A COMPLETE GUIDE TO ESSENTIAL OILS FOR SKIN
- Renowned for their pleasant scents and various skin-nourishing properties, essential oils are popular ingredients in both traditional and commercial skincare.
- The benefits of essential oils for the skin arise from their complex chemical makeup, active constituents, and the synergy between them. These reputed benefits include having protective antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, balancing or reducing skin oils, calming inflammation or irritation, helping to preserve skin moisture, supporting skin repair, improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and many other desirable actions.
- A simple approach to optimizing a personal skincare regimen using essential oils is to select those with preferred properties based on one's skincare needs. They can then be diluted in a carrier oil or a mixture of carrier oils that are, once again, tailored to one's specific skin type. Alternatively, essential oils can be incorporated into DIY products or skincare treatments such as rejuvenating facial masks and scrubs.
THE HOLISTIC SKIN CARE BENEFITS OF ESSENTIAL OILS
Essential oils have been part and parcel of natural and holistic skincare for centuries. From the luxurious skin-softening properties of the Rose (used famously by Cleopatra to maintain her beauty) to the wound-cleansing benefits of Myrrh used by ancient Roman soldiers going into battle, these potent oils harness a wide range of botanical therapeutics to address practically every skincare need. Beyond this sheer natural variety – there are now approximately 2000 known plant species contributing to different essential oils! – perhaps the value of essential oils in cosmetics and skincare relate to their diverse benefits. Unlike synthetics, the impact of an essential oil can be far-reaching, relaxing our senses and supporting our physical and psychological well-being for a truly holistic sense of wellness. Another feature that lends these all-natural oils to enhanced skincare is that they are absorbed easily through the skin, thereby being very receptive to simple topical remedies and applications. Indeed, far from just being limited to herbalists, aromatherapists, and natural brands, even mainstream cosmetic companies have long adopted the use of essential oils, used widely in all sorts of products from premium perfumes to basic soaps.
In this guide, we will delve into some of the most common skin types and ailments, and address which essential oils are most suited for their specific skincare needs and why. We'll also discuss some of the most effective ways these oils can be incorporated into our day-to-day beauty regimens or DIY skincare products.
A COMPLETE GUIDE TO ESSENTIAL OILS FOR SKIN
Navigate to a specific skin type or ailment:
- Normal skin
- Dry skin
- Sensitive skin
- Mature skin - fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots
- Oily skin
- Cellulite & skin sagging
- Skin discoloration, scars, & stretch marks
- Scrapes, cuts, insect bites, minor burns & other minor injuries
This relatively rare skin type is characterized by a state of harmony: the skin's oils are perfectly balanced, leading to a naturally radiant and healthy-looking complexion. Many of us may in fact have a combination skin type where the T-zone (the area covering the forehead and down the length of the nose) is the only region that is problematic, with the rest of the face aligning to a more normal skin type. Essential oils that have balancing actions will work best for this skin type as they will help maintain the skin's natural harmony and moisture levels.
|To maintain a normal skin type, try these essential oils:|
Lavender Essential Oil – a truly classic oil in skincare, it supports optimal hydration and the skin's natural healthful state.
Neroli Essential Oil – has natural cleansing and antioxidant qualities, and also helps balance surface oils.
Geranium Essential Oil – helps regulate skin oils and also has anti-inflammatory properties which can minimize potential issues such as acne or sensitivities.
Ylang Ylang Essential Oil - known to be harmonizing both internally and externally, it helps to prevent dryness as well as excessive sebum production.
The lack of sebum can lead to reduced hydration and increased water loss from the skin's surface (also known as transepidermal water loss or TEWL). As sebum can act as an occluding layer on the skin, dry skin can often lead to the compromising of the integrity of the skin barrier and will tend to get irritated more often than oilier skin types.
The other cause of dry skin could be dehydration (this is sometimes referred to as dehydrated skin). Essential oils that are very calming, soothing, and naturally moisturizing work best for this skin type. In addition, the use of harsh cosmetic ingredients or products such as high pH soap on the face should be avoided.
|To comfort and enrich dry skin, try these essential oils:|
Chamomile Essential Oil – both Roman and German Chamomile Oils will naturally soothe inflammation, irritation, or pain associated with skin dryness.
Frankincense Essential Oil – deeply nourishing, Frankincense is well known for its ability to rejuvenate dry and mature skin types. It also has natural skin-calming properties.
Rose and Jasmine Sambac Absolutes - these concentrated floral oils are highly reputed in boosting skin hydration and dullness, and are also gentle on the skin.
The term 'sensitive skin' is used to characterize a skin type that easily experiences irritations or inflammation. Sensitive skin is often distressed and feels uncomfortable, with associated symptoms such as burning, itching, flakiness, or rashes. Moreover, these individuals often cannot use conventional skincare products such as those with fragrances or dyes.
