Ask an expert: non-aromatherapists using products with essential oils

Q. I am a massage therapist but don’t hold a qualification in aromatherapy – can I use products that contain essential oils?

FHT Vice President Mary Dalgleish says:

This depends on the type of product and how it will be used. For massage, it should be fine to use a pre-packaged massage oil or cream that contains essential oils, providing it comes from a reputable supplier. This product will largely be made up of a carrier oil or cream, to which a small amount of essential oils has been added at a ratio safe to be used by non-aromatherapists.

That said, if your client has reacted to products containing essential oils in the past, or has allergies or very sensitive skin, you may need to stick to a plain carrier oil (see the FHT’s guidelines on skin sensitivity tests in the Members’ area at

Even when clients don’t have a history of allergies or sensitive skin, I would err on the side of caution and check if the supplier has issued any precautions when using a product containing essential oils. This might include, for example, not using it on pregnant clients. If there isn’t any information on the supplier’s website or packaging, you can always contact them for advice. Our regular essential oil profiles in International Therapist magazine will also give you an insight into some of the safety issues relating to different oils.

Some suppliers sell essential oil ‘blends’ or ‘pre-blended’ essential oils, which contain essential oils only and are not intended to be applied directly to the skin. These contain a small selection of essential oils that complement each other – for example, in easing congestion – and a very small quantity of the blend is typically used via steam inhalation, on a tissue or in an oil diffuser.

From an FHT membership and insurance perspective, what you mustn’t do is make your own massage medium or skin product containing essential oils – whether that involves adding individual essential oils or pre-blended essential oils to a base oil, cream or similar. Only qualified aromatherapists are appropriately trained to blend such products for professional use.

If you are keen to know more about essential oils and how these can enhance your treatments, my advice would be to study aromatherapy – it will be a great addition to your existing skill set, whether your core interest is complementary, beauty or sports therapy.

As always, check the training standards before you book onto a course, otherwise you may spend a lot of time and money on a qualification that the FHT doesn’t accept and can’t be added to your Accredited Register listing. Ask the training provider if its aromatherapy qualification meets the core curriculum and national occupational standards for that therapy. If you’re in any doubt, please just get in touch with the FHT for advice.

First published in International Therapist (Issue 123, Winter 2018). Reviewed: July 2019.


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