Using Essential Oils in Your Skin Care Routine

Essential oils are plant extracts that can be inhaled, mixed with a carrier oil for direct skin application or used in household products to clean and sanitize. They’re also purported to have a number of health benefits, including improving sleep and reducing anxiety, and treating everything from dandruff to a sore throat.

Cooking with Essential Oils

Although essential oils are best known for their use in aromatherapy, a complementary health practice that involves inhaling the scents of plants, there’s growing interest in using them in cooking. Food-safe, organic essential oils add flavor and nutrition to dishes without adding chemicals and can be used in place of spices or herbs.

A drop of thyme oil can bring a robust savory note to roasted vegetables or stews, while orange oil can invigorate a marinade or baked goods. Because they’re concentrated, just a few drops can deliver the punch of flavor you’re looking for.

Always use only certified, organic culinary grade essential oils when cooking. Look for labels that say “food grade” or appear on the FDA-approved list of safe ingredients for the flavor industry (such as LorAnn Oils). Food-grade essential oils are typically steam distilled, cold pressed, resin tapping, or expressed. They are also usually diluted and should be added toward the end of the cooking process as heat can change their therapeutic properties.


When inhaled, scent molecules travel through the olfactory system and impact the limbic system of the brain, influencing emotions and memories. Aromatherapy can be used to promote physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Essential oils can be mixed with a carrier oil and applied to the skin. When diluted, essential oils are safe for most people. However, certain oils, including citrus oils, can cause photosensitivity to direct sunlight and should never be applied undiluted to the skin.

Always choose high-quality, therapeutic-grade oils. Look for a label that describes the plant ingredients from which the oil was derived and explains the methods and processes used to produce it. Select oils that are stored in dark glass bottles to reduce oxidation and maintain their quality.

Skin Care

Adding essential oils to your skin care routine can improve the quality of your complexion. However, it’s important to remember that the same dynamic mixture of molecules responsible for a specific oil’s therapeutic effects can also contribute to irritation or allergic reactions in some people. Dilution, patch testing and consulting with a skincare professional can help you find the right balance.

Choose a reputable producer that makes pure oils without anything else added. “Adding other ingredients, even a little bit of extra vegetable oil, can alter the composition and change the chemical properties of an essential oil,” says Davila.

Use only small amounts of an essential oil for skin care, and dilute it first with a carrier oil such as coconut, jojoba or almond. You should always do a patch test before applying any new oil to your skin for the first time to make sure it doesn’t cause irritation or allergies, which can be difficult to notice at the surface of the skin.

Pet Care

Essential oils, when properly diluted, can provide a natural and aromatic means to complement your pet’s holistic care. However, proper guidance from a holistic veterinarian or professional experienced in the use of EOs with pets is critical.

Avoid applying EOs near your pet’s eyes, ears, nose or genital area as they can be irritating. Also, be sure to patch test your diluted oil on an insensitive spot of skin before massaging it onto your pet’s body. Pay attention to the communication signals your pet is giving you and stop using an oil if they show any signs of distress such as drooling, shaking, vocalization or scratching.

Oral administration of EOs can cause irritation to the esophagus and small intestine and can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Diffusing EOs can irritate your pet’s lungs and can be toxic if they are not properly diluted. They can be a choking hazard for smaller pets. Generally, massaged EOs are best as they can be targeted to specific areas of discomfort.