Essential Oils and Safety

What are Essential Oils?

Essential Oils are highly concentrated aromatic extracts derived from various plant materials through distillation processes. An essential oil is known as the plant's "essence" and these essences, or essential oils, have scent, color, viscosity and taste. They are extracted from the plant through cold pressed processes like CO2 or solvent extractions. The essential oils can come from all parts of a plant: roots, wood, twigs, fruit peels, grasses, leaves, flowers, needles and barks.

Each essential oil has a unique chemical composition that makes up its unique scent. Some plant parts have more odor than other parts but the totality of the components are usually recognized as the "scent" of that plant. Sometimes the distillation process changes the exact odor. That means not all essential oils smell exactly like the living plant. Distillation may also produce ingredients in an essential oil that are not present in the living plant.

sammysoap offers essential oils "neat" in the highest therapeutic quality available. We also use essential oils of varying price points in various products. Take Lavender for instance. We use three different lavenders in our bar soap formulations, and they are all authentic, high quality oils. One popular hybrid is Lavandin, which is a plant 3 times larger than some of its more expensive cousin hybrids. Lavandin has more and larger flowers than common French Lavender. Lavandin is appropriately less expensive than its small plant cousins. Our customers appreciate being able to choose price points for themselves. In this way, essential oils can be compared to wine − they are living, breathing and evolving representations of a harvest. Chemical compositions of the resultant oils vary with breeding and from year to year. Latitude, soil and weather all play a part in the essential oil from any particular crop. Some customers care deeply and are very knowledgable about essential oils. Others are not as choosy and are more value-oriented. These varying lavender oils, in fact, are not better or worse than one another. They are all authentic and therapeutic. They are just different, and they are more or less available, easier or harder to produce and source, and are of greater, lesser or varying therapeutic values. Because of these factors and more, they vary in price.

Using Essential Oils - Safety First

  • Never use any citrus variety essential oils before sunbathing. Citrus essential oils are considered to be photosensitive, especially Bergamot. See a list below for a list of essential oils to avoid before going into the sun
  • Do not use essential oils before the 18th week of pregnancy and then the essential oils should only be blends which have been formulated by a professional health care provider and Certified Clinical Aromatherapist and always in low dilution. Essential oils that appear to be safe include Cardamon, German and Roman Chamomile, Frankincense, Geranium, Ginger, Neroli, Patchouli, Petitgrain, Rosewood, Rose and Sandalwood. Before using any essential oils during pregnancy, check with your doctor first. It would also be prudent to avoid the internal or undiluted application of essential oils throughout pregnancy. See a list below for essential oils to avoid during pregnancy
  • Keep aromatherapy products away from children under 12 and pets unless they have been approved on the correct application and usage by their health care provider or veterinarian
  • Never take essential oils internally unless advised by a health care provider and Certified Clinical Aromatherapist
  • All essential oils should be diluted with the exception of Tea Tree and Lavender which in most cases can be used directly on the skin (neat) but never on children under 12 or pets
  • Avoid using essential oils when taking homeopathic remedies
  • Reduce or avoid alcohol after aromatherapy massage
  • With high blood pressure, avoid Rosemary, Peppermint, Black Pepper, Clove, Thyme, Hyssop and Sage
  • With low blood pressure, avoid excessive use of Lavender
  • With epilepsy, avoid Fennel, Hyssop and Rosemary

Essential Oil Application Therapy on the Skin

General safety guidelines include: avoid application of known dermal irritant essential oils on any inflammatory or allergic skin condition; avoid undiluted application; avoid application on open or damaged skin; and dilute known dermal irritants with appropriate vegetable oil or other carrier. If you have sensitive skin, perform a skin patch test. Some, but not all, common essential oils are considered to be dermal irritants.

Dermal Irritants

  • Bay
  • Cinnamon Bark or Leaf
  • Clove Bud
  • Citronella
  • Cumin
  • Lemongrass
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Oregano
  • Tagetes
  • Thyme

Dermal Sensitization

Dermal sensitization is a type of allergic reaction. It occurs on first exposure to a substance, but on this occasion, the noticeable effect on the skin will be slight or absent. However, subsequent exposure to the same material, or to a similar one with which there is cross-sensitization, produces a severe inflammatory reaction brought about by cells of the immune system (T-lymphocytes). The reaction will be represented on the skin as blotchy or redness, which may be painful to some individuals.

The best way to prevent sensitization is to avoid known dermal sensitizers and avoid applying the same essential oils every day for lengthy periods of time. Sensitization is, to an extent, unpredictable, as some individuals will be sensitive to a potential allergen and some will not.

The following essential oils are considered to be dermal sensitizers and are not recommended for use in aromatherapy massage.

