How to Use Essential Oils Topically

Essential oils have so many wonderful medicinal purposes and applying topically is a great way to absorb those benefits. However, it is important to understand the do's and don't's when using these oils!

Let me start off by saying, I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. This is just a compiled list of information I have found, during my journey of using essential oils topically, to help you understand a few important factors- all in one place, instead of having to search around!

As you know, I am all for the use of essential oils. I have talked about my favorite way to reap their medicinal benefits by diffusing (read here to learn more about diffusing and some very important facts to know when using essential oils). Now I would like to talk about my second favorite way to use these magical wonders: topically.

Applying oils topically is one of the best way to absorb the benefits of essential oils. They can be applied to help many different ailments: headaches, insomnia, earaches, high blood pressure, joint pain, and the list -literally- goes on and on.

During this process of applying oils topically, remember that even though majority of essential oils can be used topically, it is important to know that HOW they are used varies from oils-to-oils and person-to-person.

If you don’t know which oils to use, I highly recommend using Plant Therapy 

Here are the important facts to know when using essential oils topically:

How much:

When using essential oils, a little goes a long way (this is for everything: diffusing, topical application, creating homemade products).

When oils are applied “neat” (without any dilution), you would only need about 2-3 drops.

It is better to be safe than sorry — and diluting essential oils when applied topically is always your best bet! Some research has shown that oils can be applied neat (there are many differing opinions on this)- so I wanted to address this term with you. 

Then you have some oils actually require dilution (known as Hot Oils- described more below).

To dilute these oils, you can use a few more drops, 3-4. When you dilute, you add a carrier oil -Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Jojoba, or Grapeseed (to name a few). It is a good idea to follow the 1:3 rule when diluting: 1 drop of essential oil to 3 drops of your carrier oil. I have also seen where you can use 1 drop of essential oil to 1 tsp of carrier oil- whichever method you prefer.

Where to use:

Essential oils are easily absorbed into your body, but depending on your ailment, the placement of the oils can increase their impact. If you are unsure, the most common placements are the feet, chest, temple, and pulse point.

However, here are a few specific placements, what they help, and which oils to use:

  • Temples or Back of Neck: use lavender, basil, or peppermint for stress, nausea, motion sickness, insomnia, and headaches
  • Outside of Ears: use lavender and basil for earache or swimmer’s ear
  • Behind Ears: use peppermint, lemon, or eucalyptus for headaches, dizziness, anxiety, and fatigue– chamomile can also be used for insominia
  • Shoulders: use ylang ylang, clove, or wintergreen for shoulder or joint pain
  • Chest: use eucalyptus, peppermint, or lemon for congestion, cough, bronchitis, and asthma
  • Over Heart: use ylan ylang or bergamont for depression, stress, and high blood pressure
  • Abdomen: use clary sage for menstrual cramps and peppermint, ginger, or fennel for digestive issues and nausea
  • Wrists: use vetiver, basil, lemongrass, or myrrh for carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Heels: use clary sage or myrtle for ovaries and reproductive system
  • Inner Arch: use wintergreen, majoram, cypress, or white fir for back pain and clove, grapefruit, or rosemary for kidneys and adrenal glands
  • Outer Arch: use grapefruit, juniper, or lemongrass for colon, bladder, and liver
  • Sole of Foot: use peppermint, eucalyptus, or lemon for asthma, bronchitis, and coughs and ylang, ylang, bergamot for heart and high blood pressure
  • Bottom of Big Toe: use peppermint, rosemary. or lavender for headaches
  • Base of Big Toe: use myrtle for metabolism, thyroid, and pituitary gland
  • Bottom of Middle Toes: use sandalwood, frankincense, or clove for breast health
  • Base of Middle Toes: use peppermint, frankincense, or chamomile for eye health and eye strain
  • Bottom of Pinky Toe: use lemon, lavender, or basil for earaches and vertigo
  • Base of Pinky Toe: use ylang ylang, clove, or wintergreen for shoulder and joint pain

These are seriously just a FEW of the ailments that can be combated with placing essential oils topically on these areas.

What are “Hot Oils”

This is actually a pretty important term to know. “Hot oils” are oils that can cause a hot/warming sensation when applied to the skin. They may cause itchiness or a rash if not used properly. These are oils that absolutely require dilution. I don’t like to wonder when I use my oils if they are considered hot or not, so I always dilute.

