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There’s no shortage of different ways to use essential oils to reap their laundry list of different benefits. But using a diffuser to disperse their scent throughout the air as a form of aromatherapy may just be one of the most powerful.
“Aromatherapy diffusers have the ability to interact with the brain and many systems of the body to impact mood and overall health,” says Barbara Close, Naturopathica founder and aromatherapist. Diffusing lavender can help lull you to sleep, diffusing citrus oils works as a mood-booster, and diffusing eucalyptus and peppermint can even help combat cold symptoms, she adds.
The bottom line: As long as you have a diffuser, you can find an essential oil for any and every situation. Not all diffusers are created equal and usually fall into one of two categories. Ultrasonic diffusers use water to disperse the oil, creating a fine must, while nebulizing diffusers use only air to disperse the oil without diluting it.
It’s worth noting certain considerations when using any diffuser: Experts recommend being mindful of any contact allergies you might have to essential oils or if you have asthma. In both cases, diffusing can exacerbate symptoms.
Ahead, a list of the best essential oil diffusers out there.
Best Overall: Vitruvi Stone Diffuser
This beautifully handcrafted diffuser, a favorite of Byrdie Social Media Editor Star Donaldson, marries form and function. The exterior features a matte, ceramic finish, and a simple shape, available in three different colors to match any type of décor. The interior boasts an easy-to-clean, BPA-free plastic water basin since this one relies on ultrasonic technology. Also nice: It can fill up to a 550-square foot space with scent, much more than many other diffusers.
Best Budget: InnoGear Essential Oil Diffuser
Not only does this have the distinction of being a best-selling aromatherapy diffuser, consistently pulling in great reviews, it also happens to be the most affordable pick on our list. Still, despite the wallet-friendly price, it boasts a litany of cool features. Think two different misting modes (continuous or intermittent), an eight-color mood light, and an automatic shut-off function that kicks in once it runs out of water. It’s available in four colors and has a compact size that’s not too bulky.
Best Value: Pure Daily Care Ultimate Aromatherapy Diffuser & Essential Oil Set
For a great price, you get not only this very stylish diffuser but also a complete line-up of 10 different essential oils. The ultrasonic diffuser also has seven different light settings and two intensity levels for a total of 14 different therapeutic light combos. There are also four timer settings, so you can program it to your liking, and the oils included offer a great variety, great for essential oil newbies and veterans alike.
Best Nebulizing: ECO Modern Essentials Nebulizing Diffuser
Essential oil purists argue that nebulizing oils—where there’s no heat or water involved—help ensure you achieve the most intense aromatherapeutic benefits. (To that point, because the scent is very concentrated, it’s great for larger areas.) This particular one not only looks super sleek but is also incredibly easy to use and has two different intermittent mist settings.
Best Smart Innovation: Pura Smart Home Fragrance Diffuser
If you've ever wanted to control your diffuser from an app on your smartphone, know that you can with this fan-favorite smart device from Pura. Simply plug it into an outlet, connect to WiFi, and insert your fragrance vials to reap the benefits of custom schedules and adjustable scent intensities all from the palm of your hand. There's also the option to swap between two different scents and a nifty LED nightlight feature. Perhaps what we love most is the wide range of scent options available, from brands like Nest Fragrances, Apotheke, Capri Blue, Brooklyn Candle Co., and more.
Best Portable: Saje Aromaroam Ultrasonic Diffuser
It may seem a little extra to travel with a diffuser, but it’s one of our favorite ways to combat travel-induced stress. This itty-bitty option is compact enough to take on the go; it even fits in the center console of your car and has a USB adapter so you can plug it in anywhere. Still, it diffuses enough mist to fill up to 300 square feet and lasts up to six hours on the intermittent setting.
Best Designs: Airomé Harmony Porcelain Essential Oil Diffuser
There are, wait for it, 28 different styles of this diffuser available, everything from simple white options to cute animal-shaped ones that would be adorable for a kid's room. No matter which one you chose, they all boast the same, ultra-quiet, ultrasonic technology (that lasts for three to six hours, depending on which mist setting you choose) and eight LED colors as well.
