Aromatherapy is all the rage right now. It is a holistic approach to treatment that uses potent plant extracts to promote both mental and physical well-being. Otherwise known as essential oil therapy, it is a proven method that lowers your stress levels, boosts your energy, and helps you focus. It is also gaining in popularity as an alternative treatment for many chronic conditions, such as migraines, insomnia, eczema, and indigestion.
Essential oils are at the core of aromatherapy practices. Not only do they smell amazing and instantly improve your mood, but they also refresh your living space. You can find them in various cosmetic products both for their scent and for their anti-inflammatory and other beneficial properties. Besides that, essential oils are also present in detergents and cleaning agents.
However, essential oils are incredibly volatile substances and need to be handled with care. They are rarely used pure or “neat” and have to be diluted beforehand. We break down everything you need to know about how to dilute essential oils with water and how to use them safely.
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How Are Essential Oils Made?
Essential oils naturally occur in plants that have numerous healing properties. Some of the most common ones are that of lavender, chamomile, rose, ylang-ylang, and myrrh. Large quantities of those plants are needed to make a small yet incredibly powerful vial of oil. For example, to make a pound of it, you’d need about 250 pounds of lavender or 1,500 pounds of lemon. Sometimes, the ratio is even more astonishing, e.g., over 10,000 pounds of rose petals for a single pound of rose essential oil!
Needless to say, these extracts are exceptionally potent. Because of their highly concentrated composition, they are very volatile. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t use them on their own, especially not directly on the skin. Professional aromatherapists are trained to dilute essential oils to stop them from causing any adverse effects.
Why Do You Have to Dilute Essential Oils?
Since essential oils are distilled from plants we come into contact with every day, you may assume that they are just as safe to use topically or to ingest. But it is quite the opposite. Essential oils are not dangerous in terms of their chemical makeup but because of their concentration. If you use them undiluted, you risk allergies, burns, inflammation, and even poisoning.
So although the original plant, like chamomile, is mild and harmless, its essential oil is strong enough to induce an adverse reaction. Bottled essential oil is roughly 50–100 times more potent than oil from the plant itself. That goes to show that you need to take good care of how you use them.
Most of the time, you can dilute essential oils with carrier oils. They are extracted from vegetables and used for cooking and diluting more powerful oils. Some of the most commonly used are:
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Jojoba oil
- Cranberry seed oil
- Peanut oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Kernel oil
Apart from carrier oils, you can also dilute essential oils with liquid castile soap or alcohol. That is particularly handy if you want to use them in DIY cosmetic products, such as shampoos, liquid soaps, or baths. But for many other purposes, essential oils have to be mixed with water. That includes making body sprays and other cosmetics, preparing a bath, adding to cleaning products, and filling diffusers. But since water and oil don’t mix together, that is when things get tricky.
How to Dilute Essential Oils With Water?
Sometimes, you may need to use water instead of carrier oils to dilute your essential oils. Water is lightweight, evaporates quickly, and doesn’t affect the smell of the essential oil. So it is, in fact, much more convenient to use. Also, it is perfectly safe to use in diffusers.
But oil is even lighter than water and doesn’t dissolve in it. Instead, it floats on its surface. Therefore, you’ll need to add something to the mix to successfully blend these two substances. You will need either an emulsifier or a solubilizer or both.
What Are Emulsifiers and Solubilizers?
Emulsifiers break down the oils into tiny droplets that are able to mix well in water-based solutions. Solubilizers, on the other hand, work by binding water and oils together and preventing them from separating as time goes by.
Some of the most commonly used emulsifiers are:
- Aloe vera gel
- Apple cider vinegar
- Rubbing alcohol — at least 60%, while 100% (anhydrous) is optimal
- Foaming products (liquid castile soap, shampoo, shower gel, bubble bath…)
They are vital in making creams, lotions, and conditioners, for example. But if used without a solubilizer, the concoction will not have a long shelf life. The oil droplets will start to come together, and the mixture will eventually separate, oxidize, and go off.
Although emulsifiers don’t permanently break down essential oils, they do a pretty good job of dispersing them enough to be mixed with water. If you are going for temporary use, like in a diffuser or for preparing a bath, you could stop there. But if you need your concoction to last a bit longer, like a body spray or a scented cleaning solution, you would need to add a solubilizer to keep the mixture from separating.
Solibilizers make sure that water-insoluble oils remain soluble in water. They are particularly important in cosmetics. Examples of solubilizers include:
- Safflower Oleosomes
However, there are also effective solubilizers made from natural ingredients. My pick would be Solubol. You can use it to make body vaporizers or cleaning sprays. Mix ten drops of the essential oil of your choosing with forty drops of Solubol and then add one ounce of water. But for facial products or for sensitive skin, you need to make the mix slightly milder. Don’t use more than five oil drops in twenty drops of Solubol for the same amount of water.
Diluting Essential Oils in Water
Although you should always check the instructions on the back of the bottle first, there are general guidelines on how to dilute essential oils. A good rule of thumb is to stick to the 2% solution for topical application. That means you should use 10–12 drops of essential oil in about an ounce of water. But if you have problematic or sensitive skin, feel free to make it even milder. And don’t forget to use some kind of emulsifier before you dissolve the oil in water!
Alternatively, if you want to add your favorite essential oil to your bathwater, use liquid castile soap as an emulsifier. Mix an ounce of it with about ten drops of oil and stir the mixture in your bathtub. That way, the oil will completely dissolve. You won’t have to worry about it floating on top and potentially hurting your skin.
How to Dilute Essential Oil in Diffusers
Some diffusers use pure, undiluted essential oils. But if you have one that requires the oil to be mixed with water, this is how to do it, depending on the amount you need:
- 5 drops for a 100 ml concoction
- 10 drops for a 200 ml solution
- 12 drops should be enough for 300 ml of water
- No more than 20 drops for mixtures of 400 ml and over
Keep in mind that strong scents don’t agree with some people, while others prefer overpowering fragrances. Follow these guidelines, and in time, you will find the right proportion for you.
All in all, essential oil therapy is an excellent way to tackle many common health issues. However, if you don’t know how to use essential oils properly, you can make matters even worse. Hopefully, my guide has helped you grasp how important it is to dilute your favorite essential oils, and how to do it successfully, even with water.