Essential Oils: How to Get Started

I love essential oils, but I TOTALLY get how a lot of people are initially turned off by them. There is a lot of confusing information surrounding oils and when you first get started it’s hard to know what to do with all these little brown bottles. So today I wanted to share about how I got into using essential oils and how I typically use them in our day-to-day life.

I took the scenic route in slowly getting interested in oils for the past five years. My initial introduction to oils was during a bout of insomnia I had while living in our previous home. In hindsight, I can see a lot of external factors for my poor sleep, but at the time I was desperate for a quick fix. So I bought a few oils and a diffuser from my friend who sold oils through one of the MLM companies. While I can’t credit oils exclusively for curing my insomnia (in the end, it was a combination of drinking less, keeping a more tidy bedroom, not using devices in our bedroom, PLUS my oils diffusing), it definitely helped to have a nightly ritual that signaled to my brain that it was time for sleep. I have been diffusing at night ever since.

My next big step into oils came when we moved to Tennessee. We were in a new home and planning to start a family soon. It was one of my goals to swap over to natural cleaning supplies (and also beauty, personal care … all of it really) and so I slowly started to learn more about ingredients in the products we were using and make my own (super simple) cleaning products and room sprays. This quickly became a hobby for me—I LOVE mixing up a little spray to spritz our rooms with while I am cleaning. I loved the feeling of knowing what was in my products and making them myself.

For sleep, I have a few favorite blends. I always use Lavender mixed with something else. If I am stressed or anxious, I mix it with Frankincense (I love this scent!). If I just want my favorite comforting scent to fall asleep to, I mix Lavender with Fir Needle. I also mix in Ylang Ylang quite often. I keep it pretty simple with our bedroom routine because I believe that a very simple night routine is best for good sleep.

In our home, I have now replaced candles with diffusers almost 100%. I still have a few (naturally scented) candles that I will use occasionally, but to be honest, none of them smell as good (or fill a room) like my diffusers do.

Getting rid of candles is one of those things, kind of like dryer sheets, that freaks people out—maybe even makes them feel defensive at first. It’s obviously a personal choice (no judgment from me if you don’t want to give up candles—I get it!). That said, I will tell you the reason I gave them up. It was after learning that artificial fragrance (which is found in almost all candles) can be linked to asthma and trigger allergies*. After giving them up more than a year ago, I honestly don’t miss them at all anymore. I love diffusing different oil blends to go with the seasons and my moods in place of candles.

*Note: Feel free to do your own research! This is my opinion based on the research I have done. I try to be extremely conservative about statements like these, but I do believe that scented candles burning constantly in a home can be harmful to our health over time.

My number one favorite blend for home is Fir Needle with Rosemary and Lavender. I enjoy switching it up for the seasons and trying random blends that people post online and making up new blends.

In my office space, I tend to have two go-to blends. Either an immunity blend with Lemon, Eucalyptus, Clove and Cinnamon. Or a cozy blend like Fir Needle and Spruce with Grapefruit. If I need a fresh blend, my go-to is a few drops of Lemongrass with one drop of Spearmint or Peppermint.

Beyond diffusing, here are a few ways I use oils in my everyday life.

1. I mix one drop of Frankincense oil in with my face oil as a booster. Frankincense is amazing for skincare. I won’t go on my long rant about how I don’t believe in “anti-aging” products in this post, but let me say that I’d rather have a bottle of Frankincense oil than any fancy serum or night cream you can buy at a counter at the mall.

2. I make my own room sprays and cleaning sprays using essential oils, distilled water and some soap if it’s a cleaning spray. They are so simple to make, smell amazing and work just as well as stuff I used to buy at the store!

3. I use wool dryer balls with Lavender and Fir Needle oil instead of dryer sheets for my laundry every day.

4. I mix a few drops of essential oils in with bubble bath or liquid soap in a small dish and add them to my bath water. Do this after the bath is done running, after you are already in it.

That’s it! Super simple! There are a hundred more uses for oils, but this is just what I do in my day-to-day life!

