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In my previous post, Do I Have to Dilute Essential Oils?, I shared why it is beneficial and even necessary to dilute essential oils. Now that we know the why, we will be focusing on how essential oils should be diluted for the different ways you plan to use them.
How to Dilute Essential Oils
Basically, to dilute an essential oil you need to add it to a carrier prior to applying to your skin. A carrier is often times a vegetable based oil that you mix the essential oil with, or another product such as aloe vera gel or a lotion. These carriers help to spread the essential oil over the surface of the body and slow down the essential oil evaporation.
When receiving guidelines on how much to dilute an essential oil it is often in the form of a dilution percentage. When you know this you can refer to an essential oil dilution chart to know how many drops, or what measurement, of essential oil should be mixed with a specific volume of a carrier.
Here is a chart with dilution rates that are common across the essential oil industry. Some essential oil companies may take a more liberal or aggressive approach with how they recommend essential oil dilutions, maybe even higher than what is listed here, however it is best to start with the lowest dilution rate possible to meet your needs.
I find it helpful to print a copy of this essential oil dilution chart to keep with my essential oils to have as a quick and easy reference (get a printer-friendly version here).
Here is an example of how to dilute an essential oil, if you are using an essential oil that recommends a 2% dilution rate when using topically then you can see that you would want to add 4-6 drops to a 10 ml roller bottle with carrier oil. Or 12-18 drops of essential oil to 1 oz of carrier oil.
Unfortunately, there are no set industry standards for essential oil dilutions which is why I listed a range of essential oil drops by dilution rate in the chart above. There are various practicing certified aromatherapists, some are more liberal and others are more conservative in their approach.
The lower end of the essential oil drops listed in the range on the chart aligns with traditional dosage within the aromatherapy industry. This is the starting point that many certified aromatherapist would use when advising an essential oil dilution topically. And some essential oil companies still refer to this dosage with their recommended dilution chart.
The higher end of the essential oil drop range reflects updates by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young in Essential Oil Safety, 2nd Edition (2014) page 48. Robert Tisserand has been involved in aromatherapy for over 40 years, primarily focusing on the study of the safety of essential oils. Many consider him to the top expert in the field of essential oil safety. Numerous practicing certified aromatherapists follow the guidelines set forth from Robert Tisserand and a number of essential oil companies use his dosage on their recommended dilution chart.
- Churchill Livingstone
- Robert Tisserand, Rodney Young
- Publisher: Churchill Livingstone
- Edition no. 2 (11/06/2013)
- Hardcover: 784 pages
I personally find it helpful to understand why there can be differences in what is listed as a dilution percentage between the essential oil brands, or even on different websites or blogs that are related to essential oils. Otherwise, it is very easy to get confused on what you are trying to do when diluting an essential oil and ultimately frustrated for no reason.
When using a new essential oil use the lowest dilution you feel is necessary and start on the lower end of the essential oil drop range, you can always add more essential oil if needed. Also, when using a new essential oil, even when diluted, do a patch test to see if you experience any type of reaction.
If you need to know the measurement for a higher dilution rate than what is listed on the dilution chart, here are a few examples:
- 20% dilution, just multiple the drops listed for a 10% dilution by 2, or do 1 drop essential oil to 4 drops carrier oil or a 1 to 4 measurement, such as 1 teaspoon of essential oil and 4 teaspoons of carrier oil
- 50% dilution would be 1 drop essential oil to 1 drop carrier oil or a 1 to 1 measurement, such as 1 teaspoon of each
- 75% dilution rate you would use 3 drops essential oil to 1 drop carrier oil or a 3 to 1 measurement, such as 3 teaspoons of essential oil and 1 teaspoon of carrier
It is also good to note that some essential oil companies recommend much higher dilution rates for their essential oils, such as 20% (1 drop essential oil to 4 drops carrier oil) or not diluting at all. While many people might not experience any issues with this high dilution rate, there are some who will. This risk can be avoided by using a lower dilution rate, that has been determined based on scientific study to allow for the maximum benefit from an essential oil while minimizing the risk. Using less essential oil also saves money by not wasting the essential oil. Start with a lower dilution rate first, and again, you can always increase later if you find it necessary.
This essential oil dilution chart depicts the comfortable range for essential oil dilutions within the aromatherapy profession, allowing you to create your dilutions safely regardless of how conservative or aggressive you might be personally within the range.
Practical Examples Using the Dilution Range
I like knowing the essential oil dilution percentage range when making my essential oil dilutions or products so I can determine when I want to stay on the lower end of the range and when I want to use the higher end of the range.
