A Complete Guide to Diluting Essential Oils

Essential Oils are the 'essence' of plants and plant parts. The essential oil contains many medicinal, aromatic and flavor related properties of the plant or plant parts from which it is extracted. Which is why essential oils find a variety of medicinal, wellness, beauty and aroma uses. Some of the popular essential oils are Tea Tree oil, Lavender oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Lemongrass oil while there are hundreds of essential oils being used throughout the world.

Essentials Oils are generally extracted by the process of distillation from the plant and in some cases use other methods of extraction as well like expression extraction, cold pressing, solvent extraction, wax embedding, resin tapping etc. Essential oils find use in a variety of ways. Different essential oils find their use in the following popular ways

  1. For use as a beauty ingredient for several DIY recipes for skin and hair care
  2. For use in specific skin and hair related issues and diseases
  3. As an ingredient in commercially manufactured beauty products
  4. For use in fragrances
  5. For use in aromatherapy at home, office or in spas
  6. For use in home cleaning, insect repelling etc.

All these uses need different and appropriate recipes and dilution. Pure essential oils are a highly concentrated form of the extract and hence are very potent. They cannot be used without dilution. If the usage is topical, one needs to prepare a really diluted solution with a suitable medium, usually a base oil like coconut oil, castor oil, almond oil, sesame oil, olive oil etc (also called carrier oils). Improper use of essential oils may trigger allergic reactions, skin irritation and even worse reactions. Also, generally speaking, essential oils should not be consumed internally nor by children, pets, pregnant and nursing mothers or by people undergoing serious a medical issue or treatment.

Read on to understand the way to dilute different essential oils for different purposes.

Do All Essential Oils Needs to be Diluted?

Essential Oils are highly concentrated extracts, so it is necessary to dilute them before use. Essential oils are usually used in the following ways and in a diluted manner in each of these cases:

  1. Topical regular use for skin, hair & scalp.
  2. Topical use for a particular pain point/concern area e.g. a joint pain or a concentrated infection of the skin.
  3. Home Use as Diffuser
  4. Home Use as Cleaner, Spray etc.

Regular topical use is most diluted whereas a short-term use on a small area of concern can have a slightly higher concentration. Non-topical use can have a slightly higher concentration too e.g. uses for home fragrance, cleaning/disinfecting or use for insect repelling etc.

Benefits of Diluting Essential Oils

Diluting Essential Oils with a Carrier Oil has its own added benefits:

  • Carrier Oil increases the healing powers of Essential Oils as carrier oil makes it easier for the essential oils to absorb on the skin. Read here about the wonderful ways in which essential oils benefit the skin.
  • Dilution decreases the chances of skin irritation or any allergic reactions, sensitization, and phototoxicity. Dilution helps to avoid systemic toxicity- fetotoxicity, hepatotoxicity, carcinogenicity, and neurotoxicity.
  • Concentrated essential oils may evaporate off your skin as they are volatile organic compounds and you may not be able to enjoy the full benefit of the essential oil.

Which Oils Can You Use to Dilute Essential Oil?

Dilution of Essential Oil with other regular oils i.e Carrier Oils is the most popular way of diluting essential oil for most of their uses. Here are some easily available carrier oils you can choose for dilution:

1. Olive Oil

Olive OilAlways make sure to use Virgin Olive Oil as it is cold pressed and minimally processed. Olive Oil nourishes the skin making it hydrated. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants, thus has healing properties. This makes Olive Oil a good choice as Carrier Oil.

2. Coconut Oil

Coconut OilVirgin Coconut Oil acts as an excellent Carrier Oil has it is rich in antioxidants, because of which it has got healing properties. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties which help to keep skin ailments at bay. Benefits of coconut oil on hair and health are many. It is easily absorbed by the skin. It prevents oxidation and helps to increase the shelf life of your essential oil. Diluting Essential Oil with coconut oil increase its benefits many folds.

3. Sweet Almond Oil

Sweet Almond Oil

Sweet Almond Oil nourishes the skin and is readily absorbed by the skin. Sweet Almond Oil is rich in Vitamin A and E and is excellent for dry skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Massage with Sweet Almond Oil rejuvenates the skin and helps in skin relaxation. Its hypoallergenic properties make it very effective in treating sensitive skin. Sweet Almond Oil is a rich source of protein, Vitamin A and E which helps in making the skin soft and radiant.

