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If you are interested in essential oils, you may have heard the term “hot” oils and thought, “What is a hot essential oil?”
When essential oil enthusiasts and experts talk about hot oils, they don’t mean heating up oils (a big no-no if you want your oils to last!).
In this article, I’ll help you understand what hot oils are, share some hot and warm oils for you to experiment with, and my best tips for using hot oils safely.
Plus, I’ll share what to do if you do have a reaction to a hot essential oil.
What are hot essential oils?
Hot oils are a group of essential oils that have a “hot” feeling on the skin when applied topically.
A big benefit of using hot oils is that the hot or warming sensation can be stimulating, soothing, and help to relax tension and discomfort where applied.
If you have an acute pain, or pain brought on by the changing of the seasons, the heat from these oils can literally warm you up!
While you need to use extra caution when using hot essential oils, there is no need to fear them or avoid using them topically.
10 popular hot essential oils
One person’s hot oil may be another’s warm oil, or it may not feel hot at all. That’s the amazing thing about essential oils: everyone reacts a little bit differently!
Here are the most popular hot essential oils and their benefits.
Cinnamon essential oil is often found near the top of the list of hot oils. Cinnamon, whether in food, candy, or oil form generally always has a sharp, hot kick.
This warm, woody smelling essential oil was once a popular ingredient in chewing gum. Clove essential oils are known to cleanse teeth and gums and have a lightly antiseptic quality.
This popular spice for cooking is also a warming, cleansing oil. Oregano essential oil offers powerful antioxidants and adds some heat when applied topically.
Thyme is another cooking ingredient that does double duty as an essential oil. Thyme oil is a potent, warming oil that is often used for its cleansing and purifying properties.
Black Pepper is a common ingredient for foods that need a bit more spice, and the same is true of Black Pepper as an essential oil.
This oil adds spice and sharpness to cooking and helps stave off seasonal and environmental threats in topical applications.
Also commonly found in food, Ginger essential oils bring hot, earthy notes to any blend and can help support healthy digestion.
This warming oil may feel hot to some users, and has been used as far back as biblical times. Cassia oil may promote digestion and immune function. This oil has a strong and uplifting scent.
Hyssop essential oil may be considered a warm or hot oil for different users. It is often used for digestive and intestinal issues as well as for respiratory issues like a cold or sore throat.
This purifying and immune boosting oil has an herbal and fresh scent.
Lemongrass may feel warm or hot depending on your reactions. But it is a favorite for topical use in massages.
Lemongrass essential oil has a richer, more smoky scent than lemon oils, and is purifying and toning to the skin.
Ocotea essential oil is a cousin of cinnamon and has similar warming properties.
If you find Cinnamon too hot, Ocotea essential oil may be a suitable alternative as it also has cleansing and purifying properties.
common warm essential oils
Warm essential oils will also provide a sensory experience when applied topically, but will not be as strong as the “hotter” oils.
Remember that everyone’s reaction to essential oils is a bit different, so some of these warm oils may feel a bit hotter to you.
Bergamot is in the citrus family and is popular for its both calming and uplifting qualities. If you are feeling tension, Bergamot is a great and lightly warming oil to reach for.
Cypress essential oil has a clean and fresh scent that blends well with citrus oils. Cypress can stimulate your senses when applied to the skin.
Underneath the obviously pine-y scent of Douglas Fir oil is a note of lemon that makes this oil even more refreshing and sweet smelling.
Douglas fir oil is warming like you just walked into a house at the holidays and caught the tangy, bright smell of a Christmas tree.
Speaking of Christmas, Frankincense is such a well-known and treasured essential oil, it was carried to celebrate a certain baby’s birth.
If you’re not familiar with Frankincense outside of this context, this lightly warming oil is in many lotions and perfumes and is great for soothing and rejuvenating your skin.
Juniper or Juniper Berry essential oil is spicy, woody, and has a fresh aroma.
