Why An Aromatherapist Loves Applying Essential Oils To Her Scalp
The versatility of essential oils is part of their appeal. One vial of lavender or lemon can be used infinite (well, at least 13) ways. Oils can be popped into a diffuser, subbed into cleaning products, or applied to the skin in a carrier.
As for where on the skin to put them, well, those possibilities are pretty much endless, too. Delicate areas like the wrist and neck make for popular spots for fragrance, but lately, essential oil expert and teacher Amy Galper has been heading straight for the scalp.
Why massaging essential oils on the scalp can boost their benefits.
Whenever Galper, the author of Plant-Powered Beauty and The Ultimate Guide to Aromatherapy, feels depleted, stressed, or exhausted, she'll whip up a 1-ounce roller ball to use for a DIY head massage. Beyond being a lovely treat, she says that head massages may deliver the oil's benefits quicker and pack a more immediate functional punch.
"Our scalp is where most people have the most hair follicles," Galper tells mbg. "Where there are more hair follicles, there are more opportunities for the oils and their molecules to enter our blood vessels."
There's some science to back this up. Essential oils and their concentrated aromatic extracts are often small enough to penetrate skin when applied topically; this much we know. Once under the skin, however, there hasn't been much research on how often these oils actually make it to our blood vessels. Some preliminary studies do show that hair follicles can help encourage the penetration of topicals1—so this one is worth a shot. Plus, when you massage essential oils anywhere on the skin, you're still getting the benefit of smelling them.
Just be sure to dilute your oils in a neutral carrier oil first since they can aggravate the skin when applied directly. Galper goes for a formula of five to eight drops of essential oils for every tablespoon of carrier oil. Jojoba is her favorite since it has a subtle smell and isn't too oily-greasy to the touch.
Massaging your oil combo in a gentle circular motion on the scalp may further enhance your skin's ability to absorb it. And showing your scalp this kind of love comes with other benefits too: The occasional at-home head massage can help reduce stress, promote hair growth, and potentially even increase hair thickness2. Let the oils sit and work their magic for a few moments before washing them off in the shower.
Here, Galper shares two blends you'll find in her roller ball right now.
A calming blend for stress reduction:
- Lavender oil
- Blue tansy oil (this one's potent, so you'll only need a drop or two)
- Hemlock oil
An invigorating blend for immune support:
- Eucalyptus oil
- Rosemary oil
- Bay laurel oil
- Clove oil
- Lemon oil
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.