4. Jojoba Oil

Jojoba OilJojoba Oil gets absorbed by the skin easily, thus acts as a good carrier oil. It helps to keep the skin moisturized. Jojoba Oil is rich in ceramide, a substance which covers the skin cell. Jojoba Oil acts as a protective barrier between your skin and external pollutants like dust, dirt and smoke. Jojoba Oil does not clog the pores and is effective in treating acne-prone skin by regulating the production oil by sebaceous glands. Being rich in Vitamin E and B-complex, it is very beneficial for healing the sun damaged skin.

5. Avocado Oil

Avocado OilAvocado Oil is loaded with antioxidants, essential fatty acids, beta-carotene, proteins, minerals, Vitamins A, D and E which helps in soothing as well as healing the skin damage caused by UV rays. Avocado oil has many benefits on hair and helps to recover from hair damage. Oleic and Linoleic Acid found in Avocado Oil has healing property as well. It speeds up the healing of wounds.

6. Grapeseed Oil

 Grapeseed OilGrapeseed Oil is a byproduct of winemaking. Grapeseed Oil is extracted from the leftover grape seeds. Grapeseed Oil is very light and easily absorbed by the skin. Grapeseed Oil is a rich source of omega chain fatty acid and Vitamin E and it very effective in treating skin ailments. It acts as an excellent carrier oil when mixed with essential oils like lavender oil and frankincense oil making the skin look more nourished and extra soft.

7. Other Oils

Argan Oil, Moringa Oil, Castor Oil, Flax Seed Oil and Hemp Seed oil are other great oils that do not only work fantastically as a carrier for essential oils but also have a tonne of skin benefits of their own.

What Cannot Be Used To Dilute Essential Oil

Essential Oils are known to be hydrophobic, means diluting essential oil with water does not work well. Though there are ways to emulsify essential oil in another medium which can then be combined with water, you will find those recipes to be rare. Also, the following are not used to dilute essential oil:

  1. Vinegar
  2. Tea
  3. Honey
  4. Vodka/Tequila (though high proof alcohol can be used for dilution)

How to Dilute Essential Oils for Topical Use - Dilution Guidelines

Essential oils are used topically to cure several skin, hair and scalp problems as well as to keep your skin and hair healthy. They are also used in massage for relaxation in case of muscle or joint pains. In all of these cases, it is important to learn about their dilution before use. Dilution of carrier oil (dilution ratio) depends on many factors like:

  • The user: applications and dilution differ for adults vs children
  • Specific application (eg: for treating inflammation, acne or pain)
  • Specific Essential Oil that you are using

While diluting essential oil with the carrier oil, you need to follow these general dilution guidelines for adults:

  • 0.5-1% dilution (3-6 drops of essential oils per 1 ounce or 30ml of carrier oil) – good for sensitive parts of the skin (face, genitals, underarms, or for people who have sensitive skin)
  • 2-3% dilution (12-18 drops of essential oil per 1 ounce or 30ml of carrier oil) – standard concentration for massage oils, creams and DIY recipes for adults
  • 5%-10% dilution (30-60 drops or 1.5-3 mL of essential oil per 1 ounce or 30ml of carrier oil) – more for acute conditions like infections. Don’t use for more than a week at a time.
  • 25% dilution (150 drops or 7.5 mL of essential oils per 1 ounce or 30ml of carrier oil) – for a one-time application like wart removal, scrapes, and other wounds.
  • Higher dilution – not recommended.

Note: Please note that the above-mentioned ratios are generic and just for information purpose. For a specific usage, refer to the recipe and its dilution ratio from an expert or reputed source.

Dilution Rate According to Usage

Below mentioned are the dilution rates according to the situation of use but in a generic manner. Different essential oils in different context and recipes will require different dilution percentages.