If you have any questions about essential oils, I’d love to chat with you in the comments. xx – Elsie

Credits/Author: Elsie Larson, Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • Hello!I absolutely love this article?.
    I don’t know much on oils but I’ve used fenugreek and this small pear oil.
    They really smoothened the skinbon my face.
    But I sweat a lot and I’ve got a combination skin on my face and my body isn’t dry tho.
    I am light skinned and I tend to produce lots of oil from my face but I am not prone to breakouts.
    Ice and cold water works well for my face,also steaming.
    As for my hair,it is full but doesn’t grow out fast.It is stretchy when pulled out and curls back when released.I need a good oil for the hair growth,one that isn’t heavy and can sink into the scalp faster.
    So I just wanted to know what essential oil I can use on my face and body.And also for my hair.
    I now this is a lot but do bear with me and I’ll be happy to get your reply.

    • They are therapeutic grade, check out our FAQ page on the shop site for more info. We do not recommend you ingest them (we don’t recommend ingesting any essential oils regardless of grade, but we know others feel differently so would probably be best to consult your family doctor first).

  • I started with essential oils about 18 months ago and have found them so beneficial for every member of our family. Now I use them for all my household cleaning. I love trying to mix new fragrances while keeping in tune with the health benefits. Love this information and would definitely enjoy reading more about essential oils and pets.

  • I would also love to know where the diffuser is from if you wouldn’t mind sharing! xx

  • I have a few questions (being new to the oily life)
    *how do you decide what carrier oil to use or are they all the same?
    *being new to oils and just wanting to start off simple, what are 5 you couldn’t live without?
    *what oil would you use to substitute for Frankenstein (it being on the pricier end for someone just beginning)
    Thank you!

  • This report is just right for me because I bought a new difuser yesterday. I’ve been interested in aromatherapy for a long time. Odors are also sublimated over the skin. Therefore, you can also mix beautiful oils for massaging.
    All the best!

  • hi! could you please tell me the brand/style name of the diffuser in your 3rd photo (on top of books) .. i would love a tiny one like that and would appreciate the link! thank you!

  • I’d like to add to the chorus of comments wondering where those gorgeous diffusers are from! 🙂

  • Love this post. I am slowly trying to switch my house to more natural products & am very curious about oils. Would love more posts like this one. Do you make your own cleaners or laundry detergent? I have been purchasing cleaner or more natural products but I think making them would be the best. There is just so much, it’s hard to take it all in and not be overwhelmed. Also may I ask what face oil you use if you aren’t a believer in anti aging products? Thanks so much!

  • Would you make a post rounding up your favorite diffusers? Or a post on how to pick a diffuser for different spaces? There are so many options out there and it’s hard to know where to start.

  • Super boring question but…. how do you deal with the additional humidity in your home from all the diffusing? Do you ever have dehumidifiers going as well? Perhaps it’s different with US builds but older U.K. homes tend to suffer with damp/mildew and sometimes opening windows just isn’t enough (especially on chilly rainy days).

    Thank you!

    • Hi Lucy R – I live in the U.K. in a two bedroom terraced house built around 1830, and have 3 diffusers indoors. There’s always at least one on, and sometimes all three. We’ve never had to use a dehumidifier or had any damp problems. Hope that helps! x

  • Thanks for the blend recommendations, I love hearing the unique ways different people mix up their oils. Could you make any recommendations on good diffusers? Every time I go to buy one, the bad reviews from people who say it stopped working a week in scare me off! The ones in your post are so pretty!

  • Hello Elsie! Great post, thanks for sharing! Where do you get your diffusers from? Thank you x

    • Hi there! Found my way here from your more recent post on diffusers. Essential oils can be flammable and should definitely not be used on dryer balls! I would suggest you edit this post to help keep folks safe. Thanks!

  • I am fairly new to essential oils. I use a diffuser in the bedroom & it has helped w/My sleep issues. I also have several lava rock bracelets & put a few drops on them & it really does last throughout the day. I plan on putting another diffuser in our living area. I haven’t tried mixing scents yet but that does sound interesting. BTW, I have 4 small dogs & they seem just fine. I’m curious if you can use the oils on pets b/c 2 of my pups have skin issues.

