Topical skin soothing salve with essential oils, arnica, and other carrier oils

Topical Aromatherapy Blends: Balms, salves and oil-based lotions

Disclaimer: I am not an expert by any means. Not a therapist, medical or mental health professional. I do not diagnose, treat, or tell people what to do. The main purpose of this website and blog is education and support. If you are unsure how the suggestions and resources here may affect you, please discuss any changes to your existing treatment plan with your medical and mental health providers first.

Topical Aromatherapy Blends: Essential Oils and Carriers

Here at Scent Reflections, I create aromatherapy products for external use on the skin and inhalation only. If you want to learn more about internal and other uses for essential oils, please visit the following aromatherapy resources organizations:

Some Basic Information

Topical blends combine essential oils with carriers to create different products people can use on their skin (aka dermis). The carriers dilute the potency of essential oils and allow them to penetrate the skin barriers easier. When combined together, the healing benefits of essential oils and carriers can ease specific areas of physical pain, .nourish and soothe skin irritations, and work slowly over time to heal other injuries or scars. 

The most common carriers are oils like jojoba oil, shea butter, olive oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and herbal infused oils. But not all carriers are oils. Other examples include unscented soap, unscented lotion, dried clay or powders, salt and beeswax. (click on the images below to read the captions)


Aromatics International recently published a guide for professionals that includes safety information for topical aromatherapy blends in a reader-friendly format. The Robert Tisserand Institute and AromaWeb are also excellent sources for learning about essential oil safety practices and processes. 

Not all essential oils are optimal for topical use (or safe only in small amounts for inhalation). 

  • All blends should be used with caution for
    • children (1% dilution or less)
    • older adults (1% dilution or less)
    • pregnant women
    • people with known allergies, asthma, breathing problems, or sensitivities to scents
  • They are not for use directly on babies, young children or pets (hydrosols preferred)

Finally, it’s always a good idea to check ingredient lists and ask the manufacturer about any other concerns before making your purchase.

Balms, Salves and Oil-based Lotions

At the beginning of my studies, I avoided making hard salves, balms and butters. The thought of using a double boiler and measuring ingredients by weight scared me a lot. Fear of failure is a big trigger for me. So I started with inhaler blends and liquid massage oils in roll-on containers, and typical lotion dispensers, soaps, and lotions in class.

Pain Management instead of Pain Relief

For me, pain management and emotional support are the main  two reasons for creating aromatherapy blends. I use “pain management” instead of pain relief because I don’t consider feelings and sensations of pain an enemy to be removed. The pain sensations and feelings are my mind and body’s way of informing me when I need to step back and practice self care because those areas are still healing and need some TLC. 

Without those signals I would keep going – and potentially hurt myself worse. So my goal is to work with and manage the pain so that it doesn’t take control of my life. I still feel the sensations strong enough to heed the warning, but don’t feel so much pain that I can’t function and enjoy life. My back hurts, but I can still water my plants and cook. My head hurts, but I can still work and cook and write these blog posts.

Facing My Fear and Staying Grounded

COVID-19 happened. With the shelter-in-place and other restrictions in place, I couldn’t go to the Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture practitioners for pain management help anymore. Many stores that sell herbs and essential oils got overwhelmed with orders and couldn’t accommodate everyone.

Plus, my physical pain and emotional pain are integrated or tied together through my past trauma. They can feed on each other and increase the potential for an increase in recurring symptoms. In other words, the pain my body feels is both emotional and physical – memories and reliving of my past traumatic experiences – that require both emotional and physical support solutions or strategies. Aromatherapy provides that.

Creativity + Education + Fun (experiments) = Soothe My Skin salve and Lime Me Up lip balm

My herbalism classes taught me how to make herbal infused oils. I had some dried arnica (Arnica montana) and olive oil at home so decided to make my first oil infusion. That took about 6 weeks and became the base for the salve.

arnica infused in olive oil

Then I looked up a base recipe from my Body Butters & Lip Balms class to create my own version of a salve and put it in lotion stick containers. The extra went into a jar.

Topical skin soothing salve with essential oils, arnica, and other carrier oils
Salve in the stick and large jars; body butter in the smaller jars

Blending felt so good (i.e. grounding and relaxing)  that I continued working late into the night. Made a body butter too. Next time I made a version 2 of the salve (ran out of shea butter) and lip balm.

Lime Me Up Lip Balm samples

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