If you’re tired of constantly bombarding your body with an array of toxic chemicals every time you need to moisturize or sleep more soundly, then essential oils might be your salvation. Even if you can’t think of a specific use, and just want to establish a basic grooming and personal hygiene routine, they can help. You just need to know how the most common oils work and what they’re best suited for.

How to use essential oils

Before you consider which oils you’ll use, it’s important to know how to use any essential oil and what kind of safety precautions you may need to take. In general, there are three ways to use essential oils: by ingesting them, inhaling them, or applying them to your skin.

Ingesting: This is the trickiest way to get your oils, and experts strongly recommend that you only ingest these oils under the supervision of a licensed health care or aromatherapy professional. This is because some essential oils can be poisonous if ingested, while others are only safe to take internally if you combine them with the right carrier oils and take other precautions.

Inhaling: There are several ways to inhale essential oils. You can put them in a diffuser (never directly, and always with water), add them to a bowl of steam and breathe them in, mix them into a water-based solution and spray them in your home, or dry evaporate them off cotton balls or tissues.

Application: You need to mix almost every essential oil with some kind of carrier oil, usually a vegetable or nut oil, before putting it on. In most cases, your essential oil should be no more than three to five percent of the total solution. Once you’ve made the solution, you can use it to make compresses or as a massage oil. You can also dilute a few drops in water and take a bath.

How to get the best oils

As we learn more about the benefits of essential oils and it becomes more popular to use them, the market grows more saturated. At times, it can be tricky to know if you’re getting a real essential oil, or if you’re getting the best deal on it.

Always look for oils labelled clearly as “essential oils”. Avoid products claiming they only “contain” essential oil or anything else that is unclear. Even better, for the best price and assurance of quality, get bulk essential oils from a company like Visagenics that has their own extraction process.

Uses for your essential oils

Many of us know the uses for some of the more popular essential oils, but there are many other oils and uses that are less well known. Here are just a few to spark your interest and encourage you to keep experimenting:

Sun skin care: Do you want to protect your skin before taking those custom surfing lessons, or do you need to treat a sunburn because you forgot to use sunscreen? A mixture of coconut oil, shea butter, and several essential oils can give you a protective sunscreen that also won’t harm sea life.

To treat sunburn, use aloe vera gel until the burn is dry and beginning to peel. Then try balsam fir, cypress, eucalyptus, or geranium oils for pain relief and skin restoration.

Focus: Are you struggling to stay focused and alert at work? Don’t turn to sugar and calorie-laden coffee drinks that only make the situation worse in the end. Instead, try inhaling peppermint or spearmint oils for concentration, and rosemary to help you stay alert.

Brighten hair: If you have a lighter hair color and want it to be a bit brighter, but don’t want to use harsh bleaching agents, try spraying your hair with water and lemon essential oil before going out in the sun. The sun and lemon oil will do the job for you.

If you have darker hair, try adding chamomile essential oil after washing. It soothes the hair and the scalp; but, more importantly, it conditions your hair and give your natural tresses a sheeny luster.