8 Essential Oils for Skin and How to Use Them

“I’m a big believer in that if you focus on good skin care, you really won’t need a lot of makeup.” – Demi Moore

Well, amen to that! A well-maintained skin care routine is most certainly one of the secrets behind healthy and beautiful skin. A beauty regimen need not be a tedious exercise of slathering your face with a plethora of high-end creams and lotions that take forever to work and an instant to burn a hole in your pocket.

Plus, most of these supposedly top-of-the-line beauty products come packed with parabens and may ultimately do your skin more harm than good.

No wonder then that essential oils are fast emerging as a must-have item in the skin care arsenal of beauty experts the world over. These skin-healing potions offer a much more viable, natural, and cost-effective alternative to the overpriced and chemical-laden beauty lines.

Skin aging, blemishes, acne, sunburn – whatever the skin problem, there is probably an essential oil to fix it.

Extracted from various plants using methods such as distillation and mechanical cold pressing, essential oils are “gifts of nature” in the truest sense of the term. These elixirs of natural goodness possess a number of wonderful properties that rectify a wide array of skin troubles and help you look your flawless best.

Caution: People with allergies or sensitive skin should be especially prudent when using essential oils. It is important to bear in mind that simply because these oils are natural doesn’t mean that they are devoid of any side effects.

Also, don’t be too quick to base your decisions on the experience of others. Just because a particular oil worked for someone doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you as well.

Conduct patch tests, preferably on the inside of your elbow, is therefore an important prerequisite whenever you decide to incorporate a new essential oil in your beauty regime. This will help you assess the suitability and safety of the oil for your own skin to avoid potential side effects later.

Also, because these oils are quite potent and concentrated, it is recommended to dilute them in a carrier oil before use. This will temper their intensity to prevent any possible skin irritation, as well as promote better absorption of the oil.

Best Essential Oils for Treating Skin Troubles

Here are some therapeutic essential oils that can help address common skin problems.

1. Tea Tree Essential Oil for Acne

Acne is an irritating and painful problem that afflicts people across gender and ages. It is caused by bacteria and a sur production of sebum, which tend to accumulate in the pores of the skin. While acne is common on the face, it can also develop on the chest, shoulders, arms, legs. and buttocks.

Tea tree oil is a godsend for acne-prone skin. It boasts unique disinfecting and soothing properties. Furthermore, it helps kill the harmful bacteria responsible for acne and even helps prevent it from recurring.

Also, being a mild analgesic, it brings relief from the pain and inflammation that are by-products of this condition without any of the harsh side effects that are associated with conventional acne medications.

Another good thing about this essential oil is that it will not strip your skin of its natural oils and cause further damage.

A 2007 study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology found that topical 5 percent tea tree oil is an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne vulgaris.

  • Mix 1 or 2 drops of tea tree oil into 1 teaspoon of coconut oil or jojoba oil. Using a cotton ball, dab it gently on the acne-affected area. Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes, and then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Do this once daily.
  • Alternatively, thoroughly mix 4 or 5 drops of tea tree oil into 1 teaspoon of honey. Apply it on the affected area. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes, and then rinse it off with water. Repeat once daily.
Note: Application of tea tree oil is generally safe, but in some cases it may cause skin irritation and swelling in people with sensitive skin. Also, it can cause skin itching, dryness, burning, stinging, and redness. Thus, it is always advisable to do a patch test first to see if this oil is compatible with your particular skin type.
Never take tea tree oil or any other essential oil orally. Ingesting these oils can cause confusion, inability to walk, rash, and unsteadiness and might even induce coma in extreme cases.

2. Lavender Essential Oil for Fungal Infections

Fungal infections can occur on the surface of your skin, within a skin fold, or in on any other area that is warm and moist. Such infections are generally accompanied by intense itching and discomfort. This is where lavender oil comes in.

This magic potion can help remedy any type of fungal infection, including athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm, all thanks to its formidable antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. What’s more is that lavender oil works for just about any skin type, from dry to oily and aging to sensitive.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology found that lavender oil has potent antifungal effects against strains of fungi that are responsible for some commonly reported skin and nail infections.

