How To: Use Essential Oils And Where To Apply Them For Maximum Results


Essential oils are one of those things that I firmly believe everyone should have on hand at all times. Sure, they can seem a little expensive up front (especially if you get into the more unconventional ones), but it’s definitely a ‘money well spent’ situation when you consider everything that they can be used for! Between making your home smell fresh, pain relief, weight loss, skin care, and more, there’s almost nothing these powerful little bottles full of oil can’t help you out with!

We’ve already made a bunch of posts about a variety of ways to use essential oils for a variety of ailments, but all of that information isn’t going to do you much good if you don’t know a few key things: Mainly, where and how to use the oils. That’s what we’re going to be talking about today. We’re also going to briefly touch on the actual process of diluting them (because although I’ve mentioned that you need to almost every time an article is posted, I don’t think I’ve ever explained how to actually go about it).

The Basics Of Essential Oil Use

What You Need To Know

Essential oils are incredibly potent and often end up being more powerful than you’d expect. Because of this, you’ll want to err on the side of caution when using them. And although some of them are able to be applied neat (which we’ll talk more about in just a second), most of them can’t. A good rule of thumb here is that if you’re not sure, you’re best to apply the oil with a carrier and/or use another method to get the benefits.

Please keep in mind while you’re reading this that although it covers most of the basics, I’m not an aromatherapist by any means. If you want to know more about essential oils and their uses, you should either consult one or invest in a book or two that goes into greater detail than this article does. There are a ton of them available on the market, but this one is my personal favorite.

How To Use Essential Oils

Various Methods For Using Essential Oils

In a Diffuser

Essential oil diffuserI really enjoy this method because it can actually save you some money (since you’ll only be using a drop or two). There are diffusers available to match every style out there – From plain to bright and colorful and everything in between.

I actually received this one as a gift for Christmas this year, and although it takes up a little more space than the last one I had, I think that it works better. It’s also super quiet (which is exactly what you want when you’re battling the cold from hell and all you want to do is sleep until it’s gone) and shuts itself off once it’s run out of water (meaning I didn’t need to wake up in the middle of the night and/or worry about it burning out).

To use a diffuser, all you need to do is fill it with water and add a couple of drops of essential oil. The oil (and mist) will be released into the air and you’ll get the benefits that way. They’re super portable too, so they can easily be taken to a hotel or office.


Steam inhalationThis is probably the easiest way to get the benefits of your essential oils, and it’s also very cost effective (It’s also helpful if you’re someone that would like to get the benefits of the oils without needing to walk around smelling like whatever one(s) you used).

The quick way is to get a piece of Kleenex, a cotton ball, or even a piece of cotton material (I’m not a huge fan of wastefulness, so I cut up a t-shirt and use a piece of it for each respective oil). Then all you need to do is put a drop or two of your oil onto whatever you’ve chosen and inhale deeply a few times.

You can also bring a pot of water to a boil, take it off the stove and add 3-5 drops of an essential oil. Then get your head close to the hot water and cover it with a large towel to trap all the steam coming out of the pot. This method works wonders to clear congestion during colds and flu, but also to treat sinusitis (eucalyptus and oregano essential oils are amazing for this purpose, by the away).

You should start to feel the effects almost immediately. Alternatively you can just open the bottle and inhale from there, but I find (personally) that the above mentioned methods work better.

With A Carrier Oil

Diluting essential oilsThis is probably the most common way to use essential oils. In addition to your favorite essential oil, you’re also going to need a carrier oil – It should be unrefined (think cold-pressed) and organic if at all possible.

I use coconut oil myself (of course), but if you’re not a fan of the scent or greasiness that this type of carrier oil is pretty famous for, you could use one of these instead:

– Jojoba

– Olive

– Avocado

– Almond

– Grapeseed


To use essential oils with a carrier oil, all you need to do is put a bit of the carrier oil in your hand, add a couple of drops of the essential oil(s) to it, and rub into your skin. Some essential (and carrier) oils can stain your clothing, so if you’re planning to apply the concoction somewhere that clothing is going to touch, you’re going to want to let it absorb and dry completely before you get dressed (this also helps to ensure that you’re not losing some of the benefits to your favorite blouse).

In A Detox Bath

Detox bathIs there anything more relaxing in the world than a nice, hot bath? Sure there is! All you need to do is add an essential oil or two and transform your bathing experience into a detoxing one.