  • I’m really interested in starting out with essential oils so this post was great! I feel like getting a diffuser is something I need from the beginning to get the most out of them though – you have some beautiful ones in your post, can you please share where they’re from? Or any tips or things to look out for when buying a diffuser? There’s a lot of cheap ones out there so I’m curious to know if thy are generally fine and do the job or if it’s worth investing more. Thanks so much!

  • What would you say are your top three favorite oils? I’d like to start a collection, but I want to start small.

  • There are legitimate concerns about safety when it comes to essential oils and pets or young children. They can be poisonous.

    I’m not against essential oils per se but please educate yourself about using them safely. I’ve heard too many horror stories about babies getting hurt or even passing away after a well meaning parent used essential oils on them. Please be careful!

    And Elsie, I know it’s not your responsibility to educate people but I would appreciate a short disclaimer saying that there are legitimate dangers associated with essential oils. You have significant influence and just doing that could possibly save lives.

    • I second what Anna said about essential oil safety. Oils truly are like medicine and shouldn’t be treated lightly or just as an “air freshener” and they should not be diffused daily. It is possible to build up a kind of sensitization to them with overuse. Also, diffusers should never be run all night long, you should have a diffuser that runs for 30 minutes, then shuts off for 30 minutes. I was always hesitant to get into oils because of all the intimidating info out there about kids and essential oil safety and I have a young son. For example Rosemary should NEVER be used in any form (even diffusing) around kids under 10, and peppermint should not be used in any form for kids under 6. Certain kinds of eucalyptus are not safe too. There really is so much people need to realize they should be careful about. The Tisserand institute is a great resource for safety. That’s why I only use Plant Therapy oils. Robert Tisserand developed an entire kid safe line with them and they are also NOT an MLM.
      Oils are great, but serious business!

  • So my question is what about those pre-blended mixtures? I’m always skeptical because they have generic names like “Citrus” and “Nighttime” and “Dreams” and junk. Should those be avoided in favor of single ingredient oils? Also, probably a dumb question, but can you use vanilla extract (for baking) in a diffuser? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a vanilla EO out there.

  • Very informative! The issue about a number of oils being toxic to pets has always scared me away from using them but maybe I should look into that more and pick some safe ones.

  • Thanks Elsie! I appreciate you providing an alternative and totally learned something new about candles! As a few have mentioned, would be interested to know how to make cleaning products with essential oils. Would also love it if you could link to the diffusers you use. There are SO many out there…


  • I would add that there is nothing scary about essential oils and they smell a million times better than scented candles (however I must admit that I never liked scented candles much because I am not a fan of “fake” smells). Essential oils smell very natural to me. I have a diffuser I use in our bedroom and diffuse lavender EO at night. I have a number of blends but I prefer using just lavender at night. I also really, really love Bergamot! So good. I do however have one candle I still use and love. It’s called Muskoka by indigo scent (Indigo is actually a big chain book store in Canada, kinda like Barns&Noble I think). It smells exactly like a pine forest and I love to use it while I take bathes during our very cold, very long Canadian winters. For the lady who commented about pets, my cat never seemed to have an issue with it. And considering Elsie has dogs, I would assume it’s the same for them.

  • I’ve been so happy with ABM essential oils. I use them when I’m feeling lethargic in my office (lemon, lemongrass and grapefruit give me a good boost). Then I keep the eucalyptus in the shower if I’m feeling congested and tip out a couple of drops on the shower floor. Works wonders! I’m glad I gave these a shot. I haven’t quite stepped up to making my own beauty products or cleaning products, but I would definitely make a room spray!

    Eva |

  • Hi Elsie! Thank you for sharing, I’ve been waiting for you to write a post about essential oils as I frequently battle with my skin with breakouts and a lot of redness. I wear foundation solely to even my red blotchy skin.

    I would like to know about your daily routine using oils on your face? Do you use them only twice a day? Also what soaps would you recommend? I have really sensitive skin.

  • I got a diffuser but then I read that certain essential oils are very toxic for cats and dogs and I’m not sure which is which. Do you have any advice on this topic since you have pups?

  • Hello! I have a question about essential oil diffusers and pets – I heard that they can be bad for pets since the oil can get on their fur and then they can lick it off, which is why I’m so hesitant to switch over, since some of the oils can be potent and/or toxic to animals. What is your experience with diffusers and pets in your home?

