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Essential oils are plant extracts made from flowers, leaves, and seeds. Some may have properties that can treat certain skin conditions.
If you’re interested in trying essential oils specific to your skin concerns, consider talking to your dermatologist about the following options.
Dry skin can occur during certain times of the year, as well as in desert-like climates. You may even have dry skin naturally from age or reduced activity in the sebaceous (oil) glands in your pores.
Dry skin is often remedied with creams and moisturizers, but some essential oils could provide relief.
You may have heard about using lavender for sleep and relaxation, but this multipurpose oil may also help balance out moisture levels in your skin. It’s an anti-inflammatory that can reduce redness and a natural hydrator that can repair dry skin without making it too greasy.
Chamomile oil contains azulene, known for increasing moisture and reducing inflammation. However, you may want to avoid it if you have ragweed allergies, as chamomile may be a trigger.
Sandalwood contains compounds known for reducing inflammation while promoting moisture in the skin.
If you have oily skin, your sebaceous glands are in overdrive, creating excessive oil on the surface of your skin. Factors like humidity, heat, and hormones can make oily skin worse. The following essential oils may help alleviate oily skin issues.
Containing active compounds like linalyl acetate and geranyl, clary sage is known as a go-to essential oil for controlling excess sebum. Clary sage may also help control acne and reduce the appearance of wrinkles in mature skin.
Rosemary oil is noted for its anti-inflammatory, stimulating, and analgesic properties. Its key ingredients, such as esters, may help keep excess sebum at bay. In fact, researchers have noted it can help with both greasy hair and dandruff, and may even stimulate hair growth.
Although research of frankincense in skin care is lacking, advocates say it can help alleviate oily and acne-prone skin while providing lipids for aging skin.
With its alkaline properties, geranium is said to help balance out skin oils. Such alkalinity makes geranium a key addition to soaps, and it’s helpful in evening out hydration levels.
Neroli is another essential oil that contains citral. It may help balance out sebum without drying your skin.
Sensitive skin can be either dry or oily, and can sometimes occur alongside allergies, eczema, and other skin conditions.
If you have sensitive skin, you’ll want to steer clear of oils that are highly acidic, such as lemon and lemongrass. The following oils are considered safe for all skin types:
With acne, it’s crucial that you remove excess oils and bacteria without drying the skin, as this can lead to increased oil production. Inflammation can be another contributing factor to acne breakouts.
Both rosemary and frankincense are known for treating acne by reducing microbials and inflammation. Clary sage is also used for acne and on oily skin. The following oils may also help acne-prone skin types.
Lemon essential oil, derived from the peel of the citrus fruit, can help fight inflammation and free radicals that can contribute to acne and photoaging.
Lemongrass also has natural astringent properties. These can help fight pimples by acting as an antimicrobial while also removing excess dead skin cells.
Cinnamon essential oil is also considered a powerful anti-inflammatory thanks to key antioxidant compounds like cinnamic acid. This may help inflammatory acne symptoms like cysts, nodules, and pustules.
Derived from the melaleuca tree, tea tree oil is one of the most notable antiseptics in alternative medicine. It helps fight bacteria and inflammation, both of which can contribute to acne breakouts.
Certain essential oils also have the ability to balance out moisture and alleviate itchiness of skin rashes. These include atopic dermatitis (eczema) and psoriasis.
Other potential essential oils for skin rashes include:
Another consideration is the pain that can sometimes occur with skin rashes. In this case, you might consider the following essential oils that have pain-relieving properties:
You may have heard of drinking peppermint tea for headaches, but the benefits of peppermint oil may also extend to skin health. The natural menthol content provides an analgesic effect on the skin. It cools down hot rashes, too.
Containing methyl salicylate, wintergreen has similar properties to peppermint. It may act as a soothing agent on painful skin rashes.
Eucalyptus is another oil noted for its pain-relieving qualities. It may also provide moisture to itchy, painful skin rashes.
