You’re told essential oils are natural and pure enough to be used on your baby without dilution. Before you slather your infant with essential oils, I want to explain why that is not recommended, and offer you some safe alternatives. Keep reading!
Why You Want to Avoid Using Undiluted Essential Oils on Your Babies
Applying “neat” (undiluted) essential oils to the skin can cause a variety of adverse reactions including redness and irritation.
For infants and young children it is even more important to properly dilute essential oils. Not only do they have thinner and more sensitive skin, a young child’s immature immune system is less able to deal with such strong products applied to the skin, or even inhaled. Most aromatherapists do not recommend any topical use for children under the age of two. Hydrosols and herbs are better options for babies and most children under the age of two, or even six.
The method in which essential oils are made makes them a very concentrated product. Once ounce of essential oil might have come from literally tons of plant matter. Diluting an essential oil before applying to the skin provides a measure of protection against adverse reactions, as well as enhances the absorption and effectiveness of the essential oil once applied to the skin.
The amount to dilute depends on a number of factors. These factors include the age of the child, the essential oil, and the purpose for applying to the skin.
To dilute, add the essential oil, usually counted by drops, to a carrier, typically measured by teaspoons, tablespoons, or ounces.
You can find a dilution chart here: Properly Diluting Essential Oils.
A carrier can be an oil, a lotion, aloe vera, or when added to a bath, epsom salts or fatty milk. Carrier oils have therapeutic properties as well, and can enhance the therapeutic properties of the essential oils you are using. For example, avovado oil does well in a blend make for helping to heal scars due to its cell regenerating properties. Coconut oil is a good choice for sensitive skin and is full of essential fatty acids (EFAs). Trauma oil is excellent for an analgesic blend because it is made from the infusion of arnia, calendula, and St. John’s Wort herbs. Read all about carriers here: What Carriers to Use.
What an Adverse Reaction Might Look Like
If you apply an essential oil without dilution, or if you don’t dilute enough, you might notice some changes in the skin. Some of these changes could be redness, irritation, itching, or in the case of some essential oils when exposed to sunlight, phototoxicity.
Sensitization, a delayed-sensitivity reaction involving the immune system, is a more serious adverse reaction that is not immediately present. Just as common as irritation and redness, sensitization is more serious as it is virtually irreversible. More and more people are developing sensitization due to the undiluted use of essential oils. Babies, the elderly, those with sensitive skin and skin issues such as dermatitis and eczema are most prone to sensitization.
If you have used “neat” (undiluted) essential oils on your baby before, don’t panic.
Sensitization can happen at any time. It can be the third application, or the thirtieth. If you have been applying essential oils neat to your child, now is the time to stop so irreversible damage doesn’t happen. Essential oils are more effective when used in small amounts, and your bottle will last far longer, too.
Essential Oils to Avoid Using on Babies and Children
Some essential oils are not safe to use on young children. Some essential oils that should be avoided using topically on children under age two are:
- Clove Bud, Clove Leaf, Clove Stem
Essential oils that should be avoided using topically on kids under age six:
- Ho Leaf/Ravintsara
- Spanish Marjoram
Essential Oils Safe to Use on Children
With proper dilution, these essential oils are safe to use on children, preferably over age two:
- German Chamomile
- most Pines
- Sweet Orange
- Tea Tree
For more information, read Essential Oils and Children.
Where to Buy Essential Oils & Learn More About How to Use Them Safely
The author of this post, Lea Harris, is a certified clinical aromatherapist who offers thoughtful, well-researched, and unbiased information about essential oils on her site Learning About Essential Oils. She is not affiliated with any essential oil brand or company, and she’s generously agreed to create this series of posts for us Food Renegades to help educate us about essential oil safety.
(You should click here to read the full series.)
You may purchase essential oils locally, or you can buy them online.
(You should click here to see my preferred brand of essential oils.)
Thanks, Lea, for sharing this post with us!
(photo by nomadic_lass)
Epson Salts isn’t a carrier because once the salt dissolves the oil isn’t diluted. If you want to mix with ES then you should add carrier oil to it as well. I assume that’s on Lea’s site because myfriend who’s working on becoming a clinical aromatherapist often quotes Lea’s site as well.
Thanks for this! Wish I had it a month ago! Learned the hard way! Put undiluted garlic oil on my husband’s face for sinus infection…WOW! He was on fire and none too happy with me! Just fyi; I immediately did baking soda and raw milk, that helped, but what finally stopped the burning was raw honey, which is usually hard, but just happened that I had a different brand that was very liquidy and easy to use! A lifesaver! One more thing, if your readers want to see a great documentary, go see “The DropBox” or watch the trailer, as it is only showing for a short time. It is so moving! God bless!
I get so nervous when I hear about people putting peppermint on their little ones! Freaks me out. Thank you for sharing. I was wondering though, is peppermint ok in a blend?
So many of the teething oils contain clove essential oil ….. so we used that for my son’s entire infant and toddler years and he’s just 2 now! What should we have used instead for teething? Good to know for future kids! Thank you! 🙂
Sara Rainstorm via Facebook says
So many of the teething oils contain clove essential oil ….. so we used that for my son’s entire infant and toddler years and he’s just 2 now! What should we have used instead for teething? Good to know for future kids! Thank you! This is the one we used: http://www.amazon.com/Herbs-Kids-Gum-Omile-Oil-Ounce/dp/B00125XBXK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426136423&sr=8-1&keywords=gumomile
Maggie Mahboubian says
For teething pain I would avoid any and all eo’s. What I did was allow my baby to chew on my iced finger while I massaged her gums. I would avoid those plastic teethers that can be popped in the freezer unless known to be BPA free.
Really important to get the message out about how to use EO’s properly, and that’s not just for babies.
I appreciate the great info here and I will be sharing it in the many Facebook mom groups I am a part of. You don’t mention anything about diffusing oils. I co-sleep and diffuse only oils that are found on baby-safe lists. Is that safe for my 16 month old?
Ally @OmNomAlly says
Thank you for this very important post. I’m always asked at work about using essential oils on the skin – many people are really, truly unaware of how dangerous these products can be. Many people believe that as they are natural, that means they are safe on the skin, or ingested. Scary stuff! Have pinned and bookmarked the article so I can recommend it in the future for educational purposes 🙂
Am I the only person who is totally essential oil free? I’m surprised they are so commonly accepted. Even if I didn’t doubt the safety (even diluted, even for adults), I would avoid them for being so unsustainable to produce.
Tina at Mommynificent says
I’ve noticed you’ve recommended using hydrosols rather than oils for babies several times, but I can’t find any recommendations for what I should be looking for in a hydrosol. Any thoughts or specific recommendations of brands or places to buy (affiliate links would be great!) would be very appreciated! Thank you!
Tina at Mommynificent says
Also, is there a difference between Roman chamomile and German chamomile? I assume so, but I thought I’d ask.
Connie M Estling says
What is your concern on young living oils. Are they as pure as they claim? Thanks for any insight.
suggest some good essential oil to fight chest congestion n seasonal allergy in young children between the age of 10 to 15
gaultheria essential oil says
Hi! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group?
There’s a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your
content. Please let me know. Cheers