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Truth vs. Myth: Are Your Feet the Best Place for Essential Oils?

Don't have time for a full body rubdown? That's okay, simply apply the oils to the feet with a pair of socks right? Kinda wrong! We often hear that the feet are the best place to apply essential oils, and it seems the reasoning isn't accurate.

Our sebaceous glands love essential oils

Essential oils are lipophilic (“fat-loving,” or fat-soluble). This means that essential oils mix well with oils, and poorly with water or sweat. The skin is a relatively water resistant barrier. Since both essential oils and the epidermis are relatively lipophilic, they “mix” well together and essential oils have a greater tendency for transdermal absorption [1]. Essential oils don't need a special hole or opening to be absorbed.

Areas with the thinnest epidermal layers, and areas rich in sebaceous glands, sweat glands, and hair follicles, prove to be the best areas of transdermal absorption. These locations include face, back, neck, scalp, and wrist [1].

Sebum is produced by sebaceous glands, like hair follicles on the scalp and face. Sebaceous glands are found over most of the body, although there are few on the hands and feet and none on the palms and soles [2].

Sebaceous glands on the mid-back, forehead and chin are larger and more numerous than elsewhere (up to 400–900 glands per square centimeter). They are also numerous in the ear canal and around the genitals [2].

Feet Pores are NOT Special

Pore size is dependent on age (getting bigger over time) and genetics, but have nothing to do with absorption rates. The feet have also not been proven to have more pores than the rest of the body.

The feet have less sebaceous glands, which is why we don't get acne there. They produce sweat- instead of sebum like the scalp does [3]. Consequently this is also why they aren't as absorbing of essential oils on other parts of the body. This fact has nothing to do with why feet are a good place for essential oils.

So what's the benefits with feet?

Because the feet are less sensitive, you can put more concentrated blends and even pure oils on them without irritation. This makes the feet a great place for topical essential oil application.

Because the feet can be covered with socks, this allows longer and undisturbed absorption without having to smell the oil so much if you don't want to for some reason.

The feet aren't necessarily a better place for oils, but they do cut down on time, keep your feet free from fungus and infection, while making them look and smell nice.

Applying any oils to the feet will be beneficial, however applying them to the scalp and face is just as helpful.

 

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