A woman has issued a warning about the dangers of ‘relaxing’ essential oils after an evening at home left her severely burnt.
Emily Smith suffered chemical burns to her face and eyes when an essential oil diffuser she was using at home sprayed vapour in her face.
The 24-year-old shared the graphic pictures of her burns on Facebook along with a frustrated message, which has since gone viral.
"If you asked me four days ago whether I thought I would be a victim of chemical burns on my face and eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it," she wrote.
"You always think 'this won't happen to me'. But this time it did."
Smith said a popular electric diffuser was scenting her home, when she walked over to it to turn it off by holding down the button for a number of seconds, as is instructed.
"In the process of turning the appliance off, some of the vapor from the diffuser must have sprayed onto my face. But I didn’t think anything of this. Whilst I was somewhat aware of the danger of getting essential oils directly on my skin, I was unaware that the vaporised 'diluted' oil from my diffuser could also be dangerous," she wrote.
A few hours later, she went to put a log on the living room fire.
"Immediately, I felt a stinging sensation on my face but due to the fact that my body never came into direct contact with the flames, combined with my ignorance about the nature and danger of the oils my skin had come into contact with, I didn’t put two and two together," she wrote.
"The burning sensation increased, and I realised that I had been burned, although extremely confused and unsure about how it could have happened."
She said she called for medical guidance and was diagnosed her with first degree burns that did not require professional medical attention. Smith was instructed to treat with cold water and aloe vera which she did and then went to bed.
"I was awakened at 3am as it felt as if my face and eyes were burning. I went to look into the bathroom mirror. My eyes were bloodshot and misted due to tears, and my face looked a little inflamed, but nothing too awful. I applied more aloe vera, took painkillers and went back to bed," she said.
When she woke in the morning, she says she didn't recognise herself. Her face had swollen, her eyes blurred and continually watering and her skin looked pus-y. Calling 000 again, she was told to head to the emergency room.
After waiting a few hours to see someone, Smith was told she'd been chemically burned and doctors were worried her eyes had been permanently damaged. She said during that wait time, she realised the link between the diffuser spraying on her face and the burns.
"I realised that when the diffuser had sprayed onto me, essential oils had soaked onto my face and eyes and remained there. When exposed to the fire, these had a chemical reaction and ‘ignited’. Had I realised this earlier, I might have been given priority at the hospital, and treated faster," she said.
"When I followed the instructions given by medical professionals and ran my burns under the tap, I was not removing the oil. Oil does not just ‘wash’ off. When I soaked my face in a bowl of water, I was not really relieving my burn. I was marinating my face in the cause of my troubles."
She wants her story to act as awareness that these 'relaxing' oils are not risk-free.
"As much as I feel self-conscious about sharing my photos, and my story, I know it’s the right thing to do. If reading this post prevents one person from experiencing the pain that I have, then my accident won't have been in vain," she wrote.
"My face and eyes were chemically burned. I'm extremely fortunate to have my sight at all, and lucky that the burn wasn't worse, but I have suffered permanent eye damage and am potentially facially scarred for life.
A life changing incident, that was preventable."
Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, told Refinery 29 essential oils can absolutely cause damage, with Smith's choice of Patchouli oil potentially making the situation worse.
"Patchouli oil is notorious for causing what is known as a phototoxic reaction. If you are exposed to sunlight and that oil is on the skin, a severe burn-like reaction may occur. People commonly develop redness, burning, stinging, peeling, and even blistering," he says.
Fortunately most of the time these burns fully heal with no permanent scarring.