Is it safe to use essential oil on cloth face masks?

Should we use essential oil on face masks? With these new mandatory cloth mask requirements in public, school, and work environments due to the COVID-19, some people say they are experiencing a variety of symptoms. Stress, chronic headaches, sore throats etc. Many people have asked whether essential oil on face masks is safe.

The connection between development of headaches and continuous N-95 mask use in health care workers has been studied before. The survey found that continuous wearing resulted in more headaches, especially for those who were prone to them before.

So, many people ask about adding a drop of peppermint or lavender oil to their cloth face masks to help with chronic headaches and stress they’re experiencing. Is it okay? Is it safe? Can I do this for my child?

Here’s what I think. ⁠⠀

essential oil on face masks

What the Data Says About Essential Oils on Face Masks

First things first: you need to get mask advice from your physician. This is not advice concerning wearing it, but simply about information around using aromatherapy in your mask. ⁠⠀
Overall, I can find no studies on using essential oils in masks. Aromatherapy is limited to begin with and this world situation we’re in in 2020 has prompted scenarios that we just haven’t looked at yet. What we do know that inhalation is a key method of use and is effective for stress, mood, headaches, the lungs. For example, inhaling orange lowers salivary cortisol in children, the stress hormone. Peppermint increases respiratory flow after inhalation. Inhaling a blend of lemon, eucalyptus, tea tree, and peppermint lowered perceived stress levels and depression. Inhaling lavender significantly reduced migraines in another study. There’s many examples.

These effects may be because essential oil molecules enter the brain through the nose and interact with emotional centers, neurotransmitters, receptors, and enzymes. They may influence brain signaling among other things.
So is it safe?

Some data does indicate there may be a risk with prolonged exposure (30 mins+) to high levels of oil, like directly sniffing from a bottle. We could apply this to sniffing from a cloth mask for extended periods. But there isn’t enough data to actually define an inhalation risk. ⁠⠀

Safety Considerations for Essential Oils on Face Masks

Oils Contraindicated On or Near the Face

Some essential oil are not recommended on or near the face of small children under 6. These are essential oils high in 1,8-cineole (eucalyptol) like:

  • some eucalyptus species – E. globulus, E. radiata
  • rosemary – Rosmarinus officianilis ct 1,8 cineole
  • Ravintsara – Cinnamomum camphora
  • Niaouli – Melaleuca quinquenervia
  • Helichrysum gymnocephalum – Helichrysum gymnocephalum
  • Fragonia – Agonis fragrans
  • Red myrtle – Myrtus communis
  • Cajeput – Melaleuca cajuputi
  • Bay laurel – Lauris nobilis
  • Cardamom – Elettaria cardamomum
  • and others

Essential oils high in menthol are also not recommended on or near the face of small children under 6.

  • Peppermint – Mentha piperita
  • Cornmint – Mentha arvensis However, most cornmint is fractionated and has the menthol removed

Some aromatherapists don’t want to see peppermint used on children at all. I disagree on this point. I think it’s possible to use it responsibly and safely.⁠

However, these essential oils shouldn’t be used on children’s face masks. ⠀

Disabled Individuals

I do not recommend essential oil on face masks on any individual who cannot remove a mask on their own or cannot communicate how they feel. This is suitable for learning-disabled or physically-disabled individuals, or individuals with communication challenges.

Some essential oils can be very fresh and intense aromas and may be too strong for some. Some people do get headaches if they are not used to the aroma, they’re just being introduced, or they are strong. Individuals need to be able to get it off their face if they need to, and need to be able to communicate how they feel. ⁠⠀

Asthma & Respiratory Conditions

People with asthma or other respiratory conditions may find peppermint is too strong. It would be wise to smell peppermint & others first before putting it in a mask.

People with asthma also find that peppermint & others are helpful. ⁠Peppermint and eucalyptus are ancient lung support remedies, as cough and cold remedies and may help support the lungs.

Patch Test

Your mask goes on your face. If you choose to put essential oils on your mask, it will come into contact with your skin. Make sure to patch test the essential oil on your elbow or wrist 12 to 72 hours prior to using the essential oil to make it is suitable for your skin. Observe how your skin reacts.

Quality & Dosage

Quality is extremely important. As there are no standards in the aromatherapy industry, it is common practice to manufacture essential oils from chemicals rather than extract from plants. It is also extremely common to find adulterated essential oils that contain fillers, synthetic fragrances and chemicals.

Fragrance is a well-known allergen and irritant and is a generally compilation of many manufactured chemicals. Avoid fragrance oils and inauthentic oils at all times. These will increase adverse reactions.

You only need 1 drop of an authentic oil at a time on the mask. It will go a long way!

Other Considerations for Essential Oil on Face Masks

Be careful not to somehow get essential oils in the eyes, mouth, or nose. This will cause mucous membrane irritation.

Subtler oils like lemon, orange, lavender, bergamot, copaiba, ylang ylang may be better choices for children, those who are new to essential oils, or anyone who doesn’t enjoy a fresh aroma.

Generally speaking, we know that it is wise to get fresh air after wearing a mask for a while. It may not be wise to wear the mask for an extended time. Take some time outside and get fresh air.

Bottom Line

It’s likely that essential oil on face masks is safe to use on face masks, providing that you follow some guidelines, use common sense, and check with your physician or primary care provider.

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