Dry skin can be one of the causes of sensitive skin. Other reasons include skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, and dermatitis. The best essential oils for sensitive skin include those that are very gentle and anti-inflammatory in nature.
Note: Some individuals with skin sensitivities do not react positively to any kinds of fragrances, including essential oils. A skin patch test should always be conducted prior to application, and very mild dilutions are strongly recommended at the beginning of any essential oil use.
|To calm skin that is sensitive or irritated, try these essential oils:|
Rose Absolute – naturally moisturizing and anti-inflammatory, it helps deeply soothe the skin.
Chamomile Essential Oil - comforts irritated and inflamed skin, helps hydrate the skin, and can improve the appearance of rashes.
MATURE SKIN - FINE LINES, WRINKLES, & AGE SPOTS
Aging is a natural process that can lead to a range of skin ailments and issues including fine lines, wrinkles, skin dryness, dullness, and skin laxity. Another common occurrence that is preventable, however, is that of premature aging, a phenomenon where the aging process is sped up in those who engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking or not wearing sunscreen. In both cases, the skin's youthful radiance can be restored by focusing on essential oils that are primarily rejuvenating, protective, and antioxidative in nature.
|To replenish the texture and appearance of mature skin, try these essential oils:|
Rose Absolute – has ideal skin-reviving and scar-reducing properties for aging skin. It also softens the skin and counters any dryness. Rose remains one of the most popular anti-aging oils used in commercial skincare.
Jasmine Absolute – soothes the skin and intensively boosts hydration. Another premium anti-aging oil.
Clary Sage Essential Oil – helps with both internal and external regulation, and is believed to naturally balance issues related to hormonal imbalances in women that can lead to skin ailments. It is also reputed to simulate cell regeneration and may help prevent the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.
Palmarosa Essential Oil - deeply moisturizes skin and helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Oily skin is an issue that most commonly plagues younger age groups. It is characterized by the skin producing too much sebum, which can produce an overly shiny or greasy-looking complexion. The pores may also be more enlarged and visible. This skin type can be transformed through the use of cleansing and clarifying essential oils that help purify the skin and also cut down on skin oiliness. Furthermore, oils with astringent actions can also support in reducing any visible pores. An oily skin type that is well taken care of can prevent the development of acne that forms through the thriving of bacteria in oil- and dirt-clogged pores.
|To freshen up oily skin, try these essential oils:|
Tea Tree Essential Oil – helps eliminate excess sebum and is known to have natural antimicrobial properties. It is often used in skincare products for oily and acne-prone skin.
Neroli Essential Oil – not only is this oil very gentle to the skin, it also has reputed antifungal and antibacterial properties that make it useful in clarifying oily skin and preventing breakouts.
Lemon and Bergamot (Bergaptene Free) Essential Oils – known to improve the complexion of oily skin through its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Most other citrus oils, including Sweet Orange, Mandarin, and Grapefruit tend to be good fits for oily skin.
Cypress Essential Oil – a potent and uplifting oil that can clarify skin and reduce shine. Has reputed antimicrobial properties.
Acne is a chronic yet common skin disease that appears most often as visible marks on the face, although body acne can occur too. The affliction often starts in adolescence and may continue in some individuals until their 30s or even 40s. Blemishes, blackheads, whiteheads, and pustules frequently appear in cases of acne, and the primary cause is what is known as a 'comedo'. This is when a pore or hair follicle becomes congested due to the buildup of skin cells, dirt, and oils. Thus, skincare routines for acne should involve the use of non-comedogenic skincare and makeup products that do not contribute to clogging. The same advice is applied to the use of carrier oils; an excellent non-comedogenic choice is Jojoba Oil.
Essential oils can be a natural remedy for those with milder cases of acne. Those with clarifying, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties will tend to be the most useful.
|To support skin cleansing and clear up acne, try these essential oils:|
Tea Tree Essential Oil – has shown to be capable of clearing up mild to moderate cases of acne vulgaris. This has been attributed to its reported broad-spectrum antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Oregano Essential Oil – has shown strong activity in suppressing bacteria that cause acne, which is believed to be caused by the synergy between the compound Thymol and its other constituents. Another oil high in Thymol is Thyme Oil, which has shown similar effects.
Lemongrass Essential Oil – a great complexion booster for those with acne because it has natural astringent qualities. It can also reduce the appearance of acne scars.
CELLULITE & SKIN SAGGING
Cellulite is a condition where the skin appears dimpled or has a characteristic rippling or 'wrinkly' texture that is often compared to that of cottage cheese. It commonly manifests in bodily areas such as the thighs, knees, and buttocks, and can affect individuals of all weights and sizes. Skin sagging, also known as 'loose skin', is usually a normal consequence of the aging process, but may also be experienced after major weight loss or pregnancy. Issues with skin laxity typically increase with age due to poorer blood circulation, which can impact on skin collagen synthesis.
