Can you use essential oils neat? What does neat even mean?
“Neat” simply means using an essential oil without any dilution or straight out of the bottle.
This is a contentious issue among aromatherapists, believe me I know as I am one. The British model of aromatherapy discourages the use of essential oils neat on the body, justifying this with outdated views about their safety. So should we dilute essential oils or are they more effective if applied neat?
When trying to explain whether to dilute essential oils or not, I use the analogy of being invited to a party. If, when you arrive at the party there were other people in exactly the same dress as you, what would you do? Well if it was me I would shrink into a corner somewhere and hide.
But if you arrived at the party and you were the only one there in your fabulous, stylish dress, then they could relax, exuding confidence and power, dancing all night long. Well that’s kinda what happens with essential oil molecules if you put too many of them in the same place on your skin.
When therapeutic grade essential oils are used neat, the molecules are in higher concentrations and the old adage more is best isn’t always the case.
When can you use essential oils neat?
There are applications where I would always use a neat application, this is dependent on the essential oil I choose and the purpose, for example putting Manuka essential oil on a spot on my face then I might apply it neat.
But if I burn myself on the iron I’m not going to dilute the Lavender Wellness Essential Oil before applying it. I’m going to run the burn under cold water for a few minutes and then apply the lavender wellness oil. In fact if I did dilute it the carrier oil could make the burn worse.
If I am massaging copaiba in to my calves after a spin class or a jog then I would mix it in to a carrier oil such as coconut oil so that it is easier to massage in and it goes further. You would need a lot of copaiba essential oil to do both calf muscles if you were using the essential oils neat.
When essential oils are diluted they can be applied more easily, particularly over a larger area. When diluted the smaller molecules are more active and dilution can mean you use less, which saves you money. If you want to read more about dilution then check out the blog on my website To dilute or not dilute that is the question.
Can you use all essential oils neat?
Not all essential oils can be used neat as some are hot oils such as cinnamon, lemongrass and oregano and definitely need to be diluted with a carrier oil. These can burn the skin so always read the label to ensure appropriate application.
The instructions on each label will tell you the suggested dilution for that oil and whether it is suitable to be used. neat.
Dilution is also necessary with young children, the elderly and those whose health is seriously compromised. I have a whole video on using essential oils with babies and toddlers that talks about appropriate dilution ratios if you are interested in learning more on that specific topic. Here is the link to register to watch it.
If you have particularly sensitive skin then always dilute essential oils before using them on your skin.
Some people will experience a skin rash when using essential oils neat, even with a pure essential oil, as essential oils react with petrochemicals in personal care products that may still be on the skin. The skin is the largest organ of the body and anything that goes onto it is absorbed in to the blood stream. If you wouldn’t eat it why put it on your skin.
Quality really does matter when it comes to essential oils, especially using them neat.
Many aromatherapists are against using essential oils neat because they were either taught not to do it when they studied aromatherapy or because they have used an essential oil neat and seen a bad reaction themselves. Both of these things come down to the quality of the essential oils.
Many aromatherapy courses have their origins in the beauty industry.
A lady by the name of Marguerite Maury studied aromatherapy in France but when she went back to her home in England she found that the practice of applying essential oils neat, like she had learnt in France was causing all kinds of skin issues for people.
The essential oils just weren’t the same quality as the ones in France that were being used neat.
It could even be that the people she was treating in England were exposed to more chemicals which affected the application too.
So she started diluting essential oils with a carrier oil and subsequently teaching her students to do that.
Her teachings became the basis for aromatherapy studies in England, USA and even here in Australia.
So the practice of using essential oils neat as the French have done for Centuries was suddenly faux pas.
The quality of the essential oil matters. From the soil the the seeds are grown in to the chemicals that are sprayed on the plants. To the time taken to distil the oil and the temperature the plant matter is cooked at. And don’t get me started on those companies who store oils in plastic or clean their machinery in bleach. All these things make a difference to the quality of an essential oil.
So yes, if you aren’t using the highest grade essential oils then you definitely need to dilute all your essential oils and you can’t use these essential oils neat. Personally I wouldn’t want those essential oils coming into contact with my body at all. Diluted or otherwise.
Adulterated essential oils, as I’ve discussed previously cause a lot of problems when used topically and even aromatically.
That’s one of the reason’s why I only use and recommend Young Living Essential Oils.
I love applying Frankincense, Lavender, or Tea Tree neat on blemishes to help reduce their appearance.
I love giving people a Raindrop Technique which is an essential oil massage which uses a number of essential oils neat.
But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you always should. 99% of the time I dilute essential oils. I would be crazy if I didn’t. The cost alone of always using essential oils neat would be astronomical especially with the amount of essential oils we use in our house.
Another way to use essential oils neat topically is called Layering Essential Oils. You can learn more about Layering Essential oils here.