Sensitization, Storage, and Overuse

Essential oils are derived from nature, but that doesn’t mean they are always safe. We need to be mindful of several safety issues before using them. Essential oils are not to be feared but used with purpose and intent, following established guidelines from expert industry experts.

What is Sensitization? 

Sensitization occurs when people use oils straight onto their skin or not diluting them properly. It can occur from using old oils, particularly citrus and pine oils, which are rich in monoterpenes and degrade quicker than other oil constituents. Sensitization can also happen when using phototoxic oils.

Sensitization can cause itching, redness, and bumps on the skin and can sometimes cause blistering or eczema. Some suggest that you can not have an allergic reaction to essential oils, but it isn’t 100% accurate. For example, people allergic to certain plants, like the ragweed family of plants that contain chamomile, cannot use the plant’s essential oil. 

Sensitization can also happen when you use the same oil blend for a long time. This is why aromatherapists recommend rotating oils in your combinations. 

Sensitization can occur when you overuse oils too.

Can I Overuse My Oils?

There is a misconception that a larger dose would be better if one drop of oil works. This is incorrect. Less is more when using essential oils. When overusing oils, you open yourself up to potential harm. 

There was a case several years ago of a woman who misused and overused her oils for several years. Eventually, her body had a really bad reaction; she ended up in hospital with a rash over her entire body. Other symptoms she experienced were a rapid but weak pulse, extremely low blood pressure, dizziness, constricted airways, and swollen lips, tongue, and throat. All of this indicated her having an anaphylactic shock to the essential oils. While this is an extreme example, it highlights that overuse and misuse can lead to unforeseen consequences.

Also Read: How to Use Essential Oils In a Diffuser

How Long will I be Sensitized For?

If you become sensitized to an oil, you may find that you can’t use oils with similar chemical constituents.

There are numerous examples of people who have become sensitized to oils. For example, many long-time aromatherapists have become sensitized to lavender because it was previously known as a safe oil to use straight from the bottle. However, with time and further research, we know now that using oils neat is not the best or safest approach.   

Sensitization can come in the form of headaches and nausea too. For 10 years, Liz worked in her mom’s production company which made over 140 products, many with lavender, even in small amounts. As a result, whenever she smells too much Lavender now, she gets a headache

Once you become sensitized to an oil, you are sensitized for life. This means you won’t be able to use your precious essential oils in any way. Therefore, using them with intent and purpose is prudent to avoid sensitizing yourself or your family.

Continuing to disregard essential oil safety guidelines will eventually catch up with you, and it could leave you unable to use oils again.

Also Read: Activities to Keep the Kids Quiet

How do I Store My Oils Correctly?

There are some simple storage guidelines you should follow to ensure you get the best from your oils and that they last.

    • Keep your oils out of reach of children and animals. 
    • Make sure the lids of the bottles are tightly closed.
    • Replace the lids of your oils quickly on the bottle after use. This will help reduce oxygen getting into the bottle and make it safer around children and pets.
    • Store your oils away from direct sunlight and in a consistently cool place.  
    • Light and oxygen are not good for your oils. In fact, light and oxygen can degrade your oils more quickly. Another word for the degradation of your oils is called oxidization. Once oxidized, your oils become less effective and can irritate if used on the skin. For some sensitive people, diffusing oxidized oils can irritate the eyes and nose and affect breathing.
    • Essential oils have a shelf life. Citrus and Pine Oils are more susceptible to oxidation. If your oil bottle has a sedimentary residue at the bottom, this could indicate oxidation. Sticky residue around the lid can indicate oxidation.
    • Keep a list of when you purchase your oils so you can remove old or degraded oils from your collection as soon as possible. 
    • Tisserand suggests the shelf life of oils as follows:

By following these simple guidelines, you will be able to use your oils, knowing they are safe and effective for you and your family.

Also Read: Do Essential Oils Expire?

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