That spice adds to the feeling of warmth when applied topically and may reduce the appearance of blemishes.
All the citrus essential oils, including Lemon, Lime, Tangerine, Mandarin, and Grapefruit, have bright, fruity scents and can stimulate your skin when applied topically.
Citrus oils are some of the most common essential oils, and are sometimes added to cleaning products to enhance the smell.
Other sensory essential oils
Some other oils will trigger a strong, physical sensation when applied topically, but are not warming or hot. In fact, you may actually feel a bright, cold feeling instead.
Basil is another popular cooking ingredient, and this spicy yet herbal oil can really help to create a calm, relaxed environment.
It is also ideal for relieving tension and has a strong cooling sensation.
If you’ve had Peppermint tea, or tried Burt’s Bees beeswax lip balm, you may have experienced the spicy but cooling feeling of Peppermint.
That feeling is due to the high menthol content in this oil!
Spearmint is a gentler friend of Peppermint and has a sweeter undertone than its relative. You’ll still catch that spicy but cooling sensation, but in a much milder form.
How to use hot oils safely & effectively
Because hot and warm essential oils can create a physical reaction when applied, there are a few safety concerns to consider.
These tips will make sure you have a positive experience with your oils.
If you have sensitive skin and have previously reacted to scents and detergents, use caution when applying any oil, including hot or warm oils.
Monitor your skin closely to look for signs of irritation, and avoid overuse.
1. Determine sensitivity first
Before you start using any of the hot essential oils on this list, determine your skin’s sensitivity first.
You can do this by performing a patch test.
How to perform a patch test
- Apply 1 to 2 drops of essential oil to a small section of skin, such as on your forearm.
- Wait 5 to 10 minutes for your immediate reaction. If you have a negative reaction to any of the oils, you will most likely know within this window.
- Monitor your skin over the course of the next 1 to 2 hours looking for any other reactions.
Repeat this process with all essential oils you are trying.
I personally react to Frankincense, but not to other oils like Peppermint. It’s important to patch test with any essential oils you have not tried before, in order to isolate the ones you react to negatively.
Look for redness, irritation, itchiness, hives, a burning sensation that is uncomfortable, or pain.
What to do if you have an adverse reaction
If you have an adverse reaction, immediately flush the area with a carrier oil. Do not use water!
If you’ve ever cured the pain from spicy food not with water, but with milk or sugar, you know that water can actually make the irritation worse, not better.
Flush the area with unscented, plain carrier oil, repeating as needed.
2. Always use a carrier oil
Use a safe dilution rate with carrier oils. Carrier oils suspend the essential oil across your skin and dilutes it to increase overall absorption without causing irritation.
There are many carrier oils to choose from. Be aware that those with nut allergies should avoid oils derived from nuts.
Some popular carrier oils include:
- Sweet almond oil
- Fractionate coconut oil
- Jojoba oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Olive oil
Proper dilution rate
A good rule of thumb for dilution is 15-18 drops to 1 ounce of carrier oil for a 3% dilution.
You can double the drops of essential oil for a stronger dilution, but this is not recommended for regular use.
For more information on how to properly read a dilution chart, click here.
3. Avoid diluting with water or in the bath
Some essential oils are well suited to the steamy, aromatherapeutic environment of warm bath. Not so for hot and warm oils!
Hot oils can have a very strong irritating effect on your skin, especially sensitive areas like your eyes, ears, mouth, and genitals.
And, when carried via water instead of an unscented oil, the hot essential oils can be more irritating and harder to remove.
4. Discontinue use if there’s a negative reaction
Not every essential oil agrees with everyone.
If you have a negative reaction to an essential oil, flush with a plain carrier oil as mentioned above. Before using that specific essential oil again, perform a patch test to isolate the oil that triggers your reaction.
And, if you find that an oil negatively affects you, stop using it. There are plenty of other essential oils that can be substituted for your needs!