Make Your Own Cosmetics: Essential Oil Safety

Essential Oil Safety and Handling


Always keep essential oils in a locked cupboard away from children.

Used correctly essential oils are very safe, mainly because when used correctly they are used in extremely tiny amounts. Never use more essential oil than stated in the recipes. When used in the wrong dilutions they can produce adverse effects. Certain oils should never be used under any circumstances.

Oils to Avoid Completely: Aniseed, Arnica, Bitter Almond, Bitter Fennel, Camphor, Cassia, Cinnamon Bark, Dwarf Pine, Elecampane, Horseradish, Hyssop, Mustard, Origanum, Pennyroyal, Rue, Sage, Sassafras, Savin, Savory (winter and summer), Sourthernwood, Tansy, Thuja, Wintergreen, Wormseed, Wormwood.

Some oils should be avoided in certain circumstances –

Pregnancy: Essential oils should never be used in the first 3 months of pregnancy. Mandarin is the only oil recommended for the remainder of the pregnancy.

Epilepsy: Avoid Sweet fennel and Rosemary.

General Skin Irritants: Some oils can irritate the skin so are not recommended for people with very sensitive skin – Basil, Black pepper, Clove, Ginger, Lemon, Lemongrass, Melissa, Orange, Peppermint, Thyme, Tea tree.

Photosensitisation: Some oils make the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet light and should be avoided before exposure to the sun or before going on a sun bed – Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Sweet Orange, Mandarin.

Homeopathic Remedies: If you are taking homeopathic remedies, it is important to check with your provider before using essential oils.

Allergies: If you are prone to allergies, a skin test is recommended. Rub one drop of diluted essential oil into the crook of the arm or behind the ear, leave for 24 hours. If there is no reaction it is probably safe for you to use it diluted.

Buying and Storing Essential Oils

When buying essential oils the bottle should state the Latin name of the oil and preferably the date it should be used by. The bottle should be dark to avoid light affecting the oil and it should be sealed.

Storing Essential Oils

  • Essential oils should be stored:
  • Out of reach of children
  • Away from extremes of temperature, heat will evaporate them and cold will affect their composition
  • In dark glass bottles to protect the oil from ultraviolet light. Do not buy or store oils in plastic bottles as plastic affects the molecular structure of the oil
  • In tightly sealed bottles to protect from evaporating and to avoid contact with air which can change their composition.


Handling Essential Oils

  • Keep products away from delicate eye areas. If an accident occurs and neat essential oil gets into the eye, flush the eye with cold full fat milk or vegetable oil to dilute.
  • If an accident occurs with diluted oil flush with clean warm water. If stinging is still present seek immediate medical help.


  • Keep products away from naked flames or sources of ignition.


  • Never use an undiluted essential oil directly on the skin. Always dilute in a suitable base product. Lavender and Tea Tree can be used neat in very small amounts, 1-2 drops, but not on a regular basis.


  • When adding essential oils to bath water, dilute the oil first in a small amount of full fat milk or dispersing bath oil base.


  • Adapted from: An Introductory Guide to Aromatherapy by Louise Tucker & the Aromystique website.

One thought on “Make Your Own Cosmetics: Essential Oil Safety

  1. Wow, I’ve been doing it all wrong :/
    I learned my lesson not to overuse or ‘disregard’ quantity indications one horrific night in the bath. I don’t remember if its base was aniseed per se, but it is definitely in that liquorice-scented category of oils. I either used too much, or didn’t think to swish the bath water around first before getting in. Or possibly both. 10 minutes into my relaxing bath time, my legs started to burn. Then my arms. Then I realized I needed to drain the water and flush with something – anything – without essential oils in it, and PRONTO. My skin did not bubble or chafe, but boy, was I red and splotchy for a few hours after I safely got out of the rinse water!

    I’ve also kept some essential oils and a carrier oil in a cupboard that has very little insulation toward the exterior of the house. This means, in winter it may have gotten too cold for them without my realizing it 😦 I plan to start using them again, but what signs should I look for, to know if they’ve been temperature-damaged?

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