Dermal Sensitizers

  • Cassia
  • Cinnamon Bark
  • Peru Balsam
  • Verbena Absolute
  • Tea Absolute
  • Turpentine Oil
  • Backhousia
  • Inula


An essential oil that exhibits this quality will cause burning or skin pigmentation changes, such as tanning, on exposure to sun or similar light (ultraviolet rays). Reactions can range from a mild color change to deep weeping burns. Never use or recommend the use of photosensitizing essential oils prior to going into a sun tanning booth or the sun. Stay out of the sun or tanning booth for at least twenty-four hours after treatment if photosensitizing essential oils were applied to skin. Certain drugs, such as tetracycline, increase the photosensitivity of the skin, thus increasing the harmful effects of photosensitizing essential oils under the necessary conditions. Some, but not all, common essential oils are considered to be photosensitizes.


  • Angelica Root
  • Bergamot unless Bergaptene free
  • Cumin
  • Distilled or Expresses Grapedfruit (low risk)
  • Expressed Lemon
  • Expressed Lime
  • Expressed Bitter Orange
  • Rue

Non-phototoxic Citrus Oils

  • Bergamot Bergapteneless (FCF: Furanocoumarin free)
  • Distilled Lemon
  • Distilled Lime
  • Mandarin - Tangerine
  • Sweet Orange
  • Expressed Tangerine
  • Yuzu Oil (expressed or distilled)

Mucous Membrane Irritant

Mucous membrane irritant will produce a heating or drying effect on the mucous membranes of the mouth, eyes, nose and reproductive organs. It is recommended that mucus membrane irritating essential oils not be used in a full body bath unless placed in a dispersant first (e.g. milk, vegetable oil). It would also be wise to put the dispersed essential oils into the water after you have gotten into the bath. Bay, Clove, Cinnamon Bark, Lemongrass and Thyme essential oils should be avoided in baths completely. Some, but not all, common essential oils are considered to be mucous membrane irritants.

Mucous Membrane Irritants

  • Bay
  • Caraway
  • Cinnamon Bark or Leaf
  • Clove Bud or Leaf
  • Lemongrass
  • Peppermint
  • Thyme ct. thymol


The use of essential oils during pregnancy is a controversial topic and one that is yet to be fully understood. Most agree that the responsible attitude is to avoid the use of essential oils completely during the first months of pregnancy.

The following essential oils should be avoided throughout pregnancy: Wormwood, Rue, Oak Moss, Lavandula stoechas, Camphor, Parsley Seed, Sage and Hyssop.

Essential oils that appear to be safe include Cardamon, German and Roman Chamomile, Frankincense, Geranium, Ginger, Neroli, Patchouli, Petitgrain, Rosewood, Rose, Sandalwood and other nontoxic essential oils. It would also be prudent to avoid the internal or undiluted application of essential oils throughout pregnancy.

Essential Oils to Avoid Throughout Pregnancy, Labor and While Breastfeeding

  • Aniseed
  • Basil ct. estragole
  • Birch
  • Camphor
  • Hyssop
  • Mugwort
  • Parsley Seed or Leaf
  • Pennyroyal
  • Sage
  • Tansy
  • Tarragon
  • Thuja
  • Wintergreen
  • Wormwood

General Safety Precautions and Guidelines

  • Keep all essential oils out of reach of children and pets
  • Do not use or recommend the use of photosensitizing essential oils prior to going into a sun tanning booth or the sun. Wait to go into a tanning booth or the sun at least 24 hours after treatment if photosensitizing essential oils were applied to skin
  • Avoid prolonged use of the same essential oils
  • Research an oil before using it, avoid using an oil that you know nothing about
  • Avoid the use of undiluted essential oils of the skin, unless otherwise indicated
  • If you suspect you may be sensitive to specific essential oils or if you have known allergies or sensitivities, it is wise to perform a skin patch test prior to use
  • Know the safety data on each essential oil and place into context of use and knowledge
  • Use caution if you suspect that you may become pregnant
  • Keep essential oils away from eyes
  • Essential oils are highly flammable substances and should be kept away from direct contact with flames, such as candles, fire, matches, cigarettes and gas stoves
  • Make sure treatment room has good ventilation
  • Do not use essential oils internally unless you have been properly trained in one of the NAHA's approved schools and you have met the required hours of training to do so. At this point, only those who have graduated and become a Clinical Aromatherapist have the training to prescribe essential oils for themselves or another person. If you advise on the use of essential oils for internal use and are not a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist, you are practicing medicine without a license and it is illegal

Safety Measures

  • If essential oil droplets accidentally get into the eye (or eyes) a cotton cloth should be imbued with a fatty oil, such as olive or sesame, and carefully swiped over the closed lid, and/or immediately flush the eyes with cool water. Call for medical help if required
  • If an essential oil causes dermal irritation, apply a small amount of vegetable oil or cream to the area affected and discontinue use of essential oil or product that has caused dermal irritation
  • If a child or animal appears to have drunk essential oil, contact the nearest poison control unit (often listed in the front of the telephone directory). Keep the bottle for identification and encourage the child to drink whole or 2% milk. Do not try to induce vomiting

All information contained within this site is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for the advice given by a pharmacist, physician or any other licensed health-care professional. sammysoap products have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition or disease.