8 Essential Oil Mistakes You Need to Avoid

Updated: Mar. 01, 2021

The things that we all need to remember is that these seemingly innocent oils that are derived from different plants and sources in a potent form can be harmful if you're not using them properly.


Mistake: Not respecting their potency

I’ll admit: I have a few different types of essential oils sitting in a basket at home and am hesitant to use them until I fully understand them. They all claim different things like calming anxiety and helping with breakouts, but then I scroll through my Facebook feed and see stories about kids and adults being sent to the emergency room due to poor use, and it makes me nervous. Libby Vlasic, a certified herbalist and essential oil educator at the New York Institute of Aromatherapy in Manhattan and owner of Wythe and Berry says to always use essential oils with respect and understanding. “Essential oils are made up of molecules from various chemical families, some are safer than others and should be looked at the same way as synthetic chemicals. Depending on the essential oil, you may find anti-inflammatory, sedative, antibacterial, and antibacterial properties to name just a few. They are incredibly powerful medicines, being between 50 to 100 percent stronger than the actual plant matter,” she shares.

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Mistake: Not diluting the oil

In order to keep the essential oil safe for your skin, diluting it is necessary before any application. Depending on where you are using the essential oils, determines what dilution is considered safe. For example, your face is more sensitive than other places on the body, so the essential oil should be diluted more. “The general rule of thumb is to never go over a 2.5 percent dilution rate for the face, which is 15 drops of essential oil in a 1 ounce of formula,” Vlasic says. Check out our essential oils reference guide for beginners.

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Mistake: Using them in an old sachet

Using essential oils in the form of a sachet, a small perfumed bag sometimes mixed with potpourri and herbs, is regarded as a safe essential oil practice, Vlasic shares. However, oils lose their potency over time, so if you’re not refreshing yours, you may not be reaping any of the benefits.

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Mistake: Diffusing around kids

Next to using topically, people are spending more and more diffusing essential oils in their homes instead of lighting a candle. An essential oil diffuser is essentially a machine that disperses essential oils into a room. (Here are some tips on buying an essential oil diffuser.) And while it seems safer, different oils claim different benefits when diffused, so it’s still a very big concern, especially when you’re using a diffuser and you have young children. If your baby is under three months old, skip the diffuser. For babies above that age, Vlasic says, to diffuse the oil before bringing the baby into the room, and keep it turned off while they are in the room. Note: Never use peppermint or eucalyptus essential oils around small children. “One of the molecules in peppermint has the ability to activate the cold receptors in children’s lungs, turning them blue and causing suffocation,” Vlasic says. When it comes to using essential oils on children, Vlasic suggests waiting until your child is at least one-year old.

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Mistake: Using oils for too long

After 45 minutes, your body stops responding to the therapeutic benefit of the oils, Vlasic says. So set a timer to remind yourself to turn off the diffuser. On the other hand, if you’re diffusing essential oils for the aromatics, or to fumigate a room of germs, longer is fine. Here are the essential oils that are proven to help you sleep.

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Mistake: Adding too much to beauty products

Similar to using topically, always err on the side of caution when adding essential oils to beauty products. The important essential oil safety term to keep in mind here is dilute, dilute, dilute. Vlasic suggests using a 0.5 percent maximum dose (1/2 drop of essential oil per one-ounce of makeup) and a 3 percent dilution rate as a general rule of thumb for body lotions and body butters. Find out the essential oils that will take years off your appearance.


Mistake: Not working with a medical professional

It is generally not advised to take essential oils internally, unless a medical intake has been done and you are under the guidance of a trained professional. “Essential oils are excellent solvents, and will eat through cellular tissue. If taking essential oils is suggested, they should always be consumed in a carrier of some kind, such as honey, or coconut oil, to alleviate damage to the internal organs,” Vlasic shares. “Water is not considered a sufficient carrier as it does not solubilize with the essential oils. Don’t forget that specific essential oils can be made up of dangerous components, thus it is wise to understand the chemistry of each and the reaction it can have in the human body, before consuming.” Find out the essential oils that are proven to help you fight off colds and flu.

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Mistake: Not listening to your body

It is also important to note that each individual reacts to essential oils in different ways. Vlasic shares that specific essential oils have varying safety concerns. “For example: most of the citrus essential oils are considered photo-toxic, and can cause burns or darker skin pigmentation when exposed to sunlight. Irritation, and sensitization can also occur from use of essential oils, resulting in a person being unable to use that essential oil again, as well as rashes and skin complications.” Using all the prior precautions as well as paying attention to your body’s reaction to using a new oil is in essential oil safety.