Are essential oils safe for babies? Well, this answer requires a complicated answer.
Depending on their age and the circumstances, some essential oils can be safe for use on your child. That’s the short answer.
The longer, more detailed answer? You’ll have to learn about:
- When you can safely use essential oils for babies
- What kinds of essential oils are safe
- How you should use essential oils and;
- Essential oil safety tips to help you on your way to keeping your child healthy
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are natural, volatile plant compounds that have chemical components in them. The name essential oil came about because it contains rich components.
Manufacturers use steam distillation (steam distilled) or cold pressing to collect oils from various parts of plants:
The steam distilled process will depend on where essential oils are located in the plant itself. Because these essential oils are highly concentrated, they can be highly potent and unsafe for certain uses.
Are Essential Oils Safe for Babies?
The general rule is that it is NOT safe to use essential oils on babies because they will always pose safety risks to your child.
The side effects of using essential oils on children can vary from a mild skin rash to serious illness or even death (in rare, extreme cases).
Reasons Why Using Essential Oils on Children Can Go Wrong
There are plenty of reasons essential oils’ safe use on babies is in question. They’re generally not safe for babies if used on their own.
But the side effects can be prevented by following certain essential oil safety tips, while others go into the nature of essential oils or the particular essential oil you are planning to use on your child.
1. Too Potent
Remember that essential oils are volatile, concentrated compounds. That’s why we recommend you familiarize yourself with essential oil safety guidelines first.
Essential oils can be unsafe to use on babies and young children because of this strength. If not properly used, stronger oils can pose an incredible risk and may cause severe adverse reactions, including:
- Breathing issues
- Blood coagulation problems
- Phototoxicity (skin irritation caused by less potent oils, like citrus oils)
2. Accidental Ingestion
There’s a reason tons of products are labeled as “keep out of reach of children.”
Babies tend to put anything and everything in their mouths, and if you’re not careful they can also end up ingesting essential oils. If you or your baby ingest essential oils, then you may risk getting poisoned.
Essential oil companies may even lead you to believe that their products can safely be eaten or added to any other food, but DON’T FALL FOR IT. Heed our warning that if you ingest essential oils, especially ones that haven’t been diluted yet, you’ll suffer from certain allergic reactions or adverse reactions.
Nobody should ever eat these essential oils unless specifically instructed to do so by a professional. Again, do not ingest essential oils.
3. Overuse of Essential Oils
Just like with medicine or other products, overuse is one of the main reasons you can turn a beneficial thing into a dangerous one.
Today, plenty of people casually use essential oils for just about anything. Without knowing it, they end up overusing them when they apply essential oils.
This is dangerous because, just like with medications, essential oils must be used intelligently and with caution, preferably under the guidance of an aromatherapist or professional.
Moreover, take care not to overuse essential oils on children, as this can lead to systematic sensitization and result in your baby’s lifelong inability to use essential oils.
4. Incorrect Usage
As we will discuss in more detail in the sections below, there is a right and wrong way to use essential oils. You need to do your research beforehand, particularly if you are applying them to your children or babies.
For example, you can NEVER apply essential oils directly to the skin.
You need to DILUTE essential oils to a certain percentage first. You should also never let your diffuser run for more than 15 – 30 minutes per session.
This is why other parents need to know essential oils’ safe use tips, especially when you plan to use them on children.
5. Poor Quality and Purity
Your baby and family deserve nothing but the best you can afford.
In the essential oils industry, there are no regulations to standardize quality and purity. Moreover, these product labels do not need to disclose what’s in them.
It’s important to go with reliable, trusted brands that produce high-quality essential oils without contaminants and other harmful substances. It’s also best to buy directly from these manufacturers.
Advantages of Essential Oils
While essential oils can be abused or overused, they can give you and your babies tons of benefits with the proper care and usage.
Aromatherapy has been around since the beginning of human civilization. There must be a reason, right?
Aromatic plant extracts are versatile and have many uses, from treating burns and soothing various conditions to alleviating stress and promoting relaxation.
