Essential Oil Emulsifiers
Essential oils are fat soluble, not water soluble. Emulsifying them in a fat-soluble carrier is needed when you are combining into liquid ingredients. This will help minimize the opportunity for skin irritation and sensitization.
When you add essential oils to bath water, notice that the oil drop sits on top of the water. it never emulsifies. Why is this so important? Well, depending on the essential oil you dropped in the water, when you go to sit down in that water, it can cause some major irritation to some sensitive areas (…down there). Think peppermint, eucalyptus, cinnamon and clove for instance. Wowza! That can cause not only a burning sensation, but also burn those sensitive membranes and skin.
So, don’t do that!
What are some good emulsifiers for essential oils to use in aromatic sprays?
Any lipid oil or carrier is best to emulsify essential oils. Here is a list of some good emulsifiers (not a complete list) –
- Carrier oil: almond, apricot, arnica, black cumin seed, calendula, coconut, jojoba, primrose, rosehip, sunflower, etc.
- Ethyl Alcohol, 90 proof is optimal
- Aloe vera gel concentrated liquid extract (equal parts with ethyl alcohol coconut emulsifier)
- Castile soap
- Glycerin macerates (equal part of organic vegetable glycerin, ethyl alcohol and water). Or glyceryl oleate derived from coconut oil and vegetable glycerin (Annette Davis, 2023)
- Lecithin derived from vegetable oils (i.e., sunflower)
- Milk: cow, almond, coconut, etc.
- Olive oil derivatives such as cetearyl olivate and sorbitan olivate (Annette Davis, 2023)
- Distilled Vinegar (light emulsification for cleaning recipes)
- Witch hazel (equal parts of witch hazel & ethyl alcohol)
If you are mixing essential oils in a water base, I find it best to emulsify the essential oils in glycerin or ethyl alcohol first (minimum of 15 minutes), then apply to the water solution.
For additional antibacterial support, I like to add in 3-5ml of hydrosol silver to the final water-based solution.
Emulsifying essential oils in powder or salt
With these dry ingredients, it is best to combine them first with a vegetable oil first, then mix into the salt.
- Baking soda
- Salt, Epsom or Sea salt
Emulsifying essential oils in water
To emulsify the EO’s into water, you have a few options –
- Glycerin – on average, you would need to include 8-12% of this to the bottle, add in your EOs, swirl around at least 15 minutes, then add in the water. If you don’t want to keep swirling, let sit for 15-30 minutes, then swirl a few times before adding in water.
- Ethyl alcohol – same approach as the vegetable glycerin
- Coconut emulsifier
- Plant butter need emulsifying waxes to avoid a grainy texture. Emulsifying waxes could include cetearyl alcohol and glyceryl stearate (derivatives of coconut oil and glycerin).
Dilution Chart for Essential Oil Blends
Essential Oil & Aromatherapy Safety Guidelines
My favorite castile soap is Dr. Bronner’s. I have followed and used this company’s products for over 20 years and respect their commitment to quality. Here is more on what you can mix with castile soap.
Excellent presentations from the world’s top formulators, Annette Davis of Time Labs and Jessica Iclisoy from California Baby at the 2023 NAHA World of Aromatherapy Conference.
JennScents Aromaversity Aromatherapy Program Training