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Perform a Patch Test with Essential Oils or Hydrosols

Despite all the people who tell you they can’t, essential oils can cause sensitization and/or allergic reactions.  It’s well-known that tea tree oil and lavender are both very gentle to the skin . . . but you can definitely develop sensitivity or allergies by using “neat” (undiluted), even to these gentle oils. This isn’t coming from reference books alone, although I rely heavily on Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals for much of my safety information — especially in terms of dilution and contraindications.  No, I know because I was also taught to use oils undiluted from the day I purchased my first kit.  Now I’m sensitive to tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) and have some issues with lavender (Lavandula angustifolia).   Due to this, I find that patch tests are incredibly important.  Can you imagine putting an essential oil (properly diluted, of course) on a large area of skin and finding that you have a reaction to it?  Been there.  Done that.  Now I perform a patch test because I hate itching as much as I hate taking antihistamines.

And no.  More oils will not alleviate the mad itching, despite what you may have been told.  So, perform a patch test!

When using a new essential oil for the first time, perform a patch test on a small area of skin. A skin patch test is simple, and it will help you determine if you have a sensitivity/allergy to a particular essential oil without full-body itching.  I’ve experienced full body itching twice in my life.  Once after a major surgery, when we found I am allergic to a certain family of painkillers, and once after applying a lavender, melaleuca, and coconut oil mixture to my entire body after a shower.  If you’ve never experienced the glory of wanting to scrape your skin down to bone . . . DON’T.  It’s not fun.  As a matter of fact, it wears you out.  By the time the itching stops, you’ll be mentally and physically exhausted.  Performing a simple patch test will save you the hassle of finding out the hard way just how draining full-body itching is.

We suggested you also follow the guideline and perform a patch test with hydrosols as well.  Safe is always better than sorry.

Ingredients to Perform a Patch Test

You will need:

A a properly diluted essential oil
A  bandaid

Directions:  Perform a Patch Test

  1. Use a properly diluted essential oil.
  2. Roll a tiny bit of the diluted essential oil on the inside of your forearm.  It’s important to keep this area dry throughout the test, so apply high enough that you will not wet it during normal hand washing activities.  Just enough that you can cover it with the pad of a bandaid.
  3. Apply the bandaid.
  4. If irritation begins or if an allergic reaction starts, immediately remove the bandage and cleanse the area with mild soap and water.  I find that a mild, unscented lotion after cleansing helps calm the area for me.
  5. If no irritation or allergic reaction occurs after 24 hours, the diluted essential oil is safe for you to use on your skin.

Just because an essential oil does not irritate you, doesn’t mean that it won’t irritate someone else.  Always perform a patch test when someone hasn’t been exposed to an oil.

Know you’re allergic to a plant?  Then, you’re more likely to be allergic to that plant’s essential oil.  For instance, a friend of mine is allergic to lemongrass but had heard great things about the oil.  She was told that you cannot be allergic to an essential oil.  This is simply not true, because of how the essential oil works with our body.  She mistakenly lathered diluted lemongrass  all over her lower legs one night as a mosquito repellant (it was part of the blend).  Full-on allergic reaction — She tolerated antihistamine and a miserable night, while the rest of her family sat and enjoyed a gorgeous firework display.