Q.Can I Use Essential Oils Undiluted/Neat?

Undiluted or “neat” application is the use of essential oils applied directly to the skin without a carrier or base oil. In general, undiluted application is only applied in a specific localized area, most commonly for acute conditions, treatment work, or for reflex/acupressure work.  The undiluted application of essential oils is a highly controversial topic within the aromatherapy industry. Leading authors and educators all differ in their opinions and usually can be found in one of two camps—those who believe the undiluted application of essential oils is extremely beneficial and indeed called upon under specific circumstances and those who believe that essential oils should absolutely not be placed on the skin undiluted and that doing so is not only extremely hazardous but also unprofessional. Like internal use, the pendulum swings from one extreme to the other without providing an appropriate context of when and why this is SOMETIMES appropriate.

Can I Use Essential Oils Undiluted/Neat?

The safest rule of thumb is to never use any essential oils in their undiluted form. Some individuals may experience severe sensitivity when the oils are applied topically to their bodies neat. Some of the essential oils you should never apply neat include peppermint, cinnamon, lemongrass, citronella, cloves, thyme, and more.

Many aromatherapy practitioners believe that only the following essential oils should be used undiluted: Lavandula angustifolia, Melaleuca alternifolia, Helichrysum italicum and Chamaemelum nobile. Given the list provided, it would make sense that many other essential oils of similar chemical make-up should also be considered safe for undiluted application when done under proper conditions by a trained and knowledgeable therapist or individual.

Undiluted Application May Be Appropriate For The Following Acute Conditions:

Acne (spot treatment)

Cold sore (sandalwood or geranium works great!)

Minor burn (although I have actually found lavender or cape chamomile in aloe vera gel works much better!)

Minor skin trauma or infection

Insect bites

Migraines (acute)

Bruises (acute – when it first happens, applying Helichrysum italicum and/or Matricaria recutita can be incredibly beneficial!)

Musculoskeletal trauma (e.g. whip lash: think Helichyrsum italicum and/or Matricaria recutita)

Reflex or acupressure work

Ear infections (just behind ear and on reflex points associated to the ears on the feet)

Specific essential oils that tend to be safe to apply undiluted include tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) **Be sure it has not oxidized!, lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum), Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), rose (Rosa damascena), and sandalwood (Santalum album or Santalum spicatum), Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata or globulus), Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis), etc. etc.  It is important to only use a small amount (1 to 2 drops) of essential oil. Other essential oils may be used for reflex or acupressure points, however care should be taken in selecting essential oils, and essential oils that can be irritating, sensitizing, or are rich in aldehydes or phenols should be avoided all together for undiluted application due to dermal irritation or sensitization which may occur.

Safety note: Some individuals within the aromatherapy profession are quick to point out that it would seem to be more prudent to err on the side of caution due to the litigious society in which we live. From the author’s point of view, we have included undiluted application because it has some valid uses, however it is up to the individual practitioner to decide whether this method of application is right for them and/or their client.

Please note that we are not advocating the wide spread usage of undiluted essential oils, but rather simply to find a middle ground. It is not never apply undiluted NOR is it to apply undiluted essential oils with abandon. One must always have a purpose, a reason for doing so that is based upon the safety of the individual essential oils being utilized.