Should I Diffuse or Apply My Essential Oils Topically?

by Bella Martinez March 09, 2017

Should I Diffuse or Topically Apply My Essential Oil?

You wouldn’t rub smelling salts on a person to awaken their consciousness, nor would you inhale a muscle gel to soothe soreness. Often times, the way in which we are to use essential oils is common sense, but other times guidance is necessary. When do you use essential oils topically and when do you inhale?

Topical Application

If you’ve ever used a skin patch before, you know that substances can be absorbed through the skin. When a substance is applied topically, it slowly permeates the skin before entering into the bloodstream. The slow permeation of properly diluted essential oils can positively affect pain, inflammation and issues that are skin deep when EOs are applied topically. Inhaling an oil will deliver its chemical constituents throughout the body, but it is better that an oil be applied directly to the area of concern in these cases.

Permeability factors should also be assessed when deciding to use essential oils topically. One factor being that EOs absorb quicker where the skin is thin, such as the face. Another being that heat causes essential oils to penetrate the skin more easily. For this reason, we recommend a lower than average dilution rate when using essential oils on the face and in a bath, spa or sauna.


When and where to use essential oils for pain and injury may seem like common sense, but how to use EOs for issues such as sleep, anxiety and energy can get confusing. Inhaling oils delivers a quick dose of its natural chemical constituents into the bloodstream, as opposed to topical use.

When working with emotional and neurological issues, a faster route of absorption is preferred, which is why we recommend inhalation in these cases. This same rule applies when you have a respiratory issue. For example, it is best to breathe in decongestant-type oils, but you can also apply these oils topically in the form of a chest rub.

Your turn! Let us know when you use oils topically, and when you inhale them in the comments section below.

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1 comment

Lavada Miller Hill

July 30, 2021 at 8:32 am

This article was very insightful as I was looking for the meaning of two acronyms, AISD and ATID i saw on some flyer for essential oils. I have learned a lot reading this article on inhalation and topical application, thanks