The Essential Oil Skin Patch Test
The following is NOT MEDICAL ADVICE and is intended for educational purposes only - to illustrate the science behind essential oils, how they might be applied in the real world, and to offer a foundation from which to speak to your doctor.
Consult your primary healthcare provider before using essential oils.
Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts and SHOULD NOT be handled by anyone unaware of the RISKS and DANGERS they pose.
Essential oils may provide many benefits to those willing to give them a chance, but they must be handled with care to avoid the potential for harm. Essential oils are concentrated plant chemicals, and all oils are not created equal. Each species of plant has a different chemical makeup, but even two plants from the same species can contain different chemicals, or different amounts of the same chemicals, based on environmental and seasonal conditions. Due to the variations involved with essential oils, it's always a good idea to perform a skin patch test before wide spread topical use of an essential oil blend.
What's a Skin Patch Test?
A skin patch test is a simple method employed by aromatherapists to determine whether or not a person may be sensitive to a particular blend of oils. The idea is to expose a small portion of the skin to a small amount of the oils in question, and then wait to see if any redness or irritation occurs at the site of application.
Neat or Diluted Testing?
Most experts agree that essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil before application to the body. The organization that regulates the title of "Registered Aromatherapist", the Aromatherapy Registration Council, has officially stated that it may revoke the registration of any registered aromatherapist found to be recommending or teaching the application of undiluted (referred to as "neat") essential oils to the skin (Source #1).
So, the organization that regulates the experts is AGAINST the undiluted use of essential oils on the skin. Take it from the experts and dilute your essential oils in a carrier oil of your choice before applying the essential oils to the body.
Test the Blend, Not the Individual Oils
When performing a skin patch test, perform the test using the final and complete blend which you plan on applying to the skin. So if the final blend contains two essential oils and a carrier oil, then you would perform one skin patch test of the total blend, not three individual tests of the individual parts.
Performing a Skin Patch Test
To perform a skin patch test, apply one or two drops of an essential oil blend to a thin patch of skin, like the crook of the arm or behind the ear, and cover with a Band-Aid. If being conducted on someone who already knows they have sensitive skin, then one drop will be plenty for this test. You can even apply the drops of your blend directly onto the soft center of a Band-Aid and then apply the Band-Aid to a soft area of skin.
After 24 hours, check the site of application for any signs of sensitivity, irritation, or redness. If none of these signs manifest, and if there is no subjective pain or discomfort reported by the person to whom the oil blend was applied, then again perform the exact same test, over the exact same area, with the exact same blend as before. Apply one or two fresh drops of the blend under a fresh Band-Aid and wait another 24 hours.
If Nothing Happens
If no signs of sensitivity, irritation, redness, or reports of subjective pain / discomfort manifest around the area of application during the 48 hours, then it's reasonable to consider the oil blend safe for use as directed by the registered aromatherapist who created the blend.
If Irritation or Pain Manifest
If any pain, discomfort, irritation, or redness manifests at the site of application at any point during the skin patch test, immediately flush the area with milk or, if none is available, with cool water, until any pain or discomfort subsides. If pain or discomfort does not subside after several minutes of flushing, then seek medical attention.
No matter the results of your skin patch test, alert your registered aromatherapist so the formula can be adjusted or saved for future use.
Aromatherapy Registration Council. (n.d.). Statement of Policy Against Raindrop Therapy. https://aromatherapycouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/ARC-RDT-Policy-Statement-Final-V2-2021-05.pdf
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