While harmless, cellulite and skin sagging can be major cosmetic problems that can cause issues with one's self-confidence. Spice essential oils tend to be stimulating and can help detoxify and firm up skin texture and lead to a tighter appearance. Coupled with massage, other stimulating or rubefacient oils may also be used to encourage lymphatic and blood circulation to ease the appearance of cellulite and skin sagging.
|To improve the look of cellulite and loose skin, try these essential oils:|
Sweet Fennel, Juniper Berry, and Grapefruit Essential Oils – reputed to be lymphatic stimulants, these oils are commonly used to aid in the removal of toxins and internal build-up that contribute to the appearance of cellulite.
Black Pepper & Sage Essential Oils – encourage blood circulation when used in a massage and their carminative actions can lead to the appearance of a slimming effect. Their potent antioxidant actions also help to maintain skin laxity and prevent the formation of textural issues.
SKIN DISCOLORATION, SCARS, & STRETCH MARKS
Scarring or pigmentation issues on the skin can be due to external issues (e.g. a cut or an injury) or internal issues (e.g. a hormonal imbalance or pregnancy). Alleviating skin discoloration can often take time depending on the extent of impact to the skin's connective tissue and whether it is a young or relatively older scar. Essential oils with cicatrisant or skin-regenerating qualities may help by speeding up cell growth and tissue repair. Lavender Oil remains one of the oils most used by herbalists and aromatherapists as a natural remedy for scars due to its potent cicatrisant effects. For deep-set or older scars such as stretch marks, oils with rubefacient qualities can be helpful. These encourage circulation and help with cell renewal, thus improving the skin's appearance and texture.
|To reduce the appearance of scars or pigmentation, try these essential oils:|
Lavender Essential Oil – naturally supports skin regeneration through its cicatrisant properties.
Frankincense Essential Oil – like Lavender, it has natural cicatrisant properties that encourage healing and skin regeneration.
Black Pepper Essential Oil – helps boost circulation to enhance nourishment to scarred skin, and has good antioxidant properties that may improve skin texture.
Turmeric Essential Oil – soothes inflammation and naturally lightens the skin, helping to eliminate scarring.
SCRAPES, CUTS, INSECT BITES, MINOR BURNS & OTHER MINOR INJURIES
Essential oils have been used as popular natural remedies by herbalists, aromatherapists, and traditional medicine practitioners to soothe and help in the restoration of skin that has suffered from scrapes, cuts, and other minor injuries. Note that any new or open wounds should be promptly taken care of using first aid measures or by a healthcare professional wherever appropriate to prevent the possibility of infections. Major injuries will also require medical care. For minor cases, the natural properties of essential oils are often used to aid in cleaning the skin, reducing pain, and encouraging the renewal of skin to help prevent or ease possible scarring.
|To soothe and take care of minor cuts, scrapes, and other injuries, try these essential oils:|
Helichrysum, Lavender, Rose, Patchouli, and Frankincense Essential Oils – commonly used to support wound healing and reduce scarring due to their citrasicant qualities.
Tea Tree, Myrrh, and Lavender Essential Oils – may be used to gently cleanse or purify the area due to their reputed antibacterial and fungicidal properties.
Lavender and Chamomile Essential Oils – may be used to soothe the skin and help reduce pain.
HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS FOR SKIN
One of the easiest ways to incorporate essential oils into a skincare regimen is to dilute them in a carrier oil. Carrier oils are fixed oils extracted from various botanical sources such as kernels, seeds, nuts, and fruit pulp, that offer skin-beautifying benefits in addition to making concentrated essential oils safer to use for topical applications. Carrier oils can be blended according to their specific properties (e.g. comedogenic vs. non-comedogenic, fast-absorbing vs. slow-absorbing) and their nutrient profile. Similarly, blending complementary essential oils is thought to be one of the most effective ways to bring out their synergy and consequently their observed results. By mixing desired essential oils and carrier oils together, an easy, personalized, all-natural skincare solution can be made from scratch. A list of suggested blends can be found in the next section.
For a gentle facial serum that can be used in the daytime or at night, pour 30 mL (1 fl. oz. or roughly 2 tablespoons) of your desired carrier oil(s) into a small dropper bottle, followed by 6 drops of an essential oil or essential oil blend. Cap the bottle well before shaking thoroughly to blend all the ingredients. To use, apply 4 drops onto a freshly cleansed face and lightly massage until fully absorbed.
For a hydrating body oil, combine 60 mL (2 fl. oz. or roughly 4 tablespoons) of your desired carrier oil(s) into a bowl or small jar, followed by 24 drops of an essential oil or essential oil blend. Mix well and massage onto desired body areas after a shower or bath.
A DIY facial cleanser or mask are also excellent ways to benefit from essential oils in skincare. For a simple facial cleanser, add 60 mL (2 fl. oz.) of a desired Hydrosol or Floral Water into a cleanser dispenser, along with 30 mL (1 fl. oz.) of Aloe Vera Gel Juice, 30 mