Precautions While Using Essential Oils

Essential oils are extremely concentrated and unless they are diluted in the right proportion, they can cause several health problems. Treat essential oils just like you would a medicine and follow the right precautions when using essential oils. This will ensure you can enjoy the many benefits of essential oils with none of the side effects. 

To be a competent and successful aromatherapist, one needs to practice the correct and safe use of essential oils. Here we will study some of the common precautions when using essential oils that need to be followed to guarantee safe and effective treatment.

Safety Precautions while using Essential Oils

Dilute Essential Oils : Never use essential oils in their pure form on the skin. These oils must always be mixed with carrier oils in the right proportion and the right manner. If it says to use 1-2 drops of the essential oil, then do just that and do not add more. Some experienced aromatherapists may circumvent this precaution and use oils like tea tree and lavender without dilution. Undiluted use of these oils can cause severe sensitivity symptoms in some clients. Hence, do not use these oils undiluted or else perform a skin sensitivity test before doing so – but only if you are an experienced practitioner.

Skin Sensitization : Sometimes skin sensitization and allergic reactions can occur in certain individuals and stringent precautions using essential oils must be followed as the main use of essential oils is on the skin. Do a skin patch test before using new oils.

Take a plaster and apply a few drops of essential oils inside it, place it on the inner forearm and leave for 24 hours. For a sensitization test, you must leave for a further 24 hours. A positive allergic reaction can result in itching, swelling or erythema.

Remove all make-up before applying essential oils on the face and neck, for cross-sensitization can occur. In women, excess sensitivity occurs during ovulation or before menstruation.

Please remember that skin sensitization is different from sensitive skin and can cause serious problems with the immune system. Reactions can be small rashes, more dangerous respiratory distress or even anaphylactic shock in extremely vulnerable people that can prove fatal. 

There is a case of a lady who heard that lavender oil could be used undiluted on the skin and did so. Unfortunately some part of the oil was applied on broken skin and this created a sensitivity reaction that resulted in contact dermatitis. Twenty years on, if she comes into contact with any form of lavender, the contact dermatitis flares up again and takes months to get cured. 

safety precautions for essential oils

Therefore it is important to find out about essential oils that are sensitizers and avoid using them.

Remember Conditions when aromatherapy must be avoided

  • Pregnant women must be cautious when using essential oils as it can affect the fetus by penetrating the placenta. Others with asthma, epilepsy, major skin disorders, cancer, undiagnosed lumps etc, must avoid aromatherapy or usage of essential oils.
  • Pregnant women who suffer from seizures must avoid using hyssop oil. Always check the list of essential oils that pregnant women can use, since some of them are beneficial.
  • Stimulating oils like spike lavender and rosemary must be avoided by those suffering from high blood pressure.
  • Aniseed, fennel, clary-sage and sage must not be used by those with ovarian and breast cancers that are estrogen dependent cancers.
  • Everyone on chemotherapy must consult their doctor before going in for aromatherapy.

Check Proportion : The smallest quantity of essential oils is sufficient for any form of treatment. So, check the label for the right proportion.

Check the oil : There are many types of essential oils available and each is meant for different purposes. Hence, if you want an essential oil for aromatherapy, find out the list of safe oils and their uses before buying one. A comprehensive list is available in the ‘Essential Oil Directory” on the Internet.

Precautions with Children : Avoid letting children handle essential oils. Lock them up just as you would other medicines.

Ingestion : Essential oils must not be taken internally unless specifically prescribed by a registered medical practitioner.

Flammable : All essential oils are flammable, so follow necessary precautions using essential oils to avoid fire hazards.

Precautions to follow by practitioners who use essential oils

  • Always research new oils before using them
  • Make sure the essential oils are diluted in the right proportion and do not use the same oil repeatedly.
  • Always perform a skin test when using oils for the first time.
  • Label the products properly and maintain an accurate inventory.
  • Ensure the room being used for massages is well-aired
  • The essential oils used for treatment must be stored in a separate area under proper storage conditions as recommended for each type of oil.
  • Take short breaks between massage sessions and ensure the room is aired at this time.
  • Essential oils must never be applied to sensitive areas of the face like the eyes, broken skin etc.
  • Before starting a therapy session, get complete medical details from the client so that you choose the right essential oils.
  • Never introduce essential oils into the vagina, rectum or mouth for this is fatal.
  • If a client has a serious medical condition like cancer or diabetes, always refer to their doctor or request them to get a letter stating that a massage therapy will not harm them.


Usually inhaling essential oils or using them for topical massages are considered safe unless a person is highly allergic. Never ingest essential oils unless a trained and registered medical practitioner recommends it. If these precautions using essential oils are not followed and they are taken orally, it can prove fatal. Avoid using oils directly without dilution – especially those that are strong in phenols like cinnamon. Some animal studies indicate that certain essential oils contain active ingredients that can interfere with some medications. For example, eucalyptus makes some medications like pentobarbital and amphetamine less effective. Follow all the necessary precautions and you can enjoy all benefits of essential oils.