Hindsight is 20/20, they say. Looking back, I made a lot of mistakes when I first started using essential oils.
To make a long story short, one day I found myself in possession of an entire essential oil starter kit of 10 oils, complete with short descriptions of what conditions the oils were typically used to treat.
And that was it. I thought having a diffuser and oils were all I needed. I dropped those bad boy oils into my diffuser that came with the starter kit and happily diffused like there was no tomorrow.
Oops. I made plenty of mistakes in the beginning. Here’s a list of the top mistakes I made as a newbie oil user. I hope you can learn from my mistakes! This post is about common mistakes that new essential oil users often make.
Mistake No. 1: Apply oils directly onto the skin
I must have the skin of an alligator, because I used to place essential oils directly onto my skin for some time until my cousin gave me some coconut carrier oil.
Essential oils are very concentrated and powerful, so applying them directly onto the skin can cause adverse reactions such as redness, irritation, burning, or pain.
The term neat refers to placing essential oils directly onto the skin.
Instead of placing oils directly onto the skin, you should dilute them with carrier oil. Carrier oils are oils that are typically cold-pressed from plant parts such as the kernels, nuts, or seeds.
Usually these oils have a mild or no aroma and are considered fixed oils, so they don’t evaporate quickly the way that essential oils do.
Essential oils are volatile and evaporate more quickly. Carrier oils can help slow down the rate of absorption.
Carrier oils get their name from “carrying” essential oils onto your skin. Diluting essential oils with carrier oils allow you to cover a larger surface area with the essential oil and decrease your chance of experiencing adverse reactions.
Some popular carrier oils include coconut, jojoba, almond, and avocado.
There are some extenuating circumstances in which essential oils can be directly applied onto the skin, but in general, diluting oils in carrier oil is usually the safest course of action.
Figuring out the recommended ratios of carrier oil to essential oil can be tricky. The ratios differ according to various factors and can depend on the type of oil, age of the person, and size of the container.
If you’re looking for some great dilution charts, Essential Oil Haven has some here.
Additionally, Mountain Rose Herbs has a handy dilution calculator here which you can use with different units of measurement.
Mistake No. 2: Diffuse any amount of oils
This mistake dovetails nicely with mistake number one. I used to be pretty ignorant of how much water my diffusers held and how many drops I placed in them.
I just put in however many drops of oil I thought would be nice. Much later, of course, I found out that I was putting in way too much.
Remember, oils are very concentrated, so a little goes a long way. Diffusing too much essential oil in a diffuser can cause reactions such as headaches, dizziness, etc., not to mention overpowering a room with the aroma.
The industry standard usually cited is approximately 3-5 drops of essential oil per 100 mL of water. This does, however, vary depending on the oil used and size of the diffuser which should be adjusted accordingly.
Mistake No. 3: Diffuse for long periods of time
As I mentioned earlier, I used to diffuse my blends and oils for hours and hours, including overnight.
According to the Tisserand Institute, it’s safer and more effective to diffuse intermittently rather than continuously. Essential oil safety expert Robert Tisserand advises the following guidelines:
- Run diffuser for 30-60 minutes,then discontinue it for 30-60 minutes
- If inhaling directly through an inhaler or steam method, inhale for 15-20 minutes only
- Barely noticeable, very low levels of diffusion are okay for any length of time
The reasoning for these recommendations is due to something called olfactory fatigue, or scent habituation.
Continuous and prolonged exposure to aroma molecules causes our olfactory receptors to stop working once they’ve become saturated with the scent molecules.
Additionally, according to Tisserand, there’s evidence that continuous diffusion can lead to our bodies becoming “stressed in various ways.”
Mark Kohoot, founder of Aeroscena, writes that while people “may initially experience a benefit, that benefit will wear off within minutes if the scent stimulus isn’t removed.
Proper application of clinical aromatherapy requires giving the olfactory system the necessary time to “recover” and reset in order for the scent to remain efficacious.”
Mistake No. 4: Use any oil around children
I’m lucky that my firstborn son never experienced any adverse effects when I first started using oils.
My first blend ever recommended to me (and the reason that I purchased that starter kit) was the classic lemon, lavender and peppermint combination believed to help alleviate seasonal allergies.
Peppermint is one of the oils that are not recommended to use around children under a certain age (3 years old according to Robert Tisserand).
Due to the highly concentrated nature of essential oils, the developing bodies of children can have negative reactions to the type and amount of certain oils.
Some oils are not recommended for children under a certain age, and there are specific dilution ratios generally advised for children in certain age ranges.
There are, however, safer oils that can be substituted for those oils that are not recommended for children under a certain age.
This article from Plant Therapy gives an overview of which essential oils are safe for your child and which oils should be avoided.
Mistake No. 5: Neglect to clean your diffuser
I was so guilty of this due to ignorance on my part! And this is still something i need to work on, but that’s probably more because of laziness.
When I don’t clean my diffusers for a while, a certain diffuser starts to look a little bit discolored and grimy where I pour in the oils and water. That’s because the general recommendation is to clean out your diffuser between each use.
I don’t know about you, but that’s kind of a lot of work since I diffuse daily.
However, even if you don’t clean between each use, it’s an excellent idea to clean your diffuser regularly and definitely before the oil residue builds up.
When oil residue builds up, it can cause your diffuser to work inefficiently. Some diffusers might have decreased airflow.
People have reported strange noises coming from their diffuser which went away after a good, thorough cleaning. Residue on the metal sensors can cause the diffuser to not work properly.
Mold can grow and inadvertently become diffused. Buildup can also cause the scent of one oil to interfere with the next oil scent.
One method to clean your diffuser is to simply wipe down the inside and outside with a soft cloth using vinegar or rubbing alcohol and then diffusing a mixture of water and vinegar for several minutes. You can use a q-tip to clean the crevices.
You can find different methods online with specific amounts for the vinegar to water ratio, etc. The Prairie Homestead, in fact, has a nicely detailed method to cleaning diffusers.
My method is much less detailed and specific. You can call it Mylinh’s lazy method.
I simply fill the diffuser with some water, pour a little vinegar in it, let it sit for a while, diffuse it for about 10 minutes, and then pour out that mixture. I then wipe down the inside and outside with a cloth.
I’ve learned a lot since I first began my journey with oils. How about you? What were some of the mistakes you made as a new user to essential oils?