  1. Mix 2 or 3 drops of lavender essential oil into 1 teaspoon of coconut oil.
  2. Use a cotton ball to apply the oil blend on the infected area.
  3. Leave it on for at least 30 minutes, and then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Pat your skin dry thoroughly.
  4. Repeat this twice daily until the fungal infection is completely gone.
Note: Topical application of lavender oil for young boys who have not reached puberty is possibly unsafe as it may cause hormonal imbalance. One should stop using lavender oil 2–3 weeks prior to any surgery as it is associated with slowing down the nervous system.

3. Neem Essential Oil for Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes scaly, red, and raised patches on the skin. It commonly affects the knees, scalp, or the outside of the elbows. Neem oil has proven extremely effective in the treatment of psoriasis.

Neem, also known as Indian lilac, has antifungal and antiseptic properties that can help treat psoriasis and prevent the condition from spreading.

A 2013 study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine highlights the several benefits of neem for many skin conditions, including psoriasis.

  1. Put a few drops of neem oil on a cotton ball.
  2. Dab the oil on the affected skin before going to bed.
  3. Leave it on overnight.
  4. The next morning, rinse it off with lukewarm water.
  5. Repeat daily.
Note: Be cautious never to ingest neem oil by mouth and keep it out of the reach of children. In children, serious side effects have been observed within hours after taking neem oil orally. These serious side effects include diarrhea, vomiting, blood disorders, drowsiness, loss of consciousness, seizures, brain disorders, coma, and death. The use of neem oil should be avoided during pregnancy as well as it can cause a miscarriage.

4. Peppermint Essential Oil for Sunburn

If your perfect day involves you soaking in the sun while unwinding at the beach or you are someone whose work demands you to spend most hours outdoors, don’t let a sunburn bog you down.

Peppermint oil is your best bet against overexposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) sunrays, which often leave you reeling with a stinging burn. Severe sunburn can cause pain and redness on the skin and sometimes even blisters.

Peppermint essential oil is effective at naturally repairing the skin damage caused by prolonged exposure to the sun. Being anti-inflammatory in nature, the oil can reduce redness and swelling as well as soothe the itchy and irritated skin associated with a sunburn.

Additionally, it can shield your skin from the sun and prevent the sunburn from occurring in the first place. So, do yourself a favor by looking for sunscreens that contain the added benefits of peppermint oil.

A 2010 study published in Pharmacognosy Research found that among essential oils, peppermint oil has one of the highest SPF values at 7.

Moreover, oily formulas are more effective in creating a uniform and long-lasting film of sunscreen on the skin, and their emollient properties protect the skin from the drying effects of wind and sun exposure.

  • To soothe a sunburn, mix 5 drops of peppermint oil into 3 tablespoons of coconut oil. Pour the mixture into cool bathwater and soak in the water for 15 to 20 minutes. Pat your skin dry and apply a light moisturizer. Do this once daily.
  • For a localized area, mix 2 drops of peppermint oil in 1 teaspoon of coconut oil. Gently rub the mixture on the affected area two to three times a day. You do not need to rinse it off.

5. Geranium Essential Oil for Wrinkles

Wrinkles take away the youthful appearance of your face and make you look older than your age. To keep wrinkles at bay and your skin looking tight and supple, try geranium essential oil.

Geranium oil is a natural astringent that helps minimize the appearance of wrinkles by tightening your facial skin and slowing down the effects of aging. It also stimulates blood circulation just beneath the surface of the skin, which is important for flawless and beautiful-looking skin.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that geranium oil has a mitigating effect on oxidative stress and its antioxidant properties make it a must-have to delay skin aging.

Another is that its soothing properties make geranium oil appropriate for dry skin as well.

  • Mix 5 or 6 drops of geranium essential oil into 1 teaspoon of olive or coconut oil. Thoroughly massage the oil blend into your skin daily before going to bed.
  • Another option is to add 2 drops of geranium oil to your daily face or body wash and use it as usual.
Note: Most experts warn against using geranium oil if you are pregnant or nursing, so it’s best to take their word for it and stave off any unnecessary complications.

6. Frankincense Essential Oil for Age Spots

Age spots are flat in shape, brown or black in color, and can appear on any area of the skin. They get their name due to the fact that they often occur at an advanced age. The bad news is that age spots can add several years to your skin’s appearance, making you look older.

The good news is that these pesky blemishes can be lightened using frankincense essential oil. It does so by promoting the growth of new skin cells and accelerating the process of skin regeneration.

As your dead skin cells get sloughed off to reveal fresh new layers of skin, the age spots gradually fade over time until they are hardly noticeable.