For those who are less than 3 months, certain essential oils can help them slumber, calm their anxiety, and even relieve symptoms of colic (though only do this after you’ve tried safer alternatives).
The benefit will differ from oil to oil, so choose what you need.
Examples of Essential Oils You Can Try:
Helps infants sleep and soothes insomnia. This is a great product for fussy infants. They can also relieve anxiety and depression to help your baby sleep soundly.
2. Distilled Lemon
One of the most popular citrus oils that helps boost energy and mood. It’s great for perking babies up after a nap. Note that it has to be the distilled and not the expressed variety.
A calming, antispasmodic oil that alleviates indigestion if normal gripe water doesn’t work.
For this, we recommend diluting 1 drop per tsp of dilution oil, blending it thoroughly, then massaging it onto your infant’s body.
Mainly used for its calming and sedative effects.
A good massage can help relax a fussy infant and encourage them to peacefully go through the night (something every parent wishes for!).
This is also great for relieving the swelling and itchiness of insect bites, along with other causes of itchiness.
Provides calming effects that make it the perfect pair with a nightcap and for those irritated by the smell of the other alternatives we’ve mentioned already.
Its sweet scent is better than other orange oil varieties, because it is not phototoxic, so it will not result in a child’s skin irritation even when directly applied.
6. Tea Tree
Has natural antimicrobial properties, so a few drops of this unscented oil can help alleviate diaper rashes, a skin rash, and fungal infections.
Be careful though! This is a stronger oil than the others here, so it can be quite harsh and must not be used on those YOUNGER than 6 months old.
When Can You Safely Use Essential Oils on Your Baby?
Here’s a rundown of the right ages and uses of essential oils for children.
Less than 6 Months of Age
There is a hard rule when it comes to using essential oils for your babies.
Never, and we mean NEVER use essential oils on infants who are less than 6 months of age. This includes all kinds of usage: topical application, aromatherapy, diffusion, and inhalation.
Over 6 Months of Age
Once your baby reaches 6 months, you can slowly introduce essential oils SPARINGLY through a diffuser.
Using essential oils on your baby at this age should only be done when necessary. And even then, never apply your essential oil topically on your baby.
Children Less Than 2 Years of Age
While many parents may use essential oils on babies who are as young as 6 months of age, this requires expert advice and help.
A general rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t use essential oils on children under 2 years of age.
So you should only be using it on babies under 2 years of age if the benefits CLEARLY outweigh the risks and it was suggested by an aromatherapist or medical professional.
Before using essential oils on young children, ask yourself what your goal is first.
Consider whether there are gentler alternatives, such as a teething toy for intense teething or baby probiotics for digestive issues.
A Complete List of Essential Oils Safe for Babies
- Blue Tansy
- Clary Sage
- German and Roman Chamomile
- Tea Tree
Which Essential Oils are Not Safe for Use on Babies?
Some of the essential oils below may be safe to use on young children, but all of them are not safe for babies.
There are usually other kid-safe alternatives that will do the same thing as these oils, so always go for the safer alternative.
For example, oregano essential oil is not safe for babies and children because it is a hot oil. Tea tree oil has the same benefits but is far safer for children.
This is NOT an exhaustive list of essential oils that are not safe for babies and young children. It is always better to seek guidance from a professional to determine whether that particular essential oil you are considering will be safe for your baby.
Make sure to always do your research on the essential oils safe for your little one.
- Basil (lemon)
- Bay or Laurel
- Black Seed
- Cinnamon Bark
- Cinnamon Leaf
- Clove Bud
- Eucalyptus (all)
- Lemon Balm
- Lemon Verbena
- Marjoram (Spanish)
- May Chang (Litsea Cubeba)
- Myrtle (Lemon and Honey)
- Tea Tree (lemon-scented)
How to Use Essential Oils:
If you know anything about utilizing essential oils, you’d know there are generally 3 ways you can use them.
Their potency, convenience, and effects can vary depending on how you decide to use essential oils.
