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One of the greatest ways to enjoy essential oils is through topical use, or the use of essential oils on the skin and body. We use so many topical products every day—lotions, soaps, creams, skincare products, cleansers, the list goes on and on. It turns out, essential oils can accomplish many of the same tasks as these other topical products. Essential oils can cleanse, moisturize, soothe, nourish, and more, but the best part is that they offer a safe, natural way to do so. Because essential oils are taken from the earth, they provide a natural way to take care of our bodies. Once you learn about the many topical uses for essential oils, it is easy to see why they are such a helpful part of any daily routine or lifestyle.

Why Should I use Essential Oils Topically?

Whether you are new to essential oils, or just don’t have a lot of experience using oils topically, you might be wondering, “What are the benefits of topical use?” Just to name a few benefits:

  • Significant benefits for the skin

  • Simultaneously provides aromatic benefits as the user inhales essential oils on the skin

  • Provides soothing, calming, warming, cooling, or energizing feelings for the body

  • Allows the user to target specific areas of the body

Benefits for the Skin

Possibly one of the greatest benefits of topical application is that it can help to promote healthy-looking skin. Whether you want to improve the occasional skin imperfection or blemish, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, cleanse an oily complexion, or just give your skin a glowing boost, topical use of essential oils provides a safe, natural way to care for the skin. If you ever worry about the toxins and synthetic fillers that might be lurking in your commercial skincare products, using pure essential oils provides a safe way to naturally care for your skin.

Benefits for the Body

In addition to benefits for the skin, using essential oils topically can also provide the entire body with benefits. Many essential oils hold chemical components that make them useful for calming, soothing, or relaxing the body, muscles, or joints. Other essential oils can produce a warming or cooling sensation on the body. You can even use some essential oils to promote clear breathing by applying them to the chest and neck. When it comes to topical application, it is so easy to relieve tension, soothe or massage tense areas, promote feelings of clear breathing, and provide the body with other benefits by simply choosing an oil whose chemical components can help you achieve your desired effect. 

The Safe Use of Essential Oils for Topical Use

As with any essential oil application method, there are specific safety guidelines that will help you to safely enjoy using essential oils topically. While essential oils are natural and safe, you’ll want to follow these safety guidelines to avoid sensitivity or irritation. As you use safe application practices, you will be able to see how your body reacts to each individual essential oil, and will soon learn how to use essential oils topically to reap the benefits each oil offers. To provide an introduction to the safety guidelines for topical use, we will go over each of these topics in detail: dilution, carrier oils, dosage, and sensitivity.

Dilution   |   Carrier Oils   |   Dosage   |   Sensitivity


Dilution is a very important part of safe topical use of essential oils. If you are worried that diluting an essential oil will detract from its efficacy or benefits, you should know that the opposite is true—dilution actually helps the oil to absorb into the skin, allowing the benefits to last even longer. Not only does dilution help to absorb the oil into the skin, but it can help protect sensitive or delicate skin from becoming irritated.

Always dilute these oils before use:







Carrier Oils

The best way to dilute an essential oil is with a carrier oil. A carrier oil refers to a base oil (typically a pure vegetable oil) that “carries” the essential oil to the desired area on the skin or body, and helps to increase absorption in the skin. dōTERRA® has created their own carrier oil, Fractionated Coconut Oil to make it easy to dilute and apply your favorite essential oils. Unlike some other carrier oils, dōTERRA Fractionated Coconut oil has a light, non-greasy feel, and has a long shelf life.

Carrier Oils and Dilution

Pure vegetable oil or 

dōTERRA Fractionated Coconut Oil


Recommended dilution ratio: 3 drops of carrier oil to 1 drop of essential oil

Carrier Oils


When you first start using essential oils topically, it is a good idea to start with the smallest dose possible—that is one to two drops. After you’ve applied a small dose and can see how your body reacts, you can increase the dose. For those who have specific skin conditions or concerns, it is wise to consult a healthcare professional before using essential oils topically.

Topical Dose

Start with 1–2 drops and increase as necessary

Repeat dose every 4–6 hours as needed



One way to protect yourself from irritation when using essential oils topically is to perform a sensitivity test when using an essential oil for the first time. Simply place a small dab of a diluted essential oil to an inconspicuous area on the skin. Then, check the area each hour for the next few hours to see how your skin responds to the oil.


Something else you’ll want to keep in mind when it comes to safe topical use is that some essential oils, especially citrus oils, can cause sensitivity or irritation when exposed to sunlight or UV light after application. If an essential oil poses a risk for sun sensitivity, it will come with a warning that urges the user to stay out of the sun (and away from sun lamps or ultraviolet light) for up to 12 hours after applying the oil. For this reason, it is important to always read the warnings and labels for each essential oils that you intend to use.

Things to Consider

Sensitivity Test

Sun Sensitivity


Essential Oil Classification

If you are just starting out with essential oils, it can be overwhelming to remember which oils to dilute, which ones can be applied directly, and which ones come with special warnings or application instructions. To make it easier, dōTERRA has given each essential oil a sensitivity descriptor that will help users avoid skin sensitivity and know how to apply the oil. Each dōTERRA essential oil includes one of three classification labels—“N” for Neat, “D” for Dilute, or “S” for Sensitive.

(N) Neat: Essential oils labeled as “Neat” can be applied without diluting the oil first. These oils tend to have a mild chemistry, which gives them a low risk for sensitivity.

(D) Dilute: Oils with the “Dilute” label should always be diluted before topical application. The oils in this category have a stronger, more potent chemistry, and are safe to use after dilution.

(S) Sensitive: Any oils with the “Sensitive” label should always be diluted before they are applied to young or delicate skin. This is especially important if you know that you have sensitive skin, or plan to use essential oils with your children.

Common Areas to Avoid

Another part of essential oil safety during topical application is avoiding potentially sensitive areas. Like other topical products, essential oils should not be applied to certain areas because they can cause irritation and sensitivity reactions—this is true no matter what kind of oil you are using. 

The following areas listed should be avoided when applying essential oils topically:

  • Eyes and the skin around the eyes

  • The inner ears, inner nose

  • Genitals

  • Injured, broken, or damaged skin

Best Areas for Topical Application

Now that you have gone over the some of the areas to avoid when applying essential oils topically, let’s learn about the best places to apply essential oils to reap the benefits they have to offer.


Using essential oils on the face can help to improve the skin and promote a clear, glowing complexion. To use essential oils on the face, add a few drops of an oil to your facial cleanser, moisturizer, or facial lotion. You can also dilute an oil with Fractionated Coconut Oil and apply it directly to the face. 

Temples, forehead, base of the skull, neck

You can promote relaxation and target tense feelings by applying essential oils to any of these areas. Try applying oils to these areas if you typically hold a lot of tension in your neck, work long days at a desk, or just need to relax after a tense day.


You can harness the soothing, calming power of essential oils by applying them to the abdomen. By applying oils to the abdomen (particularly over major digestive organs), you can massage the oil to help alleviate occasional digestive discomfort.

Arms, Legs, and Back

After a workout or physical activity, try massaging essential oils into the arms, wrists, legs, feet, and back. Many essential oils contain warming and cooling properties, which can help to relax and soothe the body after exertion.


Applying essential oils with cooling and invigorating properties to the chest can help to promote feelings of clear breathing. As essential oils are applied to the chest, you’ll simultaneously experience the benefits of the oil’s aroma.

Bottoms of the feet

Because the feet have large pores that can easily absorb essential oils, this is one of the best areas for application. If you are trying an essential oil for the first time, or using oils on children, the bottoms of the feet are a good place for application because the skin is thicker and typically less sensitive.

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Examples of Topical Use


Apply to wrists and ankles while hiking to help naturally repel insects

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