Using Essential Oils On Your Feet

Using Essential Oils On Your Feet

We talk OFTEN about using essential oils on your feet. The skin is thicker there and even with “hot” oils, there rarely is any sensitivity so it’s a great place to “try an oil out”.

Well, apparently every time we start teaching something, the aromatherapy world decides we MUST be wrong. Ugh…. this is gettin’ old! So, if you’ve seen any debate recently online about how it’s “worthless to apply oils to the bottom of your feet because they have no hair follicles,” read on.

Question: I read that the whole oils absorb on your feet because of the large pores is bunk. That sweat glands don’t absorb the oils and thus its a waste. Is that true?

Yes, you should apply essential oils on your feet, but not because they have the largest pores. Yes, we have large pores on our feet, but pores do not actually absorb anything. Pores are present in our skin to let substances out. The skin has two types of pores – hair follicles housing oil (sebaceous) glands to lubricate the skin and sweat pores serving as the ducts for sweat glands (1). The feet do not have hair follicles, so they do not produce sebum, which essentially acts as a barrier. Feet have a concentrated amount of sweat glands, but again, those act as an EXIT for the body, not an entrance.

From the book, Clinical Aromatherapy by Jane Buckle, studies at Columbia found that diluted essential oils rubbed on the feet affected some volunteers’ autonomic nervous system within minutes, but I’ve also read that after a massage, the chemical constituents of Lavender Essential Oil were found in the blood of a male within 15-20 minutes. My humble conclusion is that it doesn’t matter where we put the oils on our skin – they will be absorbed pretty quickly either way. I did find that areas of the body that are plentiful in sweat glands, sebaceous glands and hair follicles (i.e. scalp, face) are great locations for absorption (2). You can find some of the benefits of applying essential oils on your feet below.

There are a few reasons that putting essential oils on your feet IS a good idea:

  • Oils can easily be applied to the feet and covered with socks if you don’t like the smell of the oil.
  • The palms of the hands and the soles of the feet are less sensitive than other areas of the body, so most people will not have a skin reaction with the application of a neat oil (without being diluted).
  • Essential oils do not actually need an opening or incision in the skin to be absorbed. They are lipophilic (fat-soluble) (2), so they “mix” well with our skin and have a greater tendency for transdermal (through the skin) absorption.
  • Essential oils are made up of small enough molecules to penetrate our cells, so one could conclude that they are small enough to penetrate our skin without an opening such as a pore.


From Lindsey Elmore: You don’t need an opening in the skin because the oils are lipid soluble and thus will absorb through the skin, not just openings.

(1) “Pore You” by Ava Shamban, MD.