Using a diffuser is one of the best and easiest ways to use essential oils. This lets you use a concentrated drop of a single oil or even a blend of essential oils.
- You need only put a few drops of essential oils in a cool mist diffuser and let it run its course for 15 – 30 minutes.
- Then, turn off the diffuser for another 15 – 30 minutes before turning it on again, if you so choose.
- Don’t let your machine run for long periods as the essential oils they release can make your babies feel dizzy, nauseous, etc.
Recommended dose: 1 – 5 (for concentrated) or 4 – 8 drops (for less concentrated oils)
2. Topical Application
For achy muscles or other skin conditions, using essential oils by direct application on the child’s skin can be very helpful.
However, using essential oils can be very potent and harmful to adults, and especially to young children or babies. So even if you have achy muscles, be wary.
WARNING: Make sure to consult an aromatherapist or doctor first, as some conditions can be irritated by essential oils. Moreover, always DILUTE the essential oil before topical application on your child.
Suggestion for when you dilute essential oils:
- Babies and young children: 0.5-1% or roughly 1 drop per 1-2 tsp. of carrier oil
- 5 – 12 years of age and elderly: 1-2% or roughly 1-2 drops per tsp. of carrier oil
- Healthy adults: 2-5% or roughly 2-5 drops per tsp. of carrier oil
Say you’re staying in a hotel or you live with someone who has a very sensitive nose so you can’t diffuse your essential oils, inhalation is an excellent alternative.
This is perfect for giving a bit of lavender to your babies!
To do this, you just need to put a bit on something you can carry around with you or you’ll have on your person all day, such as:
- the corner of your sleeve
- a handkerchief
- a piece of jewelry with a lava stone
- on a cotton ball
Essential Oil Safety Tips
Whether you just want a better night’s sleep for you and your babies or you want your home to smell good while using essential oils, there are certain precautions you need to take when you have young children around your home.
In time and as they grow older, you can relax and utilize essential oils more. But to avoid any issue with using essential oils, here is some guidance.
Safety Tip #1: How to Try a New Essential Oil
Once you start using essential oils on your child, it’s important that you only introduce one essential oil at a time.
Closely monitor your child for a few hours right after you use a new essential oil to check if they will have any adverse reactions.
While it may be uncommon, allergic reactions may look like skin rashes or chemical burns.
Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, lethargy, and breathing problems. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect this.
Safety Tip #2: Use Sparingly
The 2nd essential oil safety tip is to use them sparingly.
While the trend is to whip out an essential oil for every little thing, they are not remedies for everything — especially for baby-related health and hygiene.
Using essential oils should be a measure of last resort. Whenever there are gentler alternatives, use those.
Safety Tip #3: Follow Essential Oil Safety Guidelines
If the manufacturer recommends certain safety precautions, follow them. Always keep your essential oil in a safe and secure place where your adventurous baby cannot find them.
Remember that babies will grab anything within their reach and try to put them in their mouth or play with them. Young children can also do the same, and are worse because they can actually walk around the house.
So keep your essential oil in a secure cupboard or cabinet, preferably somewhere high up that they cannot reach.
Throw used cotton balls and clean other surfaces on which you’ve applied your essential oil to prevent accidental ingestion.
And DON’T FORGET about the cover of the essential oil bottle. Just like any other small object, this can be a choking hazard. So keep your baby safe by securing them.
Safety Tip #4: Other Baby Products
Tons of products nowadays are scented using essential oils. These include baby bath and skincare products. This doesn’t mean they’re okay for babies or young children.
Unlike baby products that have undergone rigorous testing, products using essential oils can lead to disastrous consequences, especially if accidentally ingested.
So to be sure, always use unscented, organic baby products like baby shampoo, natural baby lotions, and safe, non-toxic wipes. This will also prevent your baby from ingesting alcohol and other harmful substances that may be present in baby shampoo and bath products.
How to Choose Essential Oils
Before trying out any brand, you must seek guidance and advice from professionals, as well as other people or other parents who have tried it on their babies.
While certain babies may react differently than others, this is a way for you to have an idea of how safe a particular oil is.