  • Love this!! I’ll light my last candle when someone comes out with an oil that smells like Anthropologie’s Volcano haha

    • Hey Amy H.

      I think Jessica Garvin has a Volcano Blend. Yup, found it on her Grapefruit and Gold IG account:
      4 drops orange, 3 drops grapefruit, 1 drop geranium & 2 drops Idaho blue spruce

  • Yes please talk about pets! Cats are even more sensitive than dogs and there is so much conflicting information out there that makes every single oil suspect. I would love to use a diffuser but not at the detriment to my guys.

    • There is a LOT of conflicting info on oils. It’s honestly just like the rest of the health industry- you can get very different answers depending on who you ask.

      I don’t have cats and haven’t researched it, so I can’t help with that. xx!

  • Hi Elsie, thank you for sharing! Some day, would you be willing to share the “recipes” you use to make your cleaning supplies? Their are an overwhelming number of options out there!

  • Silly question but do you put the drop of Frankincense in your whole bottle of oil or one drop each time you apply? Also about the dryer balls, how many drops do you usually put on each ball? I tried it a couple times and I don’t think I put enough on but I also don’t want to go crazy and be wasteful. Thanks!

    • Not a silly question at all, Kelly! I was wondering the same thing about how to use the frankincense oil!

      I use dryer balls with lavender essential oil. I use 2 or 3 balls per load and a few drops on each, but I’ll use more (5-6 drops on each ball) if it’s a bigger load, like a comforter, or just if I want it to smell stronger. I find that the clothes retain their scent a lot longer than with dryer sheets, and that the scent almost builds up in them the more they’re washed/dried with the oils. I’m also trying to find a way to double up on the scent with a detergent but I haven’t found one that I love yet (currently using Seventh Generation lavender detergent but would like something that rates “cleaner”). That’s what works for me–hope that gives you an idea of where to start! 🙂

    • Great questions. I never know how much to use, whether when diffusing or other purposes!

    • For Frankincense I add one drop to my regular face oil every time I use it.

      For dryer balls I use 2-3 drops on 2-3 balls for each load of laundry. 🙂

  • Please talk about essential oils and pets! I’ve been off the candle bandwagon for years, except for very rare occasions, after finding that soot(!) had clung to the inside of my baby’s toy bins even though we obviously never burned candles in her room. I’d love to go back to scenting our home because I find it really calming. However, we also have a dog and I am totally overwhelmed by all the conflicting information floating around about which EO’s can be harmful to animals. Thanks!

    • I’ve been seeing a lot of things recently about being cautious with pets and oils, so I turned to the ASPCA. I found this article helpful and quite practical for deciding whether or not to diffuse oils in a home with pets.

    • I don’t feel comfortable being an authority on all pets- but I will say I diffuse all essential oils in our home with our two dogs. 🙂

    • I diffuse in every room of our home. No issues at all with our two small dogs. In addition, if they have an itchy, or get spooked or nervous due to storms or fireworks, I apply oils directly to them. DONT buy cheap oils at Walmart. It DOES make a difference. Cheap one are cut with cheap oils and may even have been distilled with chemicals. Those can indeed be harmful to pets. Look for a reputable company that is confident in their sourcing and grow and distill plants themselves. Saying “pure” is not enough, as they only have to be 5% essential oil to be labeled pure. Research the company!

  • I’ve looked into essential oils here and there, but have never really been serious about it. I think the practice of using them is great if it works for you, but I’m highly sensitive to strong smells (Lush drives me crazy – in a bad way!) so I’ve always been doubtful of them! Thank you for getting down to the basics, though! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    • I love essential oils, I have recently been incorporating them into my everyday life and I really do feel like I get something out of it. I use them for stress reasons mostly and I do get a stronger sense of calm when I have my stress blend in my diffuser. I too am trying to make the big change in my household to using more natural products. It’s definitely a lot harder than I thought to move everything over. Thanks for the oil ideas!

    • That’s what is wonderful about essential oils. You totally control how much. Start defussing by using only one drop. If that doesn’t bother you, try tow the next time.

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