Did you know that water and essential oils do not properly mix together? It is like trying to combine oil and vinegar in a salad dressing. No matter how well you shake the two together, the oil will eventually separate from the vinegar.

In other words, essential oils are not water soluble. While they do mix nicely with carrier oils, such as coconut, sweet almond, or jojoba, solubilizing ingredients are required to mix essential oils with water-based recipes. Further, essential oils do not mix effectively with salt, baking soda, witch hazel, and most alcohols. This article will inform you how to mix essential oils and water together in recipes, with the help of a solubilizer.

Why You Need to Disperse Essential Oils?

Therefore, if you are taking a bath, it is certainly unsafe to drizzle a few drops of essential oil directly into the water. This would be equivalent to applying potent plant material neat (undiluted) directly onto your skin. Experts agree, essential oils should be safely diluted with topical use.

A general guideline is to dilute to 2% for all over the body use, and less with sensitive skin and hot oils. This equals about 10-12 drops of essential oil per 1 ounce or 30 mL of an oil soluble carrier liquid. Undiluted use of essential oils can cause unpleasant skin or mucus membrane irritations or sensitizations.

Here are some types of adverse reactions that could occur from using essential oils undiluted.

Skin Irritation

Substances applied to the skin can cause an immediate reaction, including topical inflammation, redness, itching, swelling, and a rash. Duration of exposure, dilution rate, skin temperature, health conditions, and skin conditions can all affect the severity of a reaction.

Phototoxicity

Certain plant material can have phototoxic constituents, especially some pressed citrus oils. This can cause an adverse reaction with exposure to sunlight, including skin inflammation, blistering, and burning.

Skin Sensitization / Allergic Reaction

This is the body’s immune reaction to an antigen, or foreign material. An initial reaction can be delayed. Subsequent contact with the same antigen can cause quicker and more serious reactions.

Photosensitization

This type of allergic reactions only occurs with contact to an allergen plus exposure to sunlight.

How to Dissolve Essential Oils in Water

Next, you may be wondering how you can mix essential oils with water. There are a few natural and safe solubilizing products that allow you to mix essential oils with water-based recipes and hydrosols. Products that can evenly disperse essential oils in water include Solubol, Natrasorb Bath, and liquid castile soap.

The Science of How Solubilizers Work

All matter is made of tiny particles called atoms. Atoms combine to form molecules. Molecules are a group of bonded atoms representing the smallest unit of a chemical compound that can take part in a chemical reaction.

Molecules are either polar and hydrophilic (water loving) and attract water. Or, they are nonpolar and hydrophobic (water fearing) and detract water. Essential oils are nonpolar / hydrophobic.

Emulsifiers and solubilizers are both dispersants that have a molecular structure that is polar on one side, and nonpolar on the other, and can act as a binder between polar and nonpolar particles.Thus, they can blend water soluble ingredients with oil soluble ingredients. For example, properly adding a dispersant to vinegar and oil will blend the two together, without separation.

A solubilizer is water soluble and can disperse oil soluble particles with a light molecular weight, such as essential oils. The resulting blend will be relatively transparent.

An emulsifier is not water soluble, and requires mechanical force to blend. It is good for blending lipophilic ingredients with water that are heavier in molecular weight than essential oils, such as carrier oils. The blend will be milky (non-transparent).

Which natural dispersants work best?

There are a few natural so brands that work well for mixing essential oils in water. My two favorites are: Solubol for liquid recipes and Natrasorb Bath for dry recipes.

Solubol

Solubol is a liquid product that is great for making water-based body sprays. It disperses essential oils into water evenly. The product is made of sugar, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, beeswax, Sterculia urens tree gum (karaya) acacia tree gum, vegetable glycerin, lecithin (soy), coconut oil, vitamin E, vitamin C, and rosemary extract.

How to use Solubol

Add 1 drop of essential oil to 4 drops of Solubol. Then add the blend to the rest of the liquid recipe.

  • For a body spray: mix 10 drops of essential oil to 40 drops of Solubol per one ounce (30 mL) of water.
  • For a face spray: mix 5 drops of essential oil to 20 drops of Solubol per one ounce (30 mL) of water.

Natrasorb Bath

Natrasorb Bath is a fluffy powder great for making dry products such as bath bombs, bath salts, and body powders. Essential oils blend nicely in the powder, and then disperse evenly upon contact with water. Natrasorb Bath is a modified tapioca starch that can absorb multiple times its weight in essential oils, carrier oils, and water.

How to use Natrasorb Bath

Mix 10 drops of essential oil to one ounce (30 mL) of Natrasorb.

  • For body powders, Natrasorb can consist of up to 75% of the total recipe.
  • For bath bombs, Natrasorb should consist of about 2% of the total recipe.

Polysorbates are emulsifiers sometimes used in personal care products that may be carcinogenic and may cause skin allergies (6).

Can you add essential oils to existing liquid soap products?

This is a question I have seen frequently asked. Essential oils often blend well into most liquid soaps. However, the blend may begin to separate over time, or it may become a skin irritant if ingredients are not properly diluted. A safe bet is to buy an unscented liquid castile soap. Another option is to purchase a pre-made liquid soap base from a soap manufacturer. These soaps are usually sold in larger quantities and come with instructions for adding essential oils safely.

Here is how to enjoy essential oils in the bath with unscented liquid castile soap. In a small container, add 10 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce (30 mL) of liquid soap. Mix well, and add to the bath. Some of my favorite bath time essential oils include lavender, chamomile, and geranium. All three are gentle, relaxing, and smell florally fabulous!

Which common household products do NOT mix well with essential oils?

The list below consists of products that can mix with water. However, each item below will not necessarily stay mixed with an essential oil when added to water. These products require adding a solubilizer, such as Solubol, Natrasorb Bath, or liquid soap.

  • Witch hazel: Coming from the plant Hamamelis virginiana, witch hazel is about 15% alcohol and is soluble in alcohol and water, but not soluble in oil. It requires a solubilizer or very high proof alcohol to blend with essential oils in a recipe.
  • Salts: Epsom salt and sea salt dissolve in water, but they do not dissolve in oil. Thus, if you mix essential oils with salt and put a scoop in your bath water, then the salt would separate from the oil and dissolve in the water. The oils would be left to float in the water as undiluted droplets.
  • Baking soda: Also known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is completely soluble in water and slightly soluble in alcohol. Like salt, it is not soluble in oil. When using salts or baking soda with essential oils in bath water, first dilute the essential oils in a carrier oil. Then add salt or baking soda to the dilution. While the recipe will still separate in bath water, at least the essential oils will not be floating around, undiluted.
  • Alcohol: Most types of alcohol do not have a high enough proof to blend with essential oils. Two exceptions include: Everclear and perfumer’s alcohol, which both have a very high proof. Strong vodka will blend with some essential oils, but not all.

Try this Essential Oil Body Spray Recipe!

Lavender Lullaby Essential Oil Body Spray

Calm your mind with the relaxing aroma of lavender. Try a few sprays to help you sleep at night. Is lavender aroma really calming? Below this recipe is a list of a few scientific studies demonstrating that lavender aroma can help you rest and relax!

Lavender Lullaby Essential Oil Body Spray Ingredients

  • 1 – four ounce (120 mL) spray bottle
  • 40 drops of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil
  • ½ ounce (15 mL) of Solubol
  • ½ ounce (15 mL) of vodka
  • About 3 ounces (90 mL) of distilled water

Lavender Lullaby Essential Oil Body Spray Instructions

  • First, mix the essential oil and Solubol together in the spray bottle. Then, add in the vodka. Finally, pour in the water, leaving a small airspace at the top of the bottle to allow for shaking.
  • Shake well. Label the bottle with the date made and ingredients.
  • Spray a few spritzes on your wrists or onto a cloth to place near your pillow at night to help with sleeping. Skin patch test before use if you have sensitive skin, and discontinue use if any irritation occurs.

Here are a few scientific studies about the calming effects of lavender aroma

  • In a small but well measured study, 20 participants who inhaled lavender showed significantly lower blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature. Perceived mood was also increased. This demonstrated a relaxing effect of lavender aroma (1).
  • A study included 80 women who took a bath with either lavender in grapeseed oil, or just grapeseed oil daily for 14 days. Results showed lavender aroma may have an improved psychological effect (2).
  • After 12 weeks of lavender aromatherapy, 67 middle aged women with insomnia had improved quality of sleep. Aroma was administered twice a week for 20 minutes each time (3).
  • In a study of 42 college nursing students with insomnia, lavender inhalation helped reduce symptoms of insomnia and depression (4).

Try this Essential Oil Bath Powder Recipe!

Deep Woods Bath Powder Recipe

Soothe your mind and muscles with the grounding and serene woodsy aromas of this bath powder blend.

Deep Woods Bath Powder Ingredients

  • 1 – five ounce (150 mL) glass container with a sealing lid
  • 4 drops of juniper berry (Juniperus communis) essential oil
  • 3 drops of cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana) essential oil
  • 2 drops of patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) essential oil
  • 1 drop of clary sage (Salvia sclarea) essential oil
  • 1/2 ounce (15 mL) of jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) carrier oil
  • 1 ounce (30 mL) of Natrasorb Bath
  • 1 ounce (30 mL) of corn starch
  • 1 ounce (30 mL) of baking soda
  • 1 ounce (30 mL) of Epsom salt

Deep Woods Bath Powder Instructions

  • First, combine the essential oils into the jojoba oil.
  • Then, mix the blend of oils with the Natrasorb bath.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the corn starch, baking soda, and Epsom salt together.
  • Stir in the mix of oils and Natrasorb Bath.
  • Store the blend in a sealed glass container. Label the container with the date made and ingredients.
  • To enjoy: scoop about 2 Tbsp (30 mL) into the bath and breathe in the deep woods aroma. Ahh, so relaxing! Let your body sink into the bubbles.
  • Not for young children or pregnant women; discontinue use if any irritation occurs.

Can being in the woods really help calm the mind?

Research has been conducted on the positive physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku, a Japanese activity known as forest bathing. It demonstrates the calming effects of being in a forest (5).

In conclusion

Can you mix essential oils with water? Absolutely, just make sure you use a solubilizer so the essential oils can disperse evenly into the water. This is because, essential oils are hydrophobic.

If you have some time, try one of the easy recipes available in this article. And, if you don’t feel like whipping up a recipe, but still want to take a bath with essential oils, go buy some unscented liquid castile soap. It’s good to have handy. Just add 10 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce (30mL) of the liquid soap.

And if you remember one thing from reading this article, here is what I hope you have learned. Do not add a few drops of essential oil directly into a bath. This is the equivalent of applying the oils neat onto your skin and can cause an unpleasant skin reaction.

References

  1. MPham, W. S., & Siripornpanich, V. (2012). The effects of lavender oil inhalation on emotional states, autonomic nervous system, and brain electrical activity. J Med Assoc Thai, 95(4), 598-606.
  2. Morris, N. (2002). The effects of lavender (Lavendula angustifolium) baths on psychological well-being: two exploratory randomised control trials. Complementary therapies in medicine, 10(4), 223-228.
  3. Chien, L. W., Cheng, S. L., & Liu, C. F. (2011). The effect of lavender aromatherapy on autonomic nervous system in midlife women with insomnia. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012.
  4. Lee, I. S., & Lee, G. J. (2006). Effects of lavender aromatherapy on insomnia and depression in women college students. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, 36(1), 136-143.
  5. Park, B. J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), 18.
  6. Force of Nature. (2019). Toxic Chemical Glossary: What are Polysorbates: Chemical Free Living. Retrieved in May, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.forceofnatureclean.com/chemical-free-living-polysorbates/