Skin irritations will sometimes occur in one individual and not in another and this is because the skin of one might be sensitive to a particular component in the essential oil. Skin irritation happens on the first exposure to the irritation, the reaction is rapid and the severity will depend on the concentration of the irritant present. The skin responds with an inflammatory reaction. So when you see an essential oil with the caution that it may be a skin irritant use it with caution on people with sensitive skins.
Skin sensitization is a type of allergic reaction. The oil may not produce any reaction on the first contact, however once the allergen has penetrated the skin, the body’s immune system reacts to fight off the invader causing a rash on the skin. Sensitization reactions can also take the form of inflammation, breathlessness, nausea or headache. It is actually possible to become sensitized to any essential oil.
Sensitization to an essential oil can happen through overuse of any oil and an interesting fact is that Lavender (Lavendula angustifolium), the essential oil with the reputation of being one of the most versatile and safest essential oils around, is the one that most therapists have become sensitized to. This happens mainly through overuse of the oil, a good reminder that we should not just use the same oil or blend of oil day in and day out but we should change our blends around on a regular basis.
Whenever you feel there is a possibility of skin irritation or skin sensitization patch test first.
To patch test with a particular oil:
Cross-sensitization: Keeping in mind that each essential oils is a complex mix of many different chemical components, it is generally not the ‘whole’ essential oil that one becomes sensitized to but rather one or more of its chemical components. When this happens it is possible that one can be susceptible to becoming sensitized to other essential oils containing the same chemical components. Thankfully this does not happen very often.
Some Factors Increasing the Absorption of Essential Oils: