Essential oil sensitization is a real phenomenon that can have dire consequences. Find out what it is and how to avoid it.
What is Essential Oil Sensitization?
Essential oil sensitization is an allergic reaction, where the immune system responds adversely to essential oils that are otherwise safe and used widely by many people.
Skin sensitization is medically known as Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD) and is a common form of immunotoxicity in humans.
Unlike skin irritation where symptoms are immediate, skin sensitization develops over time, taking weeks if not years to occur.
Just because you do not have any adverse reaction now, does not mean you will not have one in the future. If you really love essential oils, you should use them with caution by diluting them appropriately so that you can continue to use them.
Cross-sensitization, although rare, may also occur when the person allergic to a component in one essential oil faces allergic reactions to another essential oil containing that particular component. This is because in sensitization, you do not develop an allergy to the entire oil itself, but rather to a particular component in the oil such as eugenol or linalool.
What are the Signs of Essential Oil Sensitization?
Here are some of the most common signs of essential oil sensitization:
- Skin rashes or lesions
- Burning sensation
- Tightness in chest
- Shortness of breath
- Anaphylactic shock
Factors that Increase the Risk of Sensitization
- Applying oils neat, or at high concentrations
- Frequent use over long periods of time
- Using contaminated oils
- Using oxidized, degraded or otherwise expired oils
- Use of oils that are known sensitizers
Top 5 Essential Oils that Are Known Sensitizers
3. Lemon verbena
4. Peruvian balsam
Other essential oils not on this list may still pose the risk of sensitization. In fact, any oil that is used frequently for a long period of time is subject to giving you skin sensitization. For instance, many aromatherapists discover that they are sensitized to lavender essential oil, purported to be one of the safest oils to apply undiluted.
How to Avoid Essential Oil Sensitization
- Do not use any essential oil frequently over a long time period
- Avoid using essential oils undiluted
- Dilute essential oils carefully (remember, less is more!)
- Always do a patch test before using any new essential oil
- If you already have pre-existing allergies, take extra caution
- Those with sensitive skin should also be pre-cautious
- Avoid using with babies and children
What to Do In Case of Essential Oil Sensitization
There is no cure for essential oil sensitization. Once sensitized, the body develops a lifelong allergy to the item.
The best way is to avoid the essential oil in question and the component of the essential oil that triggered the reaction.
The symptoms of a sensitization such as rashes and hives on the skin can take many days if not weeks or months to disappear. You can take a number of natural remedies to relieve the symptoms including:
- Oatmeal baths for itching
- Cool compresses for soothing the skin
- Wearing smooth-textured clothing while healing
- Avoiding conventional soaps, lotions etc while healing
- Visit your doctor for further medication such as anti-histamines to relieve severe reactions
It is best to get a clinical diagnosis of the sensitization to find out which compound within the oil has been registered by the immune system as an allergen. This will help you avoid other products containing the allergen, which may trigger reactions.
Have you dealt with essential oil sensitization? Share your story in the comments below.