How to Use Essential Oils Properly

You might know the benefits of a given oil, but how do you use essential oils, exactly? Essential oils might be natural, but they're also strong, so using them the wrong way can be risky. They're a common irritant and can even react with certain drugs when consumed, says Goldstein. Essential oils are potentially toxic to a fetus, so avoid essential oils while pregnant or speak with a doc first.

You should also think twice if you have a pet since essential oils can be toxic to animals. They can cause unsteadiness, depression, or low body temperature in dogs and cats who come in contact with them, or vomiting, diarrhea, or depression in dogs and cats who ingest them, according to the ASPCA. In general, diffusers are okay to use if you have pets, but you should avoid essential oils altogether if you own a bird or another pet with breathing issues, according to the organization. (Related: How to Get Rid of Cellulite Using Essential Oils)

Essential oil diffusers: If you have zero clue how to use essential oils, diffusers are a good starting point, and a better option than sniffing them straight from the bottle in general, says Goldstein. Adding a few drops to a steamer or pot of boiling water is another more potent option. (Check out these diffusers that double as tasteful decor.)

Cooking with or ingesting essential oils: When it comes to cooking with or ingesting essential oils, avoid anything that's not labeled as safe for consumption. And even if it does have the all-clear, there may be risks involved. "I've actually read from my colleagues that ingesting some essential oils can cause distress over the long term because they are so potent," says Goldstein. If you want to try cooking with essential oils, Lutzi suggests topping bread with coconut oil, butter, or ghee and honey infused with lemon, lavender, rose, or orange essential oil.

Using essential oils for skin: When using oils on your skin, start out slow, since they can cause irritation or even burns. Always start with a patch test to see how your skin reacts to a particular oil, says Lutzi. And you should *never* apply an essential oil directly to your skin; always dilute it first with a carrier oil (such as coconut, almond, or avocado oil). As a rule of thumb, you want 2 percent dilution: 12 drops of essential oil per 1 fluid ounce of carrier oil or lotion, says Lutzi. Finally, some oils are photosensitized, meaning they'll cause burns when exposed to sunlight (!!). Double-check that an oil isn't photosensitive if you plan on applying it before heading outside.