, Birch essential oil, Carrot Seed essential oil, Cassia essential oil, Cinnamon Bark essential oil, Blue Cypress essential oil, Dill Seed (Indian) essential oil, Fennel (Bitter, Sweet) essential oil, Ho Leaf essential oil, Hyssop essential oil, Lavender (Spanish) essential oil, Myrrh essential oil, Myrtle essential oil, Oregano essential oil, Pennyroyal essential oil, Sage essential oil, Wintergreen essential oil, and Wormwood essential oil. But this list is not complete. Your circumstances and your body may be unique. Speaking to your doctor about your plans to use essential oils will give you the best information.
Other essential oils can be helpful during pregnancy to help alleviate morning sickness, avoid stretch marks, give you feelings energy, and help you to relax. These products can be powerful tools in your quest to live a more natural life for both you and your baby. Do your research, talk to a medical professional, and then enjoy the many natural benefits of pure essential oils.
Essential Oils that are Safe for Kids
Essential oils can be great for kids. The sweet smell of Lemon essential oil in the air can give feelings of protection from whatever bug happens to be going around. The scent of Ginger essential oil can help settle a tummy during a bumpy car ride. From calming nerves to improving moods, essential oils can make life with your half-pint a little bit sweeter. But not all oils are safe to use around children. Peppermint essential oil, Eucalyptus essential oil, and Rosemary essential oil, for instance, should be avoided because they can trigger dangerously slow breathing in children. Other oils are just too potent. Do your homework about which oils and blends will work for your kids, talk to your doctor, and start slow to observe for irritation or adverse reaction. Some great oils to use around children older than two years are:
- Roman Chamomile essential oil
- Frankincense essential oil
- Lavender essential oil
- Lemon essential oil
- Tea Tree essential oil
- Thyme essential oil
- Cedarwood essential oil
- Ginger essential oil
- Clove essential oil
These kid-friendly oils can enhance feelings of relaxation, motivation, focus, and calm when your family (and you) need it most. Consider turning on a diffuser in the evening as part of your bedtime routine to help kids be mentally and physically ready for a good night’s sleep. Or try enhancing their concentration after school to get homework done with no (well, less) fuss.
Kid’s skin is thinner and more sensitive than adult skin. When using essential oil topically, it is important to dilute it well. We recommend one-sixth of the standard recommended strength for children two to twelve years old (one drop of essential oil to six teaspoons of carrier oil). Do a “spot check” on your child, applying a small amount of the dilution on a patch of skin before putting it all over them, and observe it for an hour or two for signs of sensitivity.
Keep Your Family Safe
Essential oils are a powerful tool, and can make your home a healthier and happier place to be. The more you know, the more you are empowered to make good decisions for your entire family, and keep them healthy, energetic, happy, and all-natural.