How to Dilute Essential Oils

Learn how to dilute essential oils - dilution ratio; carriers for dilution; and why it is important to dilute essential oils before use, especially when used topically.

Essential oils are highly concentrated and as such extremely potent.  We can get good results even if a few drops are used.  If we use the oils "neat" (undiluted), not only are we wasting precious oils (and money), we also risk getting adverse effects such as skin irritation, sensitization, and over time we may even develop full-blown allergic reactions to the oils.

When Should We Dilute Essential Oils?

Generally speaking, if we use the oils topically on our skin, we should always dilute the oils with a carrier, which can be an organic oil (e.g. sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, etc.), or aloe vera gel, or unscented lotion or cream.

Essential oils are "hydrophobic" (that means they don't like water) and "lipophilic" (they are drawn to fats), so we cannot use water to dilute essential oils.  They simply do not mix.

What would happen when you applied EOs "diluted" in water to your skin?  Since EOs don't like water, all the oil in the water mixture would stick to and be absorbed directly by your skin, because human skin and membranes are mainly made up of fats. This would be no different than putting pure undiluted oils on your skin, and could result in skin irritation - especially if some of the oils used were skin irritating in the first place.

On the other hand, if we dilute essential oils with organic carrier oils such as jojoba, the EOs will stick with the fats in the carriers and be absorbed at a slower pace by the skin, so the risk of skin irritation can be avoided.

How Much Should We Dilute Essential Oils?

EO dilution ​For regular, long-term topical use, many blends are made in a very low dilution ratio (e.g. 1%-3%) of EOs to the carrier.

But just how many drops of EOs are there in 1%?

There are approximately 500-600 drops of EOs in 30 ml (1 oz), so 1% is about 5-6 drops (depending on the size of the hole in the orifice reducer).  If you are diluting EOs in 30 ml of jojoba, then for a 1% dilution you will need to add 5-6 drops of EOs.  If you are using 60 ml of jojoba, then you will need 10-12 drops of EOs for a 1% dilution, and so on.

Essential Oil Dilution Chart

For those of you who are not too fond of numbers, here is a handy dilution chart for you:

Percentage 30 ml 60 ml 120 ml
1% 5-6 drops 10-12 drops 20-24 drops
2% 10-12 drops 20-24 drops 40-48 drops
3% 15-18 drops 30-36 drops 60-72 drops
4% 20-24 drops 40-48 drops 80-96 drops
5% 25-30 drops 50-60 drops 100-120 drops
6% 30-36 drops 60-72 drops 120-144 drops

How to read the chart: If you are using 30 ml of a carrier, and you want to make a 1% blend, then you should use 5-6 drops of essential oils. If you are using 60 ml of a carrier and would like to make a 2% blend, then you should use 20-24 drops of EOs, and so on.

Which Dilution Should We Use When?

It depends on various factors, such as the age and health condition of the person, the problem we are dealing with, etc. But as my aromatherapy teacher always says, “less is more when it comes to essential oils”, always start off using LESS. You will be amazed that very often even a 1% dilution can give good results.

To generalize things a bit, here are some guidelines.

We use a 1% dilution for the following people:

  • Children under 12;
  • People over 65;
  • Pregnant women;
  • People with a compromised immune system or chronic long-term illnesses;
  • People who are prone to allergies and super sensitive to fragrances, allergens, etc.

A 2% dilution can be made for blends that we use on a daily basis (e.g. skin care blends, bath oils, perfumes, or therapeutic blends that address chronic problems).

For a more acute problem (e.g. onset of a cold/flu, a bruise from a fall, etc.), we can make a 3% dilution blend.

To address more acute and painful issues, we can go up to 5 or 6% but the blend should only be used for a few days until the pain is more bearable and under control, then we can make a more diluted blend (2-3%) for continued use until the problem is over.

Exceptions

OK. I know I said above that don’t use essential oils undiluted. But just like anything else, there are some exceptions. For example:

  • We can use Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) neat on a slight burn.
  • Also we can dab a drop or two of Lavender on an itchy, red and swollen insect bite.
  • For minor cuts and wounds, dab a drop of Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum) on the cut. Helichrysum is an excellent oil for healing minor cuts, burns, and bug bites. However, DO NOT use it on puncture wounds. Why? Since Helichrysum heals very fast, it closes the wound before the tissue inside has a chance to heal.