What You Need to Know About Using Essential Oils Safely

using essential oils safely

We get questions all of the time about the essential oils in our products. What are they for? How are they made? Why am I sensitive to some and not to others?

One of our promises as a company is that what we make is pure and unadulterated. So when we put essential oils into our products, it's no exception. We choose pure, high-quality essential oils, and that means they're very powerful.

And since Vibrance, our first essential oil blend, will be available soon, we felt like it was even more essential that we wrote a piece on using essential oils safely and effectively.

First, we'll cover the basics:

What is an Essential Oil?

The best place to start is the definition. Here it is from Merriam Webster:

“essential oil (noun): any of a class of volatile oils that give plants their characteristic odors and are used especially in perfumes and flavorings, and for aromatherapy”

Here’s my personal definition:

An essential oil is the pure form of oil extracted from a plant that is high in volatile oils (ie. plants that smell strongly). They are a concentrate of a plant’s medicinal properties that can be used to add scent or healing aspects of the plant directly to any formula for increased potency. Essential oils are very powerful and should be used with great care. Because they are so powerful, a little bit of essential oil is all you need to use each time you open the bottle.

Essential Oil Vocabulary

EO – You’ll see this around a lot. It’s just the abbreviation for essential oil.

Volatile oil – This is also essential oil. A plant that is high in volatile oils will have a strong scent and can be processed into an essential oil.

Neat – Using an essential oil ‘neat’ means using it directly on your skin. Putting essential oils directly on the skin can be irritating because they’re so strong. Use caution and spot test when you use essential oils this way.

Carrier oil – You’ll hear this term occasionally used to talk about diluting an essential oil. A carrier oil can be any type of basic oil that you choose: coconut oil, grapeseed, jojoba, kuikui nut, and sancha inchi are all great carrier oils! If you have very sensitive skin, you might want to use your essential oils by diluting them into a carrier oil. Those of you who love our Unscented Facial Oil, which doesn’t contain essential oils, can also add essential oils to it if you do like having a scent.

Hydrosol – This is often the byproduct of essential oil production. It’s water from inside the plant and from the essential oil distillation process that has the same smell (and to a lesser degree, the same properties) because it collects a small amount of the essential oil in it. Click Here to Read More About Hydrosols

Aromatherapy – This is the idea that scent can change your perception and your wellbeing. Our olfactory sensors are tied directly to parts of the brain that control physical and emotional reactions as well as memory (that’s why scent and memory are so closely tied together). Aromatherapy is technique that has been used for thousands of years.

How are Essential Oils Extracted?

For those of you, like me, who are curious as to how this works, there are a lot of ways that essential oils can be extracted from a plant.  Here are the most common:

Steam distillation – plants are bathed in steam and release their essential oils into it. The steam is pumped through cooling tubes and the water and the oil are collected separately. This is the oldest and most common form of collection.

Solvent method – this method is typically used with plants that are sensitive to the heat in steam distillation, like rose and neroli blossoms. These plants are soaked in water and then the scented water is distilled.

CO2 extraction – this is the newest way to extract oils. It’s similar to the solvent method, but more complex. This extraction method helps to pull out thicker parts of the oils like waxes and resins. It collects a very pure oil that tends to be more expensive.

Cold pressed – most carrier oils are extracted this way, too! Cold pressed refers to the lack of heat in the process. Citrus essential oils are processed this way.

What You Need to Know About Using Essential Oils Safely

We know we have stressed this a lot in this article already but this really can’t be stressed enough. Be mindful! Essential oils are concentrated and powerful.

At best, overuse of an oil can make you smell for days leading your friends to avoid you until your EO odor has dissipated. At worst, overuse can cause serious irritation—remember that this is all of the power of this plant pushed into a single drop of oil. An allergy coupled with overuse can lead to some serious consequences. Here are some general guidelines for what NOT to do:

  • Don’t use them internally without guidance of a practitioner.
  • Some essential oils are more potent than others and should never be used by themselves. Wintergreen is one such essential oil. It’s very, very powerful and should never be taken internally, used in aromatherapy, or used neat.
  • Avoid ketones and other chemical components that can cause harm. This really comes down to the research on your oils. Some EOs, like vetiver, blue tansy, and peppermint have lots of properties but should be used with caution because of the other strong constituent properties present in the oil. Check out this great resource for these types of properties.

