Safety Guidelines

3 Common and Dangerous Essential Oil Mistakes

1. Using photosensitive oils in the sun

*Data retrieved from the International Fragrance Association’s recommendations for maximum use of the most common photosensitive essential oils in leave-on-the-skin products. Learn more here:

2. Incorrect application of essential oils

You can use essential oils in many ways. They can be applied directly to the skin, inhaled, or taken internally. Each application method has its own precautions. 

Skin/Topical Use

Certain oils may cause irritation if used in too high a concentration. If you happen to be a highly sensitive person (HSP), try a skin patch test to determine any potential irritation before you use essential oils, and always dilute appropriately. (See instructions for skin patch testing and dilution ratios below.)

Irritation from an essential oil is a direct result of contact with the oil. It’s localized and does not involve the immune system. Once the offending essential oil is removed using a base oil or full-fat milk (or at least 2%), the skin can begin to recover. You can even use tepid water in a pinch, but it’s not as effective as oil or milk. 

For people with sensitive skin, essential oils can sometimes cause more damage, while other folks can withstand the same concentration of essential oil without a problem.

Several essential oils like the ones bulleted below can cause skin or mucous membrane irritation:

  • Steam distilled cinnamon bark and leaf Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Blume)
  • Steam distilled clove bud, leaf, and stem Syzygium aromaticum (L.) (because of the eugenol content, which is an irritant and potential sensitizer.
  • Steam distilled lemongrass leaf Cymbopogon citratus (Stapf)

    There are three important factors when considering essential oil applications: dilution ratio, recommended daily dosage, and duration guidelines.

  • Inhalation

    Inhalation is arguably the safest means of administering essential oils, and it’s the fastest way to get essential oils into your bloodstream.

    However, it’s still critical to use oils with caution… even when diffusing.

    When diffusing essential oils, always:

    • Diffuse in a well-ventilated area
    • Diffuse for 30-minute intervals and take regular breaks
    • Make sure pets (especially cats) have the option to leave the room if they don’t like the aromas
    • Follow dilution guidelines 

  • Internal/Oral Use

    While only a few specific essential oils are suitable for oral administration, this doesn’t apply to all essential oils, nor do all situations call for oral application.

    It’s important to ask yourself if oral administration is actually necessary. Each client is a unique individual with a specific situation, which must be analyzed and critically assessed. 

    Once you’ve come to a decision, you must then consider…

    • Dose
    • Concentration
    • Duration

    Toxicity or poisoning is often the result of using a dose much higher than the therapeutic dose or recommended daily dose (RDD).

    The Martindale Extra Pharmacopoeia provides excellent guidelines for using essential oils orally and notes acceptable daily intakes per kilo of body weight. 

    Tea tree Melaleuca alternifolia (Cheel) and eucalyptus Eucalyptus spp. are two common culprits for poisoning. This typically occurs when someone has ingested too much or a child drinks the oil in error. Always keep your oils out of reach of children. We even suggest purchasing childproofed essential oil lids and a child lock for your essential oil cabinet.

    Bottom line: oral administration is best left to those who are trained and have experience in clinical aromatherapy.


    However, some essential oils are delightful when used in cooking.

    Curious to explore? We have a free eBook on the subject: Top 10 Culinary Essential Oils. But remember, after checking the cautions and contraindications for your oil of choice, dilute thoroughly with a carrier oil like olive or coconut oil. You can also check the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Generally Recognized as Safe list (GRAS) for oils that can be used in very minimal amounts in cooking.

    Additionally, when available, it’s always best to use certified organic essential oils.