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The most common skin reactions to a cosmetic product are:

1. Irritation or “irritant contact dermatitis”. It is the most common skin reaction to a beauty or cosmetics product. You could have burning, stinging, itching, and redness in the area where you apply the product.

2. Skin allergies or “allergic contact dermatitis”. Sensitivity or a true allergy to a specific ingredient in the product causes redness, swelling, itching, or blisters on the skin. Essential oils are usually the biggest culprits.

Other safety concerns that may be associated with cosmetic and personal care products include eye infections, irritation and scratches on the eyes, or spreading of bacteria on the skin.


Using your cosmetics and personal care products properly can help reduce many risks. A basic precaution is to do a patch test first: before you use a new product, put a small amount on the inside of your elbow and wait 24 hours. Terms like "hypoallergenic", "dermatologist tested", "sensitivity tested" or "non-irritating" do not guarantee that your skin will not react. Additional measures include washing off cosmetics before you go to sleep and not sharing any personal products to prevent the spread of bacteria.




The use of undiluted essential oils on sensitive skin or in the nostrils can irritate or burn. Susceptible people may also develop an allergic reaction and a skin rash. Whether a specific essential oil is safe for a certain person depends on different factors, including age, underlying health conditions and/or medication and supplement use.

Essential oils have different properties and benefits in the field of health and beauty. However, if administered improperly, rash and other side effects may occur. Some essential oils can even be poisonous if absorbed directly through the skin. Others, like orange, lime, and lemon, can cause phototoxicity if applied before exposure to sun.

To prevent adverse reactions, essential oils require dilution by blending a few drops with a carrier oil. Carrier oils are typically vegetable-based, and they carry the essential oils safely onto the skin and help spread them over a large surface area.

Patch tests are a basic procedure when using products that include essential oils. These tests allow to see how the skin reacts to a particular oil before a full application. The steps for conducting a patch test are the following:

  1. Wash forearm or the inside of your elbow with unscented soap.

  2. Pat dry.

  3. Rub the product into a small patch of your forearm or on the inside of your elbow.

  4. Wait 24 hours, remove the product and wash again.

If the skin patch is red, itchy, blistering or swollen, an adverse reaction to the oil has occurred and use should be discontinued. If discomfort is experienced before the 24-hour period ends, the area should be washed immediately with soap and warm water.



Topical essential oils can cross the placental barrier and harm the fetus, especially during the first three months.

There are a few essential oils that are considered safe for use during prenatal massages or through the diffuser method, there are some essential oils that should never be used during pregnancy. Camphor oil is one of them; this oil is used by Natural Lamu in its Breathe Easy Balm, and it should never be used during pregnancy, labor, or while breastfeeding.

If you are interested in using essential oils or products containing essential oils during pregnancy, labour or breastfeeding, you should talk to your healthcare provider before use.



Infants and children have thinner skin and less developed livers and immune systems. This makes them more vulnerable to potential toxicity associated with essential oils use. Following safety guidelines and exercising extreme caution is crucial. You should always consult a healthcare provider before using essential oils on or around infants and children.

After 2 years, certain essential oils can be administered topically and through aromatherapy methods, but at a much weaker concentration than adult dosing.


Special risks associated with the use of essential oils in infants and children are the following:

  • Peppermint essential oil should not be topically applied to children under the age of 6 years.

  • Eucalyptus essential oil should not be topically applied to children under the age of 10 years.

  • Lavender and tea tree oils should not be topically applied on males who have not reached puberty to prevent hormonal abnormalities that encourage breast growth.

  • Camphor oil should not be topically applied to children under the age of 6 years.


Talk to a medical provider before using these essential oils on or around infants and children.




Keep away from flames all essential oils or products containing essential oils. Essential oils are highly flammable. They should not be used or stored near candles, gas stoves, lit cigarettes, or open fireplaces.


Always wash your hands after using essential oils. If you have remnants of essential oils on your hands and you rub your eyes or scratch the inside of your ears, you could experience a serious adverse reaction. Essential oils should not come into contact with eyes and ears.



Practicing caution and following safety guidelines will help ensure your experience using essential oils is a positive one. However, adverse reactions can still happen. Part of responsibly using essential oils is knowing what to do if side effects do occur.


If essential oils get into the eyes, two things can be done:

  1. Soak a cotton swab in a food-grade fatty oil like sesame or olive. Wipe the swab over your closed eyelid.

  2. Immediately flush the area with cool, clean water.


If you are experiencing skin irritation, use a fatty oil or cream to absorb and wipe the essential oil away.


If you have accidentaly ingested or over-ingested an oil, immediately contact your local poison control center. Then, follow these precautions:

  • drink full-fat or 2 percent milk

  • avoid vomiting

  • keep handy the essential oil bottle or the product containing the essential oils to show the emergency response team



These guidelines cannot be regarded as a complete safety guide for the use of oils, essential oils, herbs or spices. As a general rule, before using oils, herbs, spices or essential oils, internally or externally, always perform a test to look for and prevent adverse reactions.

When in doubt, and especially in the case of disease or special conditions like pregnancy or breastfeeding, skin conditions, epilepsy, asthma or in the case of infants and children, you should seek the advice of a health care provider for guidance.

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