Different Ways to Enjoy Essential Oils

Now for the fun part. How to use these good smelling friends! There are a lot of ways to use them, but here are some wonderful ideas that will light up your olfactory senses!

Neat – You can put them directly onto your skin, but be very careful when you do this and only use one drop at time.  They’re very powerful and the smell will last all day, even if you can’t smell it, other people can. Make sure that you spot test any oil on your wrist that you’re wanting to use before putting it all over your body.

Note: The palms of your hands, bottoms of your feet, and your hair are the best places to rub oils because those cells absorb oil the best and will hold the scent for the longest! I love to use essential oils in my hair, especially when I go out dancing.

Make a perfume – You can add a drop or two of your favorite essential oils to a carrier oil to give yourself a nice scent that will last all day. Check out this dilution chart for how much oil to use.

Aromatherapy – If you have a steam diffuser, put one or two drops of your favorite stimulating or calming essential oils in it and let it fill the room with the mood you want! You can also carry around a little bottle of essential oil and smell it throughout your day for a pick-me up. I carry lavender essential oil when I travel for calming myself in crowds, unfamiliar places, and on the airplane ride.

Make a room spray – Add a couple of drops of your essential oil blend to some water in a little spray bottle – don’t forget to label it with a cool name. My favorite is called “BAM! You’re in the forest!” and it has pine and cedar in it. Spray it around whenever you feel like being transported to your favorite place.

Note: If you’re using a large spray bottle, it might be in your best interest to add it to a clear alcohol base with about 20% alcohol (40 proof) so that it doesn’t go bad over time. Essential oils are a great preservative, but microbes in the water could cause mold after a while.

Add it to your salves and lotions – Many of the properties of the plants are in the essential oils, so do some research on what sorts of plants might increase the potency of your lotion. It’s very important that you only add a couple of drops at a time so that you don’t overpower your lotion!

And like we said earlier, those of you who love our Unscented Facial Oil's skin-perfecting qualities but actually do want a scent, you can add a couple drops of essential oil to it!

Do you have a favorite essential oil recipe? Let us know in the comments below!


Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary – Essential Oil

Esoteric Oils – Solvent Extraction

Learning About EOs – Properly Diluting Essential Oils

Organic Facts – Health Benefits of Wintergreen Essential Oil

Learning about EOs – Chemical Families, Therapeutic Properties, and Safety Considerations

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Reader Interactions


  1. Gwendolynn says

    What about those essential oil necklaces where a lava stone or cotton round is held in a pretty clasp? Is it less beneficial since they aren’t penetrating the skin? I’m thinking of health benefits over smelling nice. For example my kiddos get pretty sick in winter and I’d like to give them an essential oils necklace to wear at school to help keep them well.

  2. patty says

    Thank you for the tips on EO. Do you suggest adding them to your bath and if so approx. how many drops would you add?

    As a great air freshener, take a Mason Jar and fill it with Baking Soda or I would think Epsom Salts would work too. Add several drops of EO. Decorate the jar and lid if desired with fresh herbs or a decorated lid with paper or material. Puncture the lid several times. If you don’t have a metal lid you can tie a beautiful material piece over the top with holes cut in it to release the aroma. You now have a beautiful, natural air freshener!

    • Annmarie Skin Care says

      Awesome air freshener recipe! Thank you for sharing!

      For a bath, just a few drops of the essential oils is definitely okay. Because it’s so diffused in the water, you should be safe. You just want to be able to smell it in when you’re making the bath.

    • Annmarie Skin Care says

      Hi Laura,

      We’re not sure because we haven’t tried it ourselves, but it’s definitely worth a shot! Let us know how it works out for you 🙂

  3. Elizabeth says

    I understand that Vetiver contains some ketones but I don’t understand what makes it harmful and why I should avoid it. I use this oil nightly to help me sleep and I’ve never had any issues. It doesn’t contain camphor, correct??
    Thanks for your help!

  4. Ki says

    Many of us suffering from Lichen Sclerosis have had to turn to alternative remedies for relief. I have found Frankincense mixed with a healing, herbal salve to provide some healing effects. This is considered an auto-immune disease, so flare-ups are probably related to diet, as well. Of all the alternative suggestions, though, EOs have been most effective.

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