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How to use essential oils

Alvina Wang/BestReviews

Choosing the best essential oils for your needs

Essential oils are highly concentrated botanical extracts made from the flowers, leaves and stems of plants. Essential oils have a host of medicinal and therapeutic properties and can help achieve various health and beauty goals. Aromatherapy and topical application are the most popular ways to use essential oils to improve skin, treat congestion, relieve stress, promote relaxation and much more. We'll guide you through how to use essential oils and how to choose the best essential oil for your needs.

Shop this article: tea tree essential oilultrasonic aromatherapy diffuser and wool laundry balls

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are aromatic compounds extracted from plants through distillation or cold pressing. The oil contains the unique “essence” and characteristic aroma of the plant.

Some view essential oils as powerful botanical medicines with immense and limitless benefits. In contrast, others simply enjoy the pleasant, relaxing qualities essential oils bring into a home through diffusion and other modes of use.

Essential oils and their uses

Lavender essential oil is excellent for relieving stress and promoting relaxation. You can also spray it on your pillow or add it to your bath to help you fall asleep faster. 

Tea tree essential oil is widely used for its antiseptic properties. You can also use it as an acne treatment. Apply directly to pimples with a cotton swab to reduce the appearance of blemishes and promote healing. Plus, it'll freshen your breath when gargled with water. 

Eucalyptus essential oil is often used for topical pain relief as well as for decongestion. Diffuse a small amount of eucalyptus oil in a diffuser when struggling with a cold or allergies to find relief from nasal congestion. When gargled with water, it also combats bad breath.

Peppermint essential oil is also often used for cold and flu prevention and treatment, as it’s a natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial oil. You can also add a bit of peppermint oil to your temples to energize, promote memory and stay awake when studying, for example. It can also freshen your breath when gargled with water. Peppermint oil should always be diluted with a carrier oil when applied to the skin (we discuss carrier oils later on in this article).

Bergamot essential oil is often used to promote smooth skin and can be added to a carrier oil and applied directly to your face for this purpose.

Rosemary essential oil is typically used to stimulate hair growth when applied to the scalp. It also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Rosemary should always be diluted with a carrier oil.

Vanilla essential oil has a warm and sweet scent, making it a favorite for many users. It has a calming effect on the brain, promotes skin and hair health and even relieves muscle pain and cramps. Once diluted with a carrier oil, you can blend a few drops into your shampoo or conditioner, an unscented candle or apply it directly on your body.

Cedarwood essential oil has a relaxing woodsy scent, with anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antibacterial properties that can treat irritated skin, acne and eczema when applied topically. It also prevents mildew development and repels insects when combined with water and used as a spray.

Lemongrass essential oil has skin benefits similar to cedarwood and improves digestion when used internally. This essential oil should be diluted with a carrier oil when applied topically.


Frankincense essential oil has a sweet and woody scent with mood-boosting and sedating effects. It can also improve breathing by clearing up your nasal passages and relieving congestion. It can be applied topically or used as a pillow spray after dilution with a carrier oil.

Rose essential oil promotes skin elasticity and lubrication, making it particularly useful for treating dry, sensitive or aging skin. You can apply it undiluted to your moisturizer or use it in a facial steam treatment.

Cinnamon essential oil has a potent scent and offers a host of skin care benefits, including calming dry skin, minimizing acne, rashes and certain infections, and improving skin tone. It can also relieve aches and pains, increase energy and boost your mood. Simply add a drop to a facial steamer or essential oil diffuser.

Geranium essential oil has skin care applications similar to cinnamon and cedarwood oils. It also supports mental health, promotes healthy urination, and helps control yeast infections. You can inhale it using a diffuser or apply it to the skin diluted with a carrier oil.

Jasmine essential oil, featuring a sweet and rich floral scent, is particularly popular for its mood-boosting qualities. The oil can also help with congestion, and its sedative effects are great for treating insomnia and other sleep issues. You can add it undiluted to a facial steamer or aromatherapy bath, or apply it with a carrier oil directly onto the skin.

Orange essential oil has a pleasant citrusy scent that's both uplifting and relaxing. It can brighten your mood, reduce inflammation and enhance circulation. You can dilute it with a carrier oil for topical application or add it to a facial steamer.

Ginger essential oil has a soothing effect on both the mood and body. It helps to heal infections, improve digestion and alleviate upset stomach, as well as support heart health. It can be diluted with a carrier oil and applied topically or put in an essential oil diffuser.

Citronella essential oil is proven to prevent the growth and spread of airborne bacteria, repel insects and have an uplifting effect on your mood. After diluting it with a carrier oil, you can mix it into your skin or spray it on your clothes and hair.

Grapefruit essential oil, similar to orange oil, has a naturally uplifting scent that can improve your mood. It has natural antibacterial properties, boosts circulation, decreases inflammation and relieves stress. It can also reduce sugar cravings and assist with weight loss. Dilute it with a carrier oil for topical applications or mix it with water to drink.

Patchouli essential oil has a powerful and enticing scent that is both calming and uplifting. It alleviates pain and inflammation, reduces the appearance of wrinkles and blemishes and is a natural insecticide. You can add a few drops to your daily moisturizer or apply it directly to the skin.

Sage essential oil naturally boosts your mood, has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects, improves digestion and lowers blood pressure. It even freshens your breath. Dilute it with a carrier oil for skin application, add it to a facial steamer or gargle with water.