Best Multi-Tasker: TaoTronics Ultrasonic Essential Oil Diffuser & Humidifierr
Any ultrasonic diffuser will act as a humidifier to a certain degree, given that it is relaxing a steam mist into the air. However, this big boy is a legit humidifier, with a 5-liter water tank that lasts up to 40 hours at a time, a great choice for anyone who lives in a drier climate or to use during the winter. (That water chamber is also antibacterial, so you can be sure the mist is good for you.) Still, it also doubles as an essential oil diffuser, so you can reap the aromatherapy as well. Bonus points for the adjustable night light.
Best With Sound: HoMedics Gather Ultrasonic Aromatherapy Diffuser
Target all your senses with this unique diffuser. Not only does it deliver an aromatherapeutic mist (and comes with three essential oil blends), it also delivers seven kinds of ambient light and even features a library of six different relaxing sounds. It’s a choice pick to use at bedtime and overnight, not only because of those soothing sounds but also because of the extra-long, 10-hour runtime.
Best for Shower: Moen Aromatherapy Handshower
Transform any standard shower into a totally spa-like experience. Simply swap out your showerhead for this one (don't worry, it’s surprisingly easy to do—no power tools require). It comes with innovative scent capsules that you pop in the back—they look kind of like single-serve coffee pods—which diffuse essential oils directly into the water. It’s arguably the easiest way to reap aromatherapy benefits daily without even having to really think about it.
Best Splurge: Le Labo Santal 26 Home Diffuser
You don’t have to shell out the big bucks for a good essential oil diffuser, but if you’re looking to treat yourself to an option that doubles as a piece of artwork, this is it. Each one is crafted out of a piece of maple wood, so no two are exactly alike.
There’s a built-in lightbulb—making this a great option as a desk lamp or to place on a bookcase for a little extra light—set next to the nebulizing diffuser. Rather than emitting an essential oil, it diffuses the brand’s Santal 26 fragrance oil, a warm and captivating blend of amber, coco, vanilla, cedar, and musk. The small dial lets you control the intensity of both the light and the scent.
What to Look for in an Essential Oil Diffuser
As aforementioned, there are two types of essential oil diffusers: ultrasonic and nebulizing. Ultrasonic diffusers use water to release the oil while nebulizing diffusers use air. Since the oil is less diluted in nebulizing diffusers, you can reap more aromatherapy benefits than from an ultrasonic diffuser. Nebulizing diffusers also have a smaller footprint and usually have glass reservoirs, which is great if you don't want your essential oils to be in plastic. However, there are some drawbacks. They are noisier than their ultrasonic counterparts and since they do not dilute the oil, they use it up quicker, meaning they're not as budget-friendly. Aside from being quiet and budget-friendly, ultrasonic diffusers can run for longer periods and can even double as a humidifier. Whichever one you pick will largely depend on your personal preferences and needs.
Make sure that the essential oil diffuser you're thinking of purchasing can cover the size of the room you plan to place it in. Most diffusers only cover up to around 500 square feet. If your room is larger than this, it may be best to invest in more than one diffuser.
Depending on your needs, you may want to check the run time of your essential oil diffuser. Some diffusers can run up to 10-hours, making them great to use while sleeping. If you don't plan to use it while you snooze, the run time isn't as important.
Can you use tap water in your essential oil diffuser?
If you're unsure, check with the manufacturer on what they recommend using for the specific diffuser. Usually using tap water over distilled water is a personal preference. Some believe the minerals in tap water allow the oil to disperse more effectively into the air. Plus, distilled water would add to the cost of your diffuser if it isn't something you already purchase for your home. However, some also fear that you could be breathing in impurities by using tap water. Tap water can also cause mineral buildup, which could damage your diffuser's reservoir over time.
Is it bad to put too much oil in an essential oil diffuser?
In short, yes. As a general rule, you should only be putting three to five drops for every 100 milliliters of water. Putting too much oil in your diffuser can be dangerous, so it's important to stay within the recommended range.
Can you sleep with a diffuser on?
Yes, it is safe to sleep with an essential oil diffuser on, but you do not want your diffuser to run continuously through the night as this could risk overexposure to the oils. Fortunately, diffusers come equipped with safety features like timers and auto-shutoff to help prevent any overexposure. If your diffuser does not have a timer, try running it for a few minutes before you go to bed and shutting it off.
How often should you change the water in your essential oil diffuser?
Most manufacturers recommend changing your water and cleaning your essential oil diffuser after each use. You can dump any excess water and wipe the reservoir dry with a microfiber cloth.