So the Internet says essential oils kill your skin cells. Is it true? Should you be using essential oils on the skin? How should you be using them? Let’s find out.
First, your skin is always dying
Skin is a massive organ of your body with multiple layers. It’s main functions include holding your body together. Without skin, you’d be a puddle of bones and organs. It helps control your body temperature by sweating and dilating blood vessels to cool you down. It is a barrier against invaders like bacteria and viruses, protects from the sun, and it is also a sense organ that picks up information from surrounding environment and relays information to the brain for processing. It senses heat, cold, touch, pain, pressure.
But the skin is always dying. Cells die and regenerate, and the whole skin replaces itself within a month. It’s exactly how skin works!
Literally, when you put lotion on your skin, you’re moisturizing dead skin. It’s why we exfoliate and buff.
Second, Read the Studies
Some of the studies say certain essential oils are cytotoxic to endothelial skin cells and fibroblasts. These cells are buried in deep layers of the skin. The tissue contains these cells; they are not isolated in the body. They tested these cells in a petri dish, so the essential oil had direct contact with these cells. But in real life, these cells are not on the surface of the skin. The skin has a protective layer called the stratum corneum, and even if you applied it to broken skin, the essential oil wouldn’t directly reach those skin cells. Without direct contact, there will be no damage.
Okay, So We’ve Covered That. What About Dilution?
Essential oils can be irritating to the skin, especially oils that contain phenols like carvacrol, thymol, some aldehydes like cinnamaldehyde, geranial, neral, some alcohols like eucalyptol. Applying these neat (undiluted) to the skin runs the risk of irritation, usually in the form of a rash. Use extreme caution with these essential oils in the bath. Either skip it completely, or dilute properly with carrier oil.
Technically, any essential oil can irritate the skin, especially for children, elderly individuals, or if you have hypersensitive, damaged, inflamed, or diseased skin or have had radiation. Only 5% of essential oil is absorbed through the skin because 95% of it evaporates, but 100% of it is on the skin for some period of time. Dilution greatly reduces the risk of irritation and also slows down absorption into the body.
I choose to use most essential oils neat on my skin, but dilute them (usually) for my children. Some of my family cannot use neat essential oils, others can. The most conservative and safest way to use essential oils is to dilute them. However, I don’t follow my own rules, and my professional opinion is that some expert recommendations are extremely conservative.Sensitization
Essential oils can also sensitize the skin. This is a type of allergic reaction that may barely show up or not show up at all on the first application, but the more a product is used, the more likely you are to be sensitive to it. This usually happens when you repeatedly use the same oil over and over for extended periods of time in the same location. It’s also important to know what products you’re using with your essential oils. Don’t combine essential oils with mineral oil, for example, which is full of petrochemicals.
Photosensitivity is another concern. You must stay out of the sun for 12 hours when using citrus essential oils and others, keep the skin fully covered, or properly dilute because certain compounds in these essential oils increases the risk of sunburn. Diluting a photosensitive oil can protect the skin. Best bet is just not to use them in the sun.
An adulterated product greatly increases the risk of irritation and adverse reaction. Do not use adulterated product.
No essential oils do not kill skin cells.
Also, know your skin type. Test out essential oils. Dilute if you want to be on the safe side. Pay attention to the oil you’re about to use & read the label. Be smart with your essential oils in the sun. Dilute for children. Use only high quality, unadulterated, verifiable, organic, non-GMO products.