Thyme essential oil purifies the skin and has a hot, soothing effect when applied topically for muscle pain relief; for both applications, you should combine it with carrier oil. When ingested with water, it promotes healthy digestion and reduces bloating. You can also gargle it for fresher breath.

Clove essential oil smoothes out your skin, boosts your immune system, supports gut, heart, liver and bone health and fights bad breath. It should be diluted with carrier oil for topical use or ingested with water.

Oregano essential oil is a powerful antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal agent that also improves digestion. You can apply it directly to the skin with carrier oil or add a few drops to water for ingestion.

Myrrh essential oil was traditionally used for treating minor wounds and infections. It naturally cleanses and improves the appearance of your skin, and also reduces bad breath. It should be diluted with a carrier oil for skin applications or taken with water.

How to use essential oils for aromatherapy

The most common way to use essential oils is to add them to an essential oil diffuser for aromatherapy.

Essential oil diffusers spray essential oils into the air as a breathable mist and come in various styles. Use an ultrasonic aromatherapy diffuser to get the most benefit out of your essential oils. 

Follow your diffuser’s instructions for use. Generally, you’ll operate your diffuser by filling the tank with water and adding up to 20 drops of essential oil to the water before turning on your diffuser.

How to use essential oils topically

Another popular way to use essential oils is to apply them topically and allow them to absorb into the skin.

You can apply essential oils to most parts of your body, barring sensitive areas. Some of the best places to apply essential oils are on your wrists, the tops of your feet, on your neck and behind your ears.

Any time you plan to apply essential oils to your skin, it’s important to use a carrier oil. A carrier oil is a neutral, plant-based oil that holds your essential oils. Common carrier oils include coconut oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil, sunflower seed oil, almond oil and jojoba oil

Diluting essential oils in a carrier oil is crucial because it makes a skin reaction less likely and allows essential oils to work better. Essential oils on their own tend to evaporate before your body has time to absorb the molecules present in the oil. A carrier oil slows down the process of evaporation.

When diluting essential oils, aim for a ratio of about 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil. You store your mixture of essential oil and carrier oil in a rollerball bottle.

How to use essential oils in the bath

Adding essential oils directly to your bath water is a great way to incorporate essential oils into your self-care routine to unwind, relax and get ready for bed.

Another way to use essential oils in the bath is to buy bath products that contain essential oils. For example, you can get tea tree oil shampoo, lavender Epsom salts or an essential oil shower steamer

Other essential oil uses

Add a few drops of your favorite essential oils or essential oil blend to wool laundry balls. Laundry balls replace dryer sheets and are better for the planet, more cost-effective and will make your clothes smell like whatever you want them to.

You can easily create your own cleaning products and sprays with essential oils. To create a disinfecting surface spray, mix together 1 cup water, ½ cup white vinegar, ½ tablespoon baking soda and at least five drops of your essential oil of choice. Store your cleaning products and air sprays in a glass bottle set. Use with reusable rags for zero-waste cleaning.

Make your own fluffy whipped body butter by combining ¾ cup cocoa butter with ¼ cup coconut oil and 20 drops of your favorite essential oil or a blend. Melt the butter and oil in a double boiler or bowl and then, once melted, let harden in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Remove the mixture from the freezer and whip for about five minutes with a hand mixer. Store in a glass jar.

How do I use essential oils safely?

Essential oils are mostly safe to use, but there are guidelines you should follow. Remember that everyone’s reaction to a particular plant oil is different, and you should consult your doctor before you use a new health or beauty product.

Start with a drop

Essential oils are incredibly potent, and you should always use less than you think you need when you’re beginning to experiment with them. One or two drops are often more than enough for most purposes.


Even though some essential oils are labeled for direct application to the skin, it’s always a good idea to play it safe and dilute essential oils before you place them on your skin. We recommend carrier oil for this purpose.

If you’ve applied an essential oil to your skin and are experiencing skin irritation or another reaction, apply vegetable oil to the affected area to relieve the effects.

Read the label carefully

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on your essential oil’s label. Some essential oils are safe for direct topical application, while some may be irritating.

Where not to apply oils

Never apply oils inside your eyes, ears, nose or other sensitive areas.

Who shouldn’t use oils

Many essential oils aren’t safe for use around children under the age of 5, so practice extreme caution when determining which, if any, oils to use around children.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women shouldn’t consume or dispense essential oils in the air without a doctor’s approval.

Never apply essential oils directly to pets, as the oils can have extremely irritating effects on animals’ skin and may lead to injuries. Some essential oils that are safe for humans are toxic for pets, so you must consult a veterinarian before diffusing any oil in a home with pets.

What you need to buy to use essential oils

Vitruvi Ceramic Ultrasonic Essential Oil Diffuser

This is a high-quality porcelain essential oil diffuser with a matte ceramic finish that looks elegant and uses ultrasonic technology to diffuse essential oils without heat. It has a very sleek design, a long run time and an automatic shut-off.

Lagunamoon Essential Oils Set of 6

This option is a great starter set of the six most popular essential oils. It comes with lemongrass, peppermint, orange, lavender, eucalyptus and tea tree essential oils. Use with a diffuser or apply topically with a carrier oil.

TJ. Moree Bamboo Diffuser Holder Carousel

Keep your essential oils neat and on display in this aesthetically pleasing wood-crafted carousel. It looks great on an end table or shelf and also has diffuser storage on top.

Prices listed reflect time and date of publication and are subject to change.

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