Patchouli oil is known for reducing both pain and inflammation. These qualities are especially helpful for treating eczema rashes.
Whether you have acne scars or age spots from sun exposure, certain essential oils may help even out your skin tone when used as a serum.
Pomegranate oil has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can promote healthier, more even skin.
Carrot seed oil is used to decrease scarring. It may also help reduce the appearance of wrinkles in mature skin.
Tangerine oil also has a high antioxidant profile, which makes it useful for promoting smoother, more toned skin.
Known for its ability to create balance mentally and physically, ylang ylang may also help inhibit skin pigmentation, according to a
Other essential oils for pigmentation
- frankincense for age spots
- geranium to even out tone
- lemon to fight free radicals
- lavender for reduced redness
Your skin naturally loses elasticity and collagen as you age, which can lead to sagging, fine lines, and wrinkles. The following essential oils have been studied for their potential anti-aging benefits.
With antioxidants like vitamins A and C, rose oil can help promote skin cell turnover, which often slows down with age. In turn, this could create younger-looking skin with fewer lines.
Historically, myrrh was used by Egyptian women for anti-aging skin care regimens. This antioxidant-rich oil is thought to promote circulation, creating brighter, more refined looking skin.
Other anti-aging oils
- carrot seed
- clary sage
Essential oils are either inhaled or used directly on the body. It’s not safe to ingest them. When applying the oils topically to your skin, be sure to use a patch test ahead of time to make sure you’re not allergic, and don’tuse them around your eyes.
A patch test involves placing a small amount of the diluted essential oil on your skin, say your forearm. Wait 24 hours to check for allergic reaction before using on a larger area of skin.
Diffusers are rising in popularity as tools to help disperse essential oils in a room so that you can breathe in the steam. This practice is also known as aromatherapy.
Still, while inhaling the essential oils can be relaxing (or invigorating, depending on the oil used), you won’t necessarily reap the skin benefits using them this way.
Massage and direct application
When treating skin conditions, essential oils are most likely to work best topically. This entails using small drops of an oil. You must also first dilute the oils with a carrier oil, such as almond or olive oil.
Use a few drops per tablespoon of carrier oil for best results, then massage into your skin until fully absorbed.
Bathing in essential oils can also work well for a variety of skin conditions, especially if you’re trying to treat hard-to-reach areas like your back. Simply add up to 10 drops of oil to a running bath. Take your time getting out of the tub, as the oils can make the surfaces slippery.
Topical uses of essential oils may lead to rashes and irritation if you don’t dilute them beforehand with a carrier oil, such as jojoba or olive oil.
Before using the oils, place a small amount of diluted essential oils on your skin — say on your forearm — and wait 24 hours to check for an allergic reaction.
Many citrus essential oils like lemon, grapefruit, lemon, tangerine, and lemongrass may cause a skin irritation when exposed to ultraviolet light. Take appropriate precautions with these.
While essential oils are natural, they can be just as powerful as traditional medications. Don’t take them by mouth, and you shouldn’t attempt to self-treat any underlying medical condition. Ask a doctor before using essential oils if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Essential oils are widely available at naturopathic outlets, natural food stores, and even drugstores. You can shop online for essential oils at the following websites:
Keep in mind that not all essential oils on the market are created equal. Many of the brown bottles you see on shelves may contain added materials such as synthetic fillers, extenders, or fragrances.
Some will also come with a carrier oil already added, which may or may not be helpful, depending on your needs. Be sure to check the ingredient list before you buy anything.
With their anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and soothing properties, essential oils are used for a variety of skin care concerns. While research into the efficacy of essentials is ongoing, advocates say oils can help dry, oily, and acne-prone skin.
Before using essential oils, seek input from your dermatologist, especially if you have any underlying conditions like eczema, rosacea, or psoriasis. Stop using essential oils immediately if you experience any negative reactions.