This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Do essential oils work?

Essential oils are highly concentrated botanical extracts made from the flowers, leaves and stems of plants. Essential oils have a host of medicinal and therapeutic properties and can help achieve various health and beauty goals. Aromatherapy and topical application are the most popular ways to use essential oils to improve skin, treat congestion, promote relaxation and much more. 

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are aromatic compounds extracted from plants through distillation or cold pressing. The oil contains the unique “essence” and characteristic aroma of the plant. 

Some view essential oils as powerful botanical medicines with immense and limitless benefits. In contrast, others simply enjoy the pleasant, relaxing qualities essential oils bring into a home through diffusion and other modes of use.  

Common essential oils and their uses

Best Lavender oil by Cliganic

Lavender oil is excellent for relieving stress and promoting relaxation. You can also spray it on your pillow or add it to your bath to help you fall asleep faster. 

Best Tea tree oil by Pure Body Naturals

Tea tree oil is widely used for its antiseptic properties. You can also use it as an acne treatment. Apply directly to pimples with a cotton swab to reduce the appearance of blemishes and promote healing.  

Now Foods, Essential Oils, Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus oil is often used for topical pain relief as well as for decongestion. Diffuse a small amount of eucalyptus oil in a diffuser when struggling with a cold or allergies to find relief from nasal congestion. 

Best Peppermint oil by Pure Body Naturals

Peppermint oil is also often used for cold and flu prevention and treatment, as it’s a natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial oil. You can also add a bit of peppermint oil, always diluted in a carrier oil, to your temples to energize, promote memory and stay awake when studying, for example. 

Best Bergamot oil by Now Foods

Bergamot oil is often used to promote smooth skin and can be added to a carrier oil and applied directly to your face for this purpose. 

How to use essential oils for aromatherapy

The most common way to use essential oils is to add them to an essential oil diffuser for aromatherapy. 

ASAKUKI Ultrasonic Aromatherapy Fragrant Oil Humidifier Vaporizer

Essential oil diffusers spray essential oils into the air as a breathable mist and come in various styles. Use an ultrasonic aromatherapy diffuser to get the most benefit out of your essential oils. 

Follow your diffuser’s instructions for use. Generally, you’ll operate your diffuser by filling the tank with water and adding up to 20 drops of essential oil to the water before turning on your diffuser. 

How to use essential oils topically

Another popular way to use essential oils is to apply them topically and allow them to absorb into the skin. 

You can apply essential oils to most parts of your body, barring sensitive areas. Some of the best places to apply essential oils are on your wrists, the tops of your feet, on your neck and behind your ears.

Majestic Pure Fractionated Coconut Oil

Any time you plan to apply essential oils to your skin, it’s important to use a carrier oil. A carrier oil is a neutral, plant-based oil that holds your essential oils. Common carrier oils include coconut oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil, sunflower seed oil, almond oil and jojoba oil

Diluting essential oils in a carrier oil is crucial because it makes a skin reaction less likely and allows essential oils to work better. Essential oils on their own tend to evaporate before your body has time to absorb the molecules present in the oil. A carrier oil slows down the process of evaporation.

Vivaplex Glass Roll-on Bottles with Stainless Steel Roller Balls

When diluting essential oils, aim for a ratio of about 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil. You store your mixture of essential oil and carrier oil in a rollerball bottle

How to use essential oils in the bath

Adding essential oils directly to your bath water is a great way to incorporate essential oils into your self-care routine to unwind, relax and get ready for bed. 

Tea Tree Special Shampoo

Another way to use essential oils in the bath is to buy bath products that contain essential oils. For example, you can get tea tree oil shampoo, lavender epsom salts or an essential oil shower steamer

Other essential oil uses

ST 559701 New Zealand Wool Dryer Balls

Add a few drops of your favorite essential oils or essential oil blend to wool laundry balls. Laundry balls replace dryer sheets and are better for the planet, more cost-effective and will make your clothes smell like whatever you want them to. 

Best glass bottle set

You can easily create your own cleaning products and sprays with essential oils. To create a disinfecting surface spray, mix together 1 cup water, ½ cup white vinegar, ½ tablespoon baking soda and at least 5 drops of your essential oil of choice. Store your DIY cleaning products and air sprays in a glass bottle set. Use with reusable rags for zero waste cleaning. 

Organic Cocoa Butter (1 lb) Mary Tylor Naturals Raw Unrefined

Make your own fluffy whipped body butter by combining ¾ cup cocoa butter with ¼ cup coconut oil and 20 drops of your favorite essential oil or a blend. Melt the butter and oil in a double boiler or bowl and then, once melted, let harden in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Remove the mixture from the freezer and whip for about 5 minutes with a hand mixer. Store in a glass jar

How do I use essential oils safely?

Essential oils are entirely safe to use, but there are guidelines you should follow. Remember that everyone’s reaction to a particular plant oil is different, and you should consult your doctor before you use a new health or beauty product. 

Start with a drop 

Essential oils are incredibly potent, and you should always use less than you think you need when you’re beginning to experiment with them. One or two drops are often more than enough for most purposes. 


Even though some essential oils are labeled for direct application to the skin, it’s always a good idea to play it safe and dilute essential oils before you place them on your skin. We recommend carrier oil for this purpose. 

Crisco Pure Vegetable Oil

If you’ve applied an essential oil to your skin and are experiencing skin irritation or another reaction, apply vegetable oil to the affected area to relieve the effects. 

Read the label carefully

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on your essential oil’s label. Some essential oils are safe for direct topical application, while some may be irritating. 

Where not to apply oils

Never apply oils inside your eyes, ears, nose or other sensitive areas. 

Who shouldn’t use oils 

Many essential oils aren’t safe for use around children under the age of 5, so practice extreme caution when determining which, if any, oils to use around children. 

Pregnant or breastfeeding women shouldn’t consume or dispense essential oils in the air without a doctor’s approval. 

Never apply essential oils directly to pets, as the oils can have extremely irritating effects on animals’ skin and may lead to injuries. Some essential oils that are safe for humans are toxic for pets, so you must consult a veterinarian before diffusing any oil in a home with pets. 

What you need to buy to use essential oils 

Vitruvi Ceramic Ultrasonic Essential Oil Diffuser 

Vitruvi Ceramic Ultrasonic Essential Oil Diffuser 

This is a high-quality porcelain essential oil diffuser with a matte ceramic finish that looks elegant and uses ultrasonic technology to diffuse essential oils without heat. It has a very sleek design, a long run time and an automatic shut-off. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Lagunamoon Essential Oils Top 6 Gift Set Pure Essential Oils for Diffuser

Lagunamoon Essential Oils Set of 6 

This option is a great starter set of the six most popular essential oils. It comes with lemon grass, peppermint, orange, lavender, eucalyptus and tea tree essential oils. Use with a diffuser or apply topically with a carrier oil. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Liantral Essential Oils Storage Rack 

Liantral Essential Oils Storage Rack 

Keep your essential oils neat and on display in this aesthetically pleasing wood-crafted bottle organizer. It looks great on an end table or shelf next to a diffuser.  

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Evelyn Waugh writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2023 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.