Essential Oils That Are Known to Be Skin Irritants

Many essential oils in pure form are now widely available to consumers.  People are purchasing these oils under the impression that they are well, “essential” when in fact; they can be severe skin irritants. Shop owners and employees have good intentions selling these oils, but they may not be skin care experts or required to be. That’s why it’ best for the consumer to be knowledgeable about essential oils.

Some essential oils are known to be skin irritants when not used properly (in pure undiluted form). Or, the essential oil within the product ingredients can be a skin irritant. The name of several essential oils can sound innocent and beneficial. However, applied on skin can cause burning and itching. None of these essential oils should be taken orally.

Tansy (Tanacetum Vulgare). Tansy is high in thujone. When applied on skin it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Thujone has been known to cause nausea and uterine bleeding. Long term use can possibly cause respiratory arrest.

Horseradish (Coohlearla Armorccic) The herbal use of horseradish is potentially effective to treat coughs associated with the common cold.  The oil of horseradish contains allyl isothiocyanale and is an irritant to skin, eyes and mucus membranes. Mustard oil also contains allyl isothiocyanate. Many persons use this oil for anti- itching from poison ivy and athlete’s foot.  If you want an essential oil for anit-bacterial and itching, a safe essential oil is Tea Tree Oil.

Wintergreen (Gaulytheria Procumbeng.) This refreshing flavor is widely used in gums. Wintergreen is safe in small amounts orally in gum.  This oil’s active ingredient is methyl salicylate. It has been used in ointments for rheumatism. The topical use of this oil, even diluted with water can be a skin irritant. It affects the sensitive skin type, persons with eczema and dry skin.

Mink Oil. This oil sounds luxurious and is used widely in anti-aging products and moisturizers. Mink oil is known to clog pores and lead to acne. Acne and oily prone skin should avoid products that include mink oil in the ingredients. Mink oil is derived from the fatty tissue of minks and is not in favor with animal rights activists.

Cottonseed Oil. A widely known skin care ingredient found in bar soaps to make skin feel soft.  This oil is derived from cotton. Vast cotton fields are heavily sprayed with pesticides. It can be a very sensitizing ingredient for persons with sensitive skin because of the high use of chemical pesticides. If you have extremely sensitive skin and you are using bar soaps with this ingredient, this may be the cause of the sensitizing reaction to your skin.

So how would you know if an essential oil will irritate your skin?

Before purchasing an essential oil try testing the essential oil on a small patch of skin. If a reaction was to occur it usually takes about thirty minutes to show signs. Many shops have testers available and these should be taken advantage of.

Red, swollen skin, itchy skin, bumps that are itchy, or in rare cases blisters may occur. These are strong side effects of the essential oil or product. When these symptoms occur wash skin thoroughly with a mild cleanser and cool water.

With essentials oils being readily available to the consumer it’s best to shop wisely and to avoid any unnecessary side effects. Use the essential oil for its intended use and don’t experiment with it for other ailments. If suggested uses are available make sure it’s from a trusted source.



About The Author

Sandy Alcide’s articles have been featured in notable magazines and websites. Sandy is the founder of Motion Medica skin care and the President of the American Athletic Skin Care Association, raising awareness for the rise of melanoma among outdoor athletes. She can be reached at


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