An example of when I would choose to use the higher end of the essential oil dilution percentage range is in my peppermint essential oil roller bottle. I currently have a 3% dilution using the 4.5 drops, I just caught part of the last drop from the bottle for the .5 drop. I made this when I was dealing with a cold and was stuffed up to aid in respiratory support. I just rubbed over my sinuses before bed.
I have been using the same dilution for random migraines I have been experiencing recently by rubbing on my temples and forehead. It has been helping, but if I feel like I need a higher dilution, up to the recommended 5-5.4% dilution rate maximum, I will add more essential oil and carrier oil to my bottle and update the label. Or I will just create a new roller bottle with the higher dilution rate and label accordingly.
An example of when I would choose to use the lower end of the dilution percentage range would be when I am planning to apply all over my face. I know this skin is more sensitive in general, but I seem to be more sensitive to facial products than some. If I am making a roller bottle to use as my daily moisturizer, that I plan to use 2x per day, every day I will start at the lower end of the dilution rate range. If I feel that it is not working as well as I expected, then the next time I make my roller bottle I will make an adjustment by adding more drops, even up to the higher end of the dilution range to see how that works for me.
Another example when I would stay on the lower end of the range, is when diluting an essential oil for my children. Not only do I usually use a lower dilution rate, but I use the lower end of the range to be extra sensitive to their young and more permeable skin.
General Essential Oil Dilution Guidelines
There are some general essential oil dilution guidelines based on what you are intending to use a specific essential oil or essential oil blend to accomplish. These guidelines take into consideration how often or how much of a product would be used, such as is it used on a daily basis as a facial moisturizer or on a monthly basis for an issue such as dealing with PMS issues.
Also, the product guidelines consider the amount of skin that will be covered by a product. If I use a product with a 1% dilution rate on my face I am getting much less essential oil exposure than if I use 1% dilution on both of my legs. To put it another way, I have more surface area of my body exposed to essential oils if both of my legs are covered than I would if just my face is covered.
One way to think about it is for larger surface areas of the body that will be covered with the diluted essential oil, the lower the dilution rate that should be used. Since we are using more product or carrier oil and covering more skin surface than there is more essential oil that can be absorbed.
Here is a great chart from Tisserand Institute with information about Recommended Topical Applications:
Here is another another dilution guideline from the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) that you can use to compare or use for your own needs.
0.5 % = 3 drops per ounce (sensitive skin, emotional and spiritual purposes)
1% = 6 drops per ounce (recommended for children, expectant mothers, skin care)
2% = 12 drops per ounce (massage, body lotion)
3% = 18 drops per ounce (massage, body lotion)
10% = 3 ml (sixty drops) (pain, infection, usually on small body area)
If you are new to using essential oils topically, adhering to appropriate dilution rates might seem a little overwhelming or confusing. Sometimes it can feel like you are back in school trying to figure out a solution to a math problem. However, as you start to make and use your essential oil dilutions it will become much easier.
When you are planning to use an essential oil topically, think about what you going to use it for and check the guideline charts above for an appropriate dilution rate. It is also helpful to check the dilution rate for that specific essential oil, if provided by the company you purchased the essential oil from. I would use the lower of the two dilution rates to start with.
For example, if I wanted to make a DIY lotion I would look at the dilution guidelines above and see that I could use a dilution rate of 1-4% based on the chart from Tisserand Institute and that I could use a 2-3% dilution rate from the AIA chart. As long as the recommendation from the essential oil company for that essential oil falls into this range, I would make my lotion with a 2-3% dilution. If it is my first time using a specific essential oil, I would do 2% dilution and use the lower end of the dilution drop range. If it is an essential oil I have used before and have not reacted to, I would make the lotion with a 3% dilution using the lower end of the dilution drop range, knowing that I could add more essential oil if I felt it needed more.
As referenced in my previous post Do I Have to Dilute Essential Oils?, and I think it is worth reiterating, when using essential oils we should be balancing risk and reward. The lowest dilution of an essential oil should be used to reap the benefits we desire. This keeps us from unintentionally exposing ourselves to an adverse skin reaction or systemic toxicity.
Also, keep in mind dilution rates should be much lower for children, elderly and if used in pregnancy. Sign up here to be notified of posts as we continue our essential oil series, including information on how to use essential oils with children.
Disclaimer: For informational and educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you have a health concern, a medical condition, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or are taking any medication please consult your healthcare provider.