1. 1% dilution

This rate is applicable for facial applications, long-term use for adults for most essential oils. This is equivalent to approximately

  • 1 drop of essential oil per 5 mL (1 teaspoon) of carrier oil
  • 2 drops of essential oil per 10 mL (2 teaspoons) of carrier oil
  • 4 drops of essential oil per 15 mL (3 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon) of carrier oil
  • 6 drops of essential oil per 30 mL (6 teaspoons or 2 tablespoons) or carrier oil

2. 2% dilution

This rate is applicable for bathing and whole body application. Safe for daily use. This dilution ratio is equivalent to approximately

  • 2 drop of essential oil per 5 mL (1 teaspoon) of carrier oil
  • 4 drops of essential oil per 10 mL (2 teaspoons) of carrier oil
  • 6 drops of essential oil per 15 mL (3 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon) of carrier oil
  • 12 drops of essential oil per 30 mL (6 teaspoons per 2 tablespoons) of carrier oil

3. 3% dilution

This dilution rate is applicable to a specific localized discomfort. This dilution ratio is equal to approximately

  • 3 drop of essential oil per 5 mL (1 teaspoon) of carrier oil
  • 6 drops of essential oil per 10 mL (2 teaspoons) of carrier oil
  • 9 drops of essential oil per 15 mL (3 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon ) of carrier oil
  • 18 drops of essential oil per 30 mL (6 teaspoons or 2 tablespoons or 1 ounce ) of carrier oil

4. 5% dilution

This rate is applicable for short-term use and not recommended for longer than two weeks. You may be required to wash it after a few minutes of leaving it applied.

  • 5 drop of essential oil per 5 mL (1 teaspoon) of carrier oil
  • 10 drops of essential oil per 10 mL (2 teaspoons) of carrier oil
  • 15 drops of essential oil per 15 mL (3 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon) of carrier oil
  • 30 drops of essential oil per 30 mL (6 teaspoons or 2 tablespoons or 1 ounce) of carrier oil

5. 10% dilution

This rate is applicable for a small area and in acute situations. You may be required to wash it a few minutes after the application.

  • 10 drop (0.5 mL) of essential oil per 5 mL (1 teaspoon) of carrier oil
  • 20 drops (1 mL) of essential oil per 10 mL ( 2 teaspoons) of carrier oil
  • 30 drops (1.5 mL) of essential oil per 15 mL ( 3 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon) of carrier oil
  • 60 drops (3 mL) of essential oil per 30 mL ( 6 teaspoons or 2 tablespoons or 1 ounce) of carrier oil

Useful Conversions

Use these to calculate your dilution whenever you come across a recipe using any of these approximate measurements:

  • Approximately 20 drops make 1 mL
  • which means 1 drop is 0.05 mL
  • 1 teaspoon is 5mL
  • 1 tablespoon is 15 mL
  • 30 ml is equal to 1 ounce
  • 6 teaspoons are equal to 1 ounce
  • 2 tablespoons are equal to 1 ounce

Frequent Questions

How to Calculate the Number of Drops needed for any Dilution%?

It's a simple calculation. For an example:

If you need 1% essential oil dilution in one teaspoon carrier oil, remember that one teaspoon is approximately 5mL. Which means essential oil needed would be 1% of 5mL = 0.05mL.

We know that each drop is equal to 0.05mL. Which means you need one drop of essential oil in 1 teaspoon carrier oil to make a 1% dilution.

Use the conversion table mentioned in the previous section to calculate for any dilution requirement.

Do I Need To Dilute Essential Oils If I Use Them In My Diffuser?

There are several kinds of home diffusers for home or office or indoor spaces. Many of them operate using water and do not need a carrier oil at all. Some of those operate using heat and oil. Some of those are simple evaporators which do not need any mechanics or heat. While using essential oil in a diffuser, please read the instructions to be followed for that particular diffuser as there are a variety of brands and models of diffusers available in the market with different dilution ratios and base.

Should You Use Essential Oils for Young Children?

Young children have very tender skin and their skin tends to absorb anything that is topically applied. Hence the use of essential oil for children under 8 years is not advised unless your doctor recommends you so. It is always recommended to take the advice of a doctor before applying anything topically on babies and kids.

What is the Best Carrier Oil to be used with Essential Oil? (H3)

Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Almond Oil, Jojoba Oil, Argan Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Avocado Oil etc are few carrier oils that can be used for dilution purpose. Coconut Oil is most widely used as the best carrier oil for essential oil because of its healing and nourishing properties.

How do I dilute Essential Oil for Perfume?

Mixing 1 or more essential oils to get a unique blend of aromas which can be used as perfume is a very energizing and fulfilled activity. But choosing an appropriate carrier oil for dilution is also equally important. Jojoba oil works well for most blends.

How do I dilute Essential Oil with Witch Hazel?

To dilute Essential Oil with Witch Hazel, add 2 drops of essential oil to 1 tsp of Witch Hazel. This means 2% of dilution of essential oil which is recommended for adults.

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts."

Rachel Carson