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Chapter Two – Topical Use

chapter 2

While you might think that people only use essential oils topically to help improve the skin, there are actually dozens of other reasons for topical use—including ones you might not have thought of like promoting feelings of clear breathing, targeting areas of tension through massage, and even repelling insects.

Yes, essential oils have incredible benefits for the skin, but topical use stretches  beyond a glowing complexion. Once you learn how to topically apply essential oils safely and correctly, you’ll be surprised by the far-reaching benefits you’ll experience.

roman cham

Much like aromatic use, topical application of essential oils is a relatively simple method that allows you to experience their benefits both quickly and effectively. One of the greatest benefits of using essential oils topically is that you can target specific areas of the body to achieve a specific desired effect. Additionally, you’ll enjoy the aroma of the essential oil for several hours as it absorbs into the skin.

Before we get too deep into how to use essential oils topically, let’s discuss a few safety guidelines that will help you to get the mostout of your essential oils, while ensuring the protection of your skin.

Safety guidelines for topical use

When applying any type of product to your skin (essential oil or otherwise), it’s important to understand how to use the product and be aware of how it may react with your skin or body.

For example, before you use a new moisturizer, facial cleanser, or other topical product, you probably look at the back of the bottle to read the instructions and make sure you’re using it correctly. You might even glance at the ingredients to make sure the product doesn’t contain anything you know would irritate your skin. You would also probably pay attention to any warnings (such as “Keep product out of eyes”) to make sure you don’t cause any harm to your body. The same goes for essential oils. Before applying an essential oil topically, consider a few things.


One way to ensure the safe use of essential oils—and even prolong the effects of topical use–is through dilution. While some people worry that diluting an oil takes away its potency or power, it actually extends the benefits of the essential oil by increasing absorption into the skin. The best way to dilute an essential oil before topical application is to combine it with a carrier oil like Fractionated Coconut Oil. For dilution, the best ratio is typically 10 drops of a carrier oil to one drop of essential oil.

Know that some essential oils should always be diluted before topical application due to their strong chemistry. Remember to always dilute the following oils with a carrier oil before putting them on your skin in order to avoid sensitivity:

Keep in mind, this isn’t an exhaustive list, and many oils may need to be diluted based on your personal skin sensitivity. Make sure to read the label cautions prior to using any essential oil product.

Dosage and sensitivity

When you’re first starting with topical application, one of the first questions you’ll probably have is, “How much essential oil should I be using?”

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If you’re using an essential oil topically for the first time, it’ is wise to start with the smallest possible dose: one to two drops. It’s also best to start with a diluted oil to see how it will react with the skin. From there, you can see how your skin reacts and increase the dose in the future (if necessary). Each person will experience every essential oil a little differently, so if the oil you’re currently using isn’t delivering the results you were hoping for, you can always apply a different essential oil with a similar chemistry.

Keep in mind that essential oils are extremely potent, so
when it comes to topical application, it’ is best to apply
several small doses throughout the day as opposed to a
single large dose. Typically, essential oils can be applied
topically every four to six hours as needed.

Each person has different sensitivities, skin conditions, preferences, and health concerns, which is why it’s possible for essential oils to cause a sensitivity response. Those with sensitive skin may be more likely to develop a sensitivity and should always be cautious when using essential oils topically. It’ is also important to note that children have far more sensitive skin than adults, so essential oils should always be diluted before applying on children and extra safety precautions should be taken to avoid sensitivity. The best way to ensure safe topical use is to always follow instructions and guidelines for a particular oil and use dilution as a way of protecting the skin and helping absorption.

Remember, your skin is delicate. When applying essential oils topically, use the same judgment that you would before putting any other product on your skin. 

Start small, adjust the amount of product if necessary, and always be gentle.

Sun sensitivity

sun sensitivity

It’s important to note that some essential oils, particularly citrus oils, can cause sensitivity when exposed to sun or ultraviolet light after topical application. Because citrus oils have photosensitive compounds, exposure to sunlight, UV light, or sunlamps at least 12 hours after application can cause sensitivity for the skin. Essential oils that pose a risk for sun sensitivity will typically include a warning or caution, so be sure to carefully read oil labels before application.

If you plan to spend a day at the beach, play with your kids at the park, or participate in any other outdoor activities where you’ll be exposed to the sun, make sure to plan accordingly. Keep in mind that most citrus essential oils cause photosensitivity, but other oils and essential oil blends have been known to pose a risk as well. Reading labels before application will help you avoid issues with photosensitivity.

Essential oils known to cause photosensitivity include:

green mandarin

Keep in mind, this isn’t an exhaustive list. Other blends and products can also pose a risk for photosensitivity, so be sure to read the label cautions prior to using any essential oil product on the skin.

So how do you know if you need to make adjustments before applying an essential oil topically?

Every dōTERRA® essential oil approved for topical use includes a skin sensitivity descriptor to help anyone using the oil to understand the best way of applying the oil for safe use. Each product approved for topical use will include one of the following labels.


Neat: If something is labeled Neat, it means that the essential
oil can be applied without any dilution. Oils in this group tend to
have a mild chemistry and thus a low risk for sensitivity.


Dilute: If something falls under the classification Dilute, it should be diluted with a carrier oil every time before topical application. These oils have a stronger, more potent chemistry and can be safely enjoyed after dilution.


Sensitive: Oils labeled Sensitive should always be diluted before using on young or sensitive skin. Be sure to pay attention to this label if you already know that you have sensitive skin or if you plan to use the oil on a child.

Thankfully, the more you use essential oils, the more you’ll understand dilution, what kinds of oils your skin responds best to, and more. Once you’re ready to safely apply essential oils topically, here are 10 ideas to get you started:

How to use essential oils topically


Use essential oils topically to cleanse the skin or promote a healthy-looking complexion. Try Bergamot, Frankincense, Tea Tree, or any of the HD Clear® skincare products.


Apply essential oils like Eucalyptus, Peppermint, or dōTERRA Breathe® topically to the chest to promote feelings of clear breathing and create an invigorating vapor.


If you work at a desk all day, target areas of tension by applying soothing oils to the neck, temples, shoulders, or hands.


Apply essential oils to the abdomen for a soothing abdominal massage.


Rub essential oils that are known for naturally repelling insects on the wrists and ankles before going on a hike. Try Geranium, Lemongrass, or Thyme.


Combine essential oils with Fractionated Coconut Oil to give yourself a soothing scalp massage. Oils like Lime, Tea Tree, or Rosemary work well for this.


Apply essential oils to the abdomen during your menstrual cycle when you want to create a comforting massage.


For occasional skin irritations, apply one to two drops of essential oil to the affected area. Consider using Lavender, Tea Tree, or Correct-X® for this.


Add your favorite essential oil (or oils) to unscented lotion and apply to your skin to experience topical benefits.


Use dōTERRA Spa Lip Balm to help hydrate and soothe your lips throughout the day.

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