Essential oils have been used for centuries for aromatherapy, fragrance, and skincare purposes. But they're making a resurgence thanks to their simplistic, customizable qualities. Interested in trying them? New York-based holistic healer and aromatherapist, Hope Gillerman (her book, Essential Oils Every Day, comes out May 31), shares her top six dos and don'ts.
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Oil Droplets
Credit: Ralph Smith

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Oil Droplets
Credit: Ralph Smith

1 Do use them in the shower.

Essential oils penetrate deeper into the skin when applied with heat. The easiest place to do this is in the shower. Simply apply a dab of essential oil (eucalyptus acts as a great wakeup call in the morning, plus can help to clear nasal passages) onto your chest and stand under the shower head. The steam lifts up the oil and allows the micro particles to go deeper into your lungs as you breathe in for maximum benefits.

2 Don’t wear certain oils in the sun.

Some essential oils, including all citrus oils (grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, mandarin, tangerine, and bergamot), ginger, and coriander—may harm your skin if applied topically and worn in the sun. Wear them indoors only.

3 Do breathe them in.

Inhaling an essential oil is a fast way to experience its therapeutic benefits. Put two to three drops of your favorite oil on a tissue or cotton ball and sit back in a chair. Exhale completely, then hold the tissue or cotton ball up to your nose and slowly breathe in the scent. Continue inhaling and exhaling while waving the essential oil back and forth in front of your nose to experience the total aroma. A good one to use to de-stress: lavender.

4 Don’t remove them with water.

Using water to remove oils actually accelerates spreads them further. Instead, remove an unwanted oil by diluting it on your skin with cooking oil, like olive or grapeseed, and wipe everything off at once.

5 Do use them at the office.

Zen-ify your work space by keeping a wine glass on your desk and tapping a few droplets of your favorite essential oil (or blend) in the glass. The tapered bell of the glass is perfect for mixing oils because it helps funnel the scent to your nose and allows you to swirl the oils over a larger surface area so it better evaporates in the air to scent your space. Try using a citrus oil, like lemon, to keep your energy up during the day.

6 Do examine the label.

It’s no guarantee that a bottle labeled “natural” or “therapeutic” or “pure” will be an authentic essential oil. Here’s what you should look for instead:

  • ​The Latin botanical name (not just its common name)
  • The country of origin
  • 100% Organic” or “USDA certified organic” (which guarantees that a product is 95% organic)
  • “Wild-crafted” (picked in the wild)