Should I apply essential oils to the soles of my feet?

You may have heard that you should apply essential oils to the soles of your feet for certain health issues, because the large pores absorb essential oils so well. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. In this post I’ll clear up some of the confusion.

Aromatic foot massage is deeply relaxing and grounding, but any impact on health would be due to the balancing benefits of relaxation on our nervous and endocrine systems, not due to absorption of essential oils.

Skin absorption and the feet

The soles of our feet protect us from the outside world. They have more layers of skin than any other part of the body, and their large pores release perspiration but do not absorb very well. The rest of our skin absorbs only about 10% of what we apply to it, and the soles of our feet absorb even less. Inhalation (such as with a diffuser) is far more effective; about 80% of what we inhale enters our bloodstream.

Aromatherapy benefits for the feet

Supportive aromatherapy applications to the feet include relaxation (foot bath, cooling sprays, massage), energetic or reflexology therapies, or gentle support for healthy skin. The feet are sacred in many spiritual practices, and aromatherapy is a beautiful way to enhance these practices.

Can you apply essential oils to the soles of your kids’ feet?

While touted as being safe for children under the age of 5, applying essential oils to their feet is not recommended, whether diluted properly or not. The developing skin and metabolism of infants and small children are simply too sensitive.  To support your child’s health, there are many other gentle and effective options – hydrosols or conservative diffusion, for example.

Can you apply undiluted essential oils to the feet?

I don’t recommend it. While the skin of the feet is thicker, it can still become sensitized or irritated! With a few notable exceptions, essential oils should never be applied undiluted (“neat”) to any part of the body, as this can cause a sensitivity reaction and may lead to permanent intolerance. Use 1-2 drops of essential oil in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, or consult a qualified aromatherapist for a supportive care regimen specific to your concerns.

About Michelle Gilbert, CCA, APAIA, R.SPE.P.

Michelle Gilbert, CCA, APAIA, R.SPE.P. is a clinical aromatherapy educator and consultant based in Cleveland, Ohio. She is an instructor at the internationally renowned Aromahead Institute, a contributing writer for Aroma Culture magazine, and has appeared in Health Magazine and other publications. She also serves on the Education Committee for the Alliance of International Aromatherapists.