We Answer the Most Common Questions about Essential Oils and Their Safety
Pretty often we’re asked about the safety of essential oils in our products—especially from pregnant or breastfeeding people. We’ve put together a quick and easy primer to answer your FAQs.
Cliff's notes: You can use our entire line during pregnancy and breastfeeding, including our deodorant! You might experience sensitivity to scent or new skin sensitivities that arise during pregnancy, and if that occurs, we recommend our essential-oil free products (scroll down for a list).
WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS?
Essential oils have been used for centuries to address and support physical, emotional and spiritual concerns. They are the volatile molecules found in the cells of aromatic plants—the lifeblood of plants. We extract them by steam distillation and physical expression of raw plant matter.
Essential oils are natural, so why would there be safety considerations? Well, essential oils exist in plants for two reasons: protection and communication.(1)
Communication: They attract pollinators and insects that are beneficial to the plant.
Protection: They protect from predators and illness, and they deter herbivores from munching on them (ever wonder why your garden herbs are deer resistant?).
It makes sense that essential oils can function in similar ways when used by humans. The right amount of them can balance congested skin, soothe a headache, stimulate uterine contractions or ease anxiety. The wrong amount can cause skin irritation and other adverse or unwelcome side effects. THEY ARE POWERFUL and should not be underestimated!
PREGNANCY & NURSING
The use of essential oils during pregnancy and nursing is a confusing topic. A simple Google search yields a ton of contradictory information. Here are three rules of thumb for pregnancy:
1. Always consult your health practitioner about essential oil use during your first trimester. Everyone’s body and circumstances are different! It’s better to err on the side of caution and safety.
2. Never rub essential oils directly onto a pregnant belly or nursing nipples.
3. Avoid undiluted (not mixed into a carrier oil) or internal application of essential oils.
If you have specific questions regarding essential oils and their uses, please get in touch!
Safe for Pregnant People
Cardamon, German and Roman Chamomile, Frankincense (species carterii), Geranium, Ginger, Neroli, Patchouli, Petitgrain, Rosewood, Rose, Sandalwood + other nontoxic essential oils (including Lavender (species angustifolia), and all citruses)
Avoid during Pregnancy
Basil (ct. estragole), Clary Sage, Lemon Basil, Frankincense papyrifera (species carterii is okay), Lemon Balm, Lemon Leaf, Lemongrass (may irritate skin: use below 1%), May Chang, Melissa, Myrtle, Nasturtium, Lemon Tea Tree, Lemon Thyme, Lemon Verbena
MEOW MEOW TWEET & PREGNANCY
You can use our entire line of products during pregnancy. However, skin sensitivity is something new that can occur in pregnant people—please do a patch test with any products before using to make sure you don’t experience sensitivity. We carry most items in “mini” sizes.
Our Face Cleanser contains Basil (ct. linalool), which is generally regarded as safe and a different plant strain than Basil (ct. estragole), which is on the “avoid” list.
To answer the most common question: YES! All of our deodorants are safe to use.
Essential-Oil Free Products
If you’re super sensitive to scent (that pregnant nose!), we have a few essential-oil free items:
Coconut Cacao Lip Balm
Coconut Cacao Bar Soap
Chamomile Yarrow Gel Face Toner
For use on nipples, we recommend the Skin Cream (if there are no nut allergies), since this will possibly be ingested by your babe. Breast milk is also great (and economical!) for sensitive nipples—just rub a bit in after each nursing session.
CHILDREN 6 YEARS OR UNDER
For young children, the safest essential oils are Lavender, Sweet Orange and Roman and German Chamomile. Please note that dilution should be below .5%. The list to avoid is long, but many of these are rarely used in skin care. We’ve underlined the most common that are worth noting.
Ajowan, Basil, Birch (sweet & tar), Buchu, Cajuput, Calamint, Cassia, Cinnamon, Clove, Cornmint, Eucalyptus (species radiata is okay), Feverfew, Garlic, Genipi, Ho Leaf (ct. Camphor), Hyssop (ct. Pinocamphone), Lanyana, Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechs), Leek, Mugwort, Niaouli (ct. Cineole), Nutmeg, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Pennyroyal, Peppermint, Perilla, Pimento, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Spike Lavender (Lavandula latifolia), Tansy, Tea Tree, Tejpat, Thuja, Thyme, Western Red Cedar, Wintergreen, Wormwood
MEOW MEOW TWEET & BABIES
Our Skin Cream, Coconut Cacao Lip Balm and Coconut Cacao Bar Soap are formulated for newborns and up. There is no need to use essential oils on a newborn!
The Lavender Lemon and Rose Pink Clay soaps are great for 2 years plus. For adolescents and teens, the deodorants and facial care products are absolutely fine and great for getting your kid started on the natural route!
Cats are missing a liver enzyme that most mammals have that allows them to metabolize many constituents in essential oils. It’s generally regarded as UNSAFE to use essential oils topically on cats, and they should never be administered internally. The use of some hydrosols is okay topically. When diffusing, maintain good ventilation and circulation of fresh air. Make sure your cat can leave the area and only diffuse for 15 minutes at a time.(2)
Some essential oils can be used safely with great results at a LOW dilution with dogs. The guidelines for children under 6 are the ones to follow. Once again, hydrosols can be just as effective and are much less risky.(3) We love lavender hydrosol for repelling bugs on our family dog!
Meow Meow Tweet & Dogs
These two products are safe for dogs but make sure the smell doesn’t annoy them by doing a small patch test first:
Rosemary Avocado Shampoo Bar
BIRDS & OTHER SMALL ANIMALS
No, just don’t. Please make sure not to diffuse essential oils around these small and sensitive animals either!
Some essential oils can cause the skin to burn easily when exposed to UV rays, meaning you can’t go out in the sun for 12 to 14 hours after applying these oils. Most of these are citrus essential oils, but not all citrus essential oils are phototoxic, and when used in low dilutions there is minimal risk of sensitization. Proper dilution is between 0.5% and 1%.
Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon (expressed), Lime (expressed), Mandarin Leaf, Bitter Orange, Rue, Angelica Root, Cumin
Bergamot FCF, Lemon (distilled), Lemon Leaf, Lime (distilled), Mandarin, Sweet Orange, Satsuma (expressed), Tangelo, Tangerine, Yuzu
Meow Meow Tweet & Photosensitivity
We only use Bergamot FCF in our products, so when you see it listed, rest assured! Our Grapefruit Deodorant and Sweet Orange Tangerine Lip Balm both contain photosensitive oils in quantities below .5% as indicated. Please patch test both to make sure you are not sensitive.
We don't recommend ingesting essential oil without the advice of a certified clinical aromatherapist. For new parents, this means that you should be careful about what you put on your nipples, as your babe will be ingesting it if you nurse.
Our products and the information on these pages are not intended to treat, cure, prevent, or diagnose any medical condition and are not a substitute for the medical advice of a trained physician.
1. http://roberttisserand.com/essential-oils/, Robert Tisserand, Date Unknown
2. Vicki Rae Thorne & Robert Tisserand, “Is Essential Oil Safe for Your Cat?”, Animal Wellness Magazine, July 2011
3. Nayana Morag, “The Aromatic Dog”, Off The Leash Press, LLC, June 2015
RESOURCES & BIBLIOGRAPHY
Essential Oil Safety, Robert Tisserand
The Aromatic Dog, Nayana Morag
Advanced Aromatherapy, Kurt Schnaubelt
National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy Website
The Meow Meow Tweet blog is a collaborative thought project between the founders of Meow Meow Tweet and our editorial team. This post was written by Tara Pelletier, co-founder, who holds an aromatherapy certification from NYIoA.