Based on both scientific research and anecdotal accounts, lemon oil may have the following benefits when it comes to skin care:

Keep reading for more about the uses and drawbacks of lemon oil in skin care.

The proper use of lemon oil depends on the type of oil, as well as what you’re using it for. Here are some of the most common uses and basic instructions for each.

Acne and acne scars

Lemon oil has two properties of interest if you have acne-prone skin:

  • astringent
  • antimicrobial

Together, these properties can potentially reduce inflammation and P. acnes, the bacteria that causes inflammatory acne. Astringents are also known for getting rid of dead skin cells that clog pores.

The qualities of lemon oil that make it lightly exfoliating can also reduce hyperpigmentation from acne.

When using lemon oil for acne and acne scars, one approach is to use it at night:

  1. Mix 1 drop of lemon oil with a small amount of non-comedogenic oil.
  2. Apply to a cotton ball and gently dab on the affected area of skin.
  3. Leave on for a 2 to 5 minutes.
  4. Wash your face with your usual cleanser and follow any other steps of your skin care routine.

The downside is that lemon oil can be too strong, which can lead to red, peeling skin. For this reason, you may want to start out with once-daily applications only a few times a week.

Facial cleanser

Some over-the-counter face washes have lemon extracts to enhance the cleansing properties of the products. If you’re considering adding lemon oil extract to your own face washing routine, simply mix one drop of oil to a small amount of the wash in your hand before use.

Since lemon oil can potentially dry out your skin, you may want to try this method once a day to start. Discontinue using it entirely if you experience redness and irritation.

Bath enhancer

A warm bath on its own can relax muscles and be therapeutic. As a bonus, citrus-based essential oils like lemon can also boost your mood and make you feel less fatigued.

  1. To use lemon oil in your bath, mix 5 to 10 drops of essential oil to a cup of carrier oil.
  2. Add this mixture to a bathtub full of warm water.

You can use this method as often as you’d like, but you should discontinue if any signs of irritation show up.

When used correctly, lemon oil is safe for the skin as long as you don’t have an allergy or sensitivity to it. But there are a few risks to be aware of.

  • Skin irritation. Essential oils are particularly powerful and can cause skin irritation. One study found a high prevalence of sensitivity to lemon peel, but not necessarily its juices. The same was found with other citrus fruits, such as oranges and limes.
  • Eye irritation. Lemons, like other citrus fruits, can cause burning in your eyes. It’s important to avoid this area if possible.
  • Increased sunburn. Citrus oils can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. This can cause redness, rash, or in some cases blistering, followed by pigmentation changes. Never apply the oil immediately before sun exposure. Always wear sunscreen to minimize your risk of sunburn.

A patch test can help you determine whether you’re sensitive to pure lemon oil or a lemon-containing product. To do this, put a small amount of carrier oil mixed with lemon oil on the inside of your elbow and wait for 48 hours.

If a rash develops, you may have a lemon oil sensitivity. If no symptoms develop within a couple of days, the oil may be safe to use.

As an ingredient in skin care products, you can find lemon oils listed as:

  • citrus limon fruit oil
  • citrus medica limonum fruit oil
  • citrus limon peel oil
  • citrus limon peel extract

Fruit oil vs. peel oil

As you might have guessed, lemon peel oil or citrus limon peel oil is extracted from the oils in the peel, making it highly concentrated.

According to INCIDecoder, this fragrance ingredient oxidizes when exposed to air, which can ultimately act as an irritant to your skin or make it more sensitive to irritation. Its main compound, limonene, is also considered a solvent, which again can be tough on your skin.

Keep in mind that most lemon essential oils are made by processing the peels.

If you want to add the oil to water or an existing face wash, look for pure lemon extract or essential oil that was extracted through cold-pressing.

When used correctly, lemon oil may be safe for your skin. It’s always a good idea to do a patch test before using any form of lemon oil. If you don’t see improvements in your skin after a few weeks, it may be time to see a dermatologist. They can help you determine the best approach and products for your skin care goals and needs.