A few hot oils to note: cinnamon, clove, lemongrass, thyme, and peppermint

This is not an complete list

Know Your Skin Type!

It is important to know your skin type when using oils topically and if you want to experiment with the neat method (not a method I personally use, nor recommend).

Do you have sensitive skin? If so, always dilute- even if the oil is considered “safe” or “neat”.

If you are unsure if you have sensitive skin or how you will react to a certain oil, and you want to use the neat method, you can try to test your skin first. Test an area of your inner arm by starting with one undiluted drop (if the oil is safe/neat and you don’t think you have sensitive skin). Wait a few minutes to see how your skin reacts.

**Again — Diluting your essential oils NEVER hurts! Dilution does not decrease the effectiveness of the oil, and can even help increase absorption by preventing evaporation**

I dilute all my oils when applying topically. I do not have sensitive skin, but I just figure better safe than sorry! Plus, you’re not hurting anything by doing so; actually, you are helping the oils last longer and have a better quality of absorption.

Using Multiple Oils:

It’s good to know that when applying oils topically, it’s better to layer than to blend. So, if you are using 2+ oils topically, apply one and then wait 5-30 minutes and apply the other over. This works better than mixing the drops together and applying at the same time.

Important Precautions:

  • Never use essential oils in the ear canal or near the eyes
  • Some citrus oils can cause sensitivity to the sun- you can try applying these oils at night or when you know you will not be out in the sun or the area will not be exposed to the sunlight.
  • Appling oils topically to children and adults are different. These guidelines are for adults. Different do’s, don’t’s, and precautions are taken with children.


I hope this information helps you in your process of using essential oils. As you know, I am obsessed and will try out oils over medicines any day! Topically applying these oils can help you (they’ve helped my family many times) if you know how to use them correctly. It may seem  like a lot a first, but it really is simple to use and apply! Just like with medicines, there are always precautions to be taken and they should be used safely.


Do you have any questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below (:


*This post contains affiliate links. By clicking on those links (bold & blue) you will be redirected to Amazon and I may receive a small commission on any purchase made.


  1. Jennifer Millican says:

    I have to say I’m disappointed and frustrated that you do not use Plant Therapy’s safety guidelines while promoting their product (through amazon affiliate). Let me share a few quotes from Plant Therapy’s blog in EO safety.
    ” This one baffles me EVERY time I hear someone talk about how you should use essential oils neat (undiluted). I am going to say this OVER and OVER again! ALWAYS dilute essential oils!”
    ” If you are being told to almost never dilute essential oils, I would sincerely recommend that you find someone else to take advice from. To me, that simply means they don’t know what they are talking about OR they want to sell more oils to you!”
    I recommend reading their suggested use guidelines as many who use Plant Therapy do so because of their focus on safety.

    • Ashley says:

      I am sorry you feel as if I am promoting using essential oils without dilution. I never promoted that use, nor did I mention that you should “almost never dilute essential oils”; I just covered that topic. I mentioned many times, and actually promoted, the use of diluting essential oils, “**Diluting your essential oils NEVER hurts! Dilution does not decrease the effectiveness of the oil, and can even help increase absorption by preventing evaporation**” However, I wanted to address the term of “neat” oils for those who are unaware of what it is, because it is a common term used when researching how to apply oils topically. Using oils in such a way is not the way I use- nor was it the way I was condoning; although, I did not want to leave out that part of how people tend to use these oils. I promote Plant Therapy because I love using their products. I am in no way a professional in the use of essential oils, and never have addressed myself as one. It is known that I am just an essential oil enthusiast. This is a learning process for me as well, which I have mentioned quite a few times on my blog, so in no way does what I say have any higher standards that the recommended guidelines. I am just sharing the information I have learned along the way (and still am learning). Thank you for bringing these guidelines to my attention. I loved their article and information. It is a great resource to have on hand!

  2. Kom says:

    We cannot say enough about Essential Oils. I used lavender all the time on our road trip. The different elevations would make me feel queezy; would dab some lavender on my forehead, back of neck, sniff it, and soon, would feel great. I also have a blend of oils I use behind ears for motion sick if you get this in the car etc. good stuff. It works!!!!
    I apply a dab of lavender on my wrists at night to help calm for sleep. I also use many other oils. This is just my most recent used.

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