Plus, frankincense oil offers the added benefit of restoring the skin’s elasticity and tightening loose, saggy skin to make your skin appear taut and supple.

A 2017 study published in Biochimie Open found that frankincense essential oil has anti-inflammatory and tissue-remodeling properties. Additionally, the robust antiproliferative activity of frankincense essential oil in skin cells could also contribute to faster and better wound healing.

  1. Dilute 6 drops of frankincense essential oil in 3 tablespoons of any carrier oil.
  2. Use the oil blend to massage any area where you see age spots.
  3. Leave it on for 20 minutes, and then rinse it off.
  4. Do this once daily.
Note: Frankincense is generally safe for use by most adults. Occasionally, however, it might cause irritation when applied topically, especially if you happen to have sensitive skin.

7. Chamomile Essential Oil for Rosacea

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes symptoms such as red patches and bumps on the skin, swelling, a burning sensation, and thick and dry skin. In some cases, it may also cause eye dryness and irritation.

While there is no cure for rosacea, you can use chamomile oil to help soothe the affected area and reduce redness.

A 2007 study published in Dermatologic Therapy found that chamomile has significant benefits for the skin such as improving its texture and elasticity as well as reducing pruritus (itchy skin) and signs of photodamage.

It also acts as a natural moisturizer to soothe eczema, allergic skin reactions, and sunburn. In addition, it’s found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which help calm irritated skin and reduce redness.

  1. Mix 3 or 4 drops of chamomile oil and ½ teaspoon of warm extra-virgin coconut oil.
  2. Apply this oil blend on the affected skin and massage it gently.
  3. Leave it on for 20 or 30 minutes, and then rinse it off.
  4. Do this twice daily.
Note: Chamomile should not be used by pregnant women as it might induce a miscarriage. Similarly, nursing women should avoid its use as it can adversely affect the health of their baby through the breastmilk.

8. Juniper Essential Oil for Cellulite

Cellulite is a lumpy and dimpled skin that commonly appears on the thighs, hips, buttocks, and abdomen. It is caused by accumulated fat cells that are pushed up against the skin surface, leading to uneven indentations.

Juniper essential oil has proven to be quite beneficial in diminishing the appearance of cellulite. It helps reduce inflammation and increase blood flow, and it contains certain compounds that help break up cellulite fat.

  1. Mix 10 drops of juniper oil into ¼ cup of olive oil.
  2. Massage the mixture on the affected area for 5 minutes.
  3. Leave it on for at least 30 minutes before rinsing it off.
  4. Do this twice daily.

Important Tips

  • It is important to use a carrier oil when using essential oils on the skin. Common carrier oils include coconut, grapeseed, hemp seed, jojoba, olive, and sweet almond oils.
  • Choose a chemical-free essential oil that has been extracted through distillation or mechanical cold pressing.
  • Always keep essential oils in dark glass bottles.
  • Buy essential oils from a reputable supplier to get authentic products.
  • Essential oils are for topical use only.
  • If you have a serious skin issue, consult your doctor immediately.

Resources:

  1. The efficacy of 5 percent topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venerology and Leprology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17314442.
  2. Lavender oil has potent antifungal effect. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110214201842.htm. Published February 16, 2011.
  3. Neem (Azadirachtaindica): Prehistory to contemporary medicinal uses to humankind. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3695574/. Published July 2013.
  4. Mishra A, Dave N. Neem oil poisoning: Case report of an adult with toxic encephalopathy. Indian Journal of Critical Care Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3841499/. Published 2013.
  5. In vitro sun protection factor determination of herbal oils used in cosmetics. Pharmacognosy Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140123/. Published 2010.
  6. Lohani A, Mishra AK, Verma A. Cosmeceutical potential of geranium and calendula essential oil: Determination of antioxidant activity and in vitro sun protection factor. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jocd.12789. Published September 24, 2018.
  7. Han X, Rodriguez D, Parker TL. Biological activities of frankincense essential oil in human dermal fibroblasts. Biochimie Open. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214008517300020. Published February 3, 2017.
  8. Baumann LS. Less-known botanical cosmeceuticals. Dermatologic therapy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18045358.
  9. Orchard A, Vuuren Svan. Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine :eCAM. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5435909/. Published 2017.

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Published by
Cynthia Williams, FNP-BC, Licensed Acupuncturist, Herbalist

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