Do not fall for the “therapeutic grade” label many essential oil product labels brag about.
Remember that there is no 3rd party certification that will guarantee the quality, effectiveness, or standards of any oil on the market, so these marketing gimmicks are just that–gimmicks.
Research on whether tests were performed on that particular product. There are a lot of honest companies out there who disclose the origins, manufacturing, processes, testing, and possible adverse effects of their essential oils.
Try to stick with “USDA Organic Certified” essential oils whenever you can.
What to Stay Away From
Do not use oil blends “Thieves” from Young Living and “OnGuard” from DoTerra, as these are unsafe for use around children under 10 years old.
This also means you should avoid DoTerra and Young Living household cleaners and laundry products (even if for cleaning purposes), as well because they use these Young Living blends for their aroma.
Some Recommendations for Essential Oil Brands
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of recommendations, below are some brands you can start with if you’ve decided that essential oils are worth trying on your babies.
These are all “USDA Organic Certified” essential oils you can give a try.
Plant Therapy is an organic line of essential oils. They have a specific line made for kids, called the “KidSafe Organic” line.
This includes both undiluted oils and pre-diluted roll-ons and essential oil blends. These undiluted oils are formulated to be safe for your kids.
Fast Fact: Each of Plant Therapy’s essential oils undergoes multiple rounds of testing, including organoleptic and multiple rounds of GC-MS testing, conducted by an independent 3rd-party laboratory, to ensure they’re safe for babies.
They also have adorable names, like immune Boom for boosting their immune system. It’s perfect for strengthening your little one’s immune system.
They also have the Sweet Slumber oil blend that aims to soothe and relax to help your baby sleep. It contains a mix of cedarwood, ho wood, sweet orange, roman chamomile, and vetiver essential oils.
NOTE: They do not recommend their essential oils for babies under 2 years old. They’re generally not safe for babies, especially newborns.
Rocky Mountain Oils
Rocky Mountain Oils is another trustworthy company that promotes the overall health and wellness of its customers by doing GC/MS testing through a verified 3rd party testing center.
They are also particular about sourcing their plants only from sources. This ensures that the plants’ natural properties are maintained.
And if you’re not satisfied, they offer a 90-day return policy.
Try their lavender oil for a more peaceful sleeping experience.
Mountain Rose Herbs
Mountain Rose Herbs has unbelievably high standards for their quality control, to ensure that only certified-organic, pesticide-free, and sustainably harvested plants are used in making their essential oils.
They emphasize the utmost importance of lab testing to ensure the purity of all their essential oils. They also have a full microbial and analytical lab onsite, along with strict protocols and testing.
Isn’t that the very assurance you’re looking for when it comes to your babies’ health?
Hydrosols: A Safer Alternative
Not many people know that, compared to essential oils, hydrosols are safer for babies.
They give your little one the benefit of an aromatherapy experience WITHOUT THE SIDE EFFECTS essential oils have as a result of the latter’s potency and concentration.
More information about hydrosols:
- Hydrosols are made by distilling fresh leaves, fruits, flowers, and other plant materials.
- They’re more UNLIKELY to produce adverse side effects because they are essentially just leftover distillate water that contains minute traces of the essential oils.
- These traces give them their therapeutic benefits but are in such small quantities that they pose very little risk to the health and wellness of your baby or children.
- You can use hydrosols as they are, WITHOUT having to dilute them. These things are milder when compared to the essential oil of the same plant.
WARNING: While hydrosols are safer than essential oils, it’s better to err on the side of caution and adhere to the same safety tips we’ve made above for essential oils.
We hope the information we have in this guide will help plenty of people make an informed choice about the benefits and risks associated with using essential oils on babies.
When it comes to our little ones, nothing’s more important than their overall wellness.
Whether it’s to help your precious one sleep better or to attain other benefits, you must seek guidance from reliable sources so that you get accurate information.
We wish you luck!
January 5, 2022 – updated article title, updated featured image
July 23, 2021 – Reviewed and updated article links