Essential Oils Dermal Limits
Essential oils are fabulous botanical ingredients to use in your skincare products adding benefits for the skin and wonderful aromas. They are very potent and can irritate the skin if used incorrectly, so need to be used with care and within certain limits. Most people have no idea that you can only add 0.02% of Rose oil to moisturisers! This guide should help you add them to your formulations safely and compliantly.
The Golden Rules
- Never use undiluted essential oils on the skin
- Maximum 5% Inclusion (Normally 0.1-3%)
- Body – 3% Maximum
- Haircare – 2% Maximum
- Face – 1% Maximum
- Lips – 0.5% Maximum
- Eye Area – 0.1% Maximum
- Lower levels for ‘leave on’ products (e.g. moiturisers) than for ‘rinse off’ products (e.g. shower gel)
- Use lower percentages for children, during pregnancy and for anyone with compromised skin
- Hydrosols can be useful alternatives to essential oils when formulating
Adverse Skin Reactions
There are three main types of adverse skin reactions with essential oils
- Irritation – This is caused by the chemical compound reacting when it comes into contact with the skin and the reaction happens quickly. The severity of the reaction increases with increased concentrations of the irritant. Commonly it can cause itching, redness and rashes.
- Sensitisation – This type of reaction generally builds up over time (although it can happen on a first use) and tends to get worse with each exposure. It is a type of allergy caused when your immune system reacts to the substance and becomes inflamed.
- Phototoxicity – Mainly caused by essential oils containing furanocoumarins which are most commonly found in citrus oils. They cause the skin to react much more fiercely to sunlight which can result in reddening, blistering and even permanent damage. Safe citrus oils are our expressed mandarin, sweet orange and tangerine as well as our Bergamot FCF
Here in the EU, there are very strict limits on the levels of allergenic compounds in cosmetics. The guidelines are set by IFRA and can be found HERE. There are 26 of sensitisers all together of which 16 occur naturally in essential oils. Each sensitiser has its own limit and this varies depending on the application. For all 16, they must be declared on the ingredients list if the exceed 0.001% for leave-on products or 0.01% for rinse off products. You can find our table of sensitiser limits and a step by step guide to calculating the percentage HERE