Why Oil Diffusers VS Topical Application- Which Is Safer?
The advent of diffusers to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy is possibly one of the greatest advances in natural health and wellness to date. Diffusers offer another way to fully enjoy the benefits essential oils can provide, while heightening safety and effectiveness.
Ultrasonic diffusers are designed to use electricity to cause a small plate inside the machine to vibrate. The vibrations are extremely fast – up to millions of vibrations per second – and help break down the essential oil particles into their base molecules. These powerful essential oil molecules blend with water used in the machine to disperse into the air.
Diffusing essential oils this way is much safer than other methods of application. First, these diffusers emit no heat, so the integrity of the essential oil is not compromised. Some methods of application involve heating the oils, which can not only damage the oil, but can damage skin if you come into contact with it.
Sensitization is one of the most common reactions aromatherapists see with essential oil use. Sensitization is when the body’s immune system responds to something in an essential oil and causes a reaction. A reaction on the skin caused by an essential oil is known as Allergic Contact Dermatitis, or ACD. It is a very common form on immunotoxicity. Many cases of ACD with essential oils occur when a person uses it on their skin undiluted, or “neat.” Essential oils are highly concentrated plant isolates, and as such, should be used mindfully. When oil is diffused rather than applied topically, the risk of ACD or any other type of allergic reaction is reduced significantly.
Just to be safe, always diffuse one oil at a time for a short duration (around ten to fifteen minutes per diffusion) to make sure you aren’t going to have any allergic reactions to that particular oil. Be mindful of any pets or children in an area where you are diffusing, as they can be more sensitive.
Diffusion actually utilizes oils the way they were originally meant to be enjoyed. The very term “aromatherapy” was derived from the belief that inhalation of essential oils could help treat a variety of issues. When an essential oil is broken down by ultrasonic vibrations and mixed with water to disperse into the air, those molecules can reach the olfactory system in our bodies much easier. This creates a much more effective avenue to elevate mood, reduce stress, and restore both body and mind. On the contrary, when essential oils are applied to the skin, the beneficial compounds in the oils must travel through multiple layers of skin to get where they need to go in the body. Only a fraction of beneficial compounds actually make it through the skin’s layers. After all, the skin is the body’s first line of defense against invaders and is designed to keep unwelcome pathogens, bacteria, and microbes at bay!
The only time when topical application may be superior to diffusion is when you want to treat a specific issue on the skin’s surface. For example, if you have a fungal issue on the skin, using diluted tea tree oil on the area is highly beneficial.
For melting tension, stress, and promoting relaxation, diffusion is the way to go! Some great oils for this include lavender, chamomile, and clary sage. Diffusing citrus essential oils like lemon, orange, lime, and grapefruit can help promote feelings of positivity and energy. Diffusing citrus essential oils is much safer than topical application because many citrus oils are photosensitive, meaning they can cause a reaction on the skin when they are applied prior to being out in the sun. For enhancing meditation and promoting groundedness, diffusion of essential oils like vetiver, frankincense, and sandalwood can help bring you to the place you want to be. Skip dumping a bunch of oil in your bath tub the next time you want to take a relaxing soak and try diffusing in your bathroom instead. Not only will you use less oil, you will benefit the same (if not more) than you would by soaking in the oils.
The next time you think about applying essential oils topically, ask yourself whether it is truly necessary and if diffusion would be a better choice. Not only will you use a lot less essential oil in the long run, you will significantly reduce the chances of experiencing a reaction when you choose to diffuse.
About the Author:
Amber Robinson is a Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild(AHG) and a Level 2 NAHA Certified Professional Aromatherapist with the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy(NAHA). She is founder of The Bitter Herb Academy, as well as a published author in the fields of aromatherapy and herbalism.