My first exposure to essential oils was approximately 11 years ago when I was in school training to become a nail technician. They were presented as an add on to a service and we were advised to put them in foot baths and manicure soaks. That’s exactly what I did for many years. At that time I was under the assumption natural automatically meant safe so not only was I not diluting them properly in a carrier oil, I was also using more than I needed to. It wasn't until about 8 years ago when I started making my own products that I really started researching oils. This lead me to furthering my education and becoming passionate about promoting essential oils safety.
This is how I think many people start using essential oils. With little knowledge of how potent they are or how to use them properly. Unfortunately we sometimes don’t think about digging deeper until we read a cautionary tale or have a personal adverse reaction.
If you're already using essential oils or looking to start incorporating them into your life these terms you should know.
Irritant - this could be a dermal irritant or mucus membrane irritant. This can happen when oils are not properly diluted on the skin or ingested without proper knowledge or guidance from a medical professional. It will present itself in the form of red blotchy skin, itching, burning or pain where oil has come in contact with the body.
Sensitization - this refers to the possibility of becoming sensitive to a particular oil over a period of time, whether from over use or improper dilution. Once a person becomes sensitized to an oil they will no longer be able to use that oil with out encountering some type of reaction
Toxic - some oils maybe toxic, this can depend on the oil and or the dose as well as the individual.
Phototoxicity - these oils may cause sensitivity to the skin when exposed to the sun, sun burns may occur even many hours after application. This is usually associated with citrus oils.
Now look at the oils you use and find out if they apply to any of them. Ask yourself if there are any changes you need to make in order to use these oils safely.
It is also important to note that anecdotal evidence does not prove safety. This mean if one person uses an oil unsafely with no reactions and then advises others based on their personal experience, that doesn't guarantee safety. Please always review the safety data of the oil you are using and not personal accounts. Another misconception is the dermal irritation is normal after essential oil use. When dermal irritation occurs it is due to a reaction, which could be due to improper dilution or possible allergic reaction.
Learn these few terms along with the which oils they apply to and you're on your way to using essential oils safely. Want to learn more about essential oils? Check out our blog post on Essential Oil Characteristics.