But there’s a method to it: We all learned in primary school that oil and water don’t mix, which means that if you just go and throw a few drops into your bathwater (unless you happen to be using one of the few oils that can be applied neat, of course), there’s a good chance that you’ll end up with irritated skin (and there’s nothing relaxing about that, is there?). There are a couple of things that you can do to ensure that your detox bath is super pleasant:

Mix your essential oils with some Epsom salts. This is the method I use – Simply take the Epsom salts you’re planning to use (usually a few cups) and put a few drops of essential oils in them. Mix them around to give the magnesium crystals a chance to soak up the oil and dump into the bath. The entire washroom will smell amazing almost immediately!

Use a carrier oil. If you don’t have Epsom salts on hand, this works too – Mix a couple of drops of you essential oil(s) with a carrier oil and use that in the bath instead. The oil will still sit on top of the water, but since the carrier oil is there as well, the risk of skin irritation is next to nada (though I’d do a skin test if you have sensitive skin just to be sure. I don’t). If you’re going to choose to go this route, steer clear of coconut oil unless you’re cool with someday needing to pay a hefty plumbing bill (unrefined coconut oil is solid at temperatures below 24 degrees Celsius. Your bathwater might be super nice and warm, but once you’ve let it down the drain it’s going to cool off and solidify again). Bonus: Adding a carrier oil means that you’ll emerge from the bath with super soft skin!

If you’d like to know more about all of the wonderful benefits of taking detox baths (plus a couple of recipes to get you started) check out this article we published last year.


I’ve left this one until the end because there are so few oils that can actually be used this way (aka without a carrier oil). Lavender is usually mild enough to be applied by itself, but if you’re someone that has sensitive skin you’re going to want to do a patch test before going all out. If you do a patch test and you find that the oil you’re using gives you a reaction (this is true for any method), do not rinse it off with water (it’ll just make the oil absorb into your skin faster and make the reaction worse). Instead, apply copious amounts of your chosen carrier oil to dilute it and wipe off of your skin with a towel (one that you don’t care about too much – oil stains sometimes don’t come out).

You may have also read somewhere that other oils can be applied neat in order to receive maximum benefits, or even taken internally with water. That may be true, but since I’m not certified to recommend these things I’m not even going to touch on those subjects. If that’s something that you’re interested in, I strongly suggest that you consult with someone that’s qualified to teach you how to do it the right way (remember how we talked about the potency of essential oils? It’s 100% possible to overdose on them. Please be careful).

Where To Apply The Oils

Topical use for essential oilsInhalation is the fastest method for getting the essential oils into your system (and eucalyptus will be your best friend when you have a cold and use this method), but some people just prefer to wear them on their skin for scent as much as the benefits. There are a few different places that you can apply the essential oils to in order to get the benefits:

– Outside or behind your ears (this is the second fastest method of absorption behind inhalation).

– The affected area (For example, apply to your abdomen if you’re experiencing cramps or to your knee if you’re suffering pain there).

– Your temples.

– Your wrists or neck (this is especially for those of you that want to experience the scent more than anything. It sticks around longer than any perfume too in my experience).

– The nape of your neck (this works well if you have a headache that’s starting to make its way into your shoulders).

You’ll read in a bunch of placed that the feet are another good area to apply the oils for maximum absorption, but here’s the thing – While the pores on your feet are larger, they’re also sweat pored (meaning that they don’t absorb oil/moisture easily. That’s why so many people constantly need to deal with dry feet).

Regardless of where you choose to apply the oils, always remember to keep an eye out for detox reactions (headache, sweating, nausea, etc.). If you experience a reaction of any sort, either dilute the essential oil(s) more or discontinue use altogether.


Because I’m not a certified aromatherapist, I’m not going to touch on using essential oils for babies/children. If that’s something that you’re interested in, speak to a qualified professional. Here are the ratios for adults:

For Daily Use: 2 – 3 drops of EO to a teaspoon of carrier oil.

For Sensitive Skin: 1 – 2 drops of EO per teaspoon of carrier oil.

Please keep in mind that these are generalizations and every body is different. A good rule of thumb to follow is that the smaller the person, the less EO you’re going to need. Again, watch for detox reactions and adjust accordingly – You know your body better than anyone.

Photosensitive Oils

Essential oilThere are a few oils that react to sunlight. Take care that you only apply these oils to a place that’s going to be covered up if you plan on heading out in the sun:

– Angelica

– Bergamot

– Citrus Hystrix

– Cumin

– Dill

– German Chamomile

– Ginger

– Grapefruit

– Hinoki

– Lemon

– Lime

– Limette

– Mandarin

– Orange

– Tangerine

– Yuzu

Exposing these oils to the sun can cause a rash, discoloration or pigmentation of your skin, and might even burn you. Please take care when using them.

What’s your favorite way to apply essential oils? What are your favorite ones (or blends)? We always love to hear about our readers’ personal experiences, so please let us know in the comments section below.

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