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Leaving your essential oil diffuser on too long could actually be bad for your health


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Photo: Well+Good Creative

As someone who turns on multiple diffusers at once to create a hazy cocktail of soothing scent, the idea that one could diffuse too much is a bit confounding to me. After all, essential oils have been billed as wizards of the wellness world, working their magic everywhere from your complexion to your kitchen sink.

So when Jean Liao, certified aromatherapy practitioner at Way of Will mentioned to me (in passing nonetheless!) that you shouldn’t leave your diffuser on for more than an hour, I was shook. Sure, “too much of a good thing” and all, but it turns out, that when essential oils aren’t handled properly, they could potentially pose a health risk. 

For starters, you should very rarely apply the oils directly to your skin because when the highly concentrated plant extracts come into contact with the dermis, they can cause irritation. And when you leave your diffuser blasting all day and all night, you could cause an over-exposure. “The common misconception is that essential oils are natural so we can use as much as we want,” Liao says. “However, we see many examples of people using it improperly which causes skin burns, irritation, or sensitization.”

“We see many examples of people using it improperly which causes skin burns, irritation, or sensitization,” says Jean Liao.

In fact you shouldn’t really be blasting it for hours straight at all. His recommendation is to turn your diffuser on between one and three times a day for up to 30 minutes at the maximum. According to him, overexposure and the act of inhaling essential oils can lead to headaches. And one study out of Taiwan found that while exposure to essential oils for between 15 minutes to an hour, led to relaxation in the 100 spa workers observed, exposure that lasted upwards of an hour, resulted in an uptick in blood pressure and heart rate.

So all of that to say, before incorporating essential oil diffusers into your home wellness routine, Liao suggests conducting a skin-patch test (to make sure the EO in question doesn’t cause a skin reaction) and also avoiding any that do. Once you’ve done that, you can go *ham* on the diffuser situation—for up to an hour, that is.

For some celebrity inspiration on how to use your oils, check out Fran Drescher’s recipe for DIY perfume and how Marie Kondo uses her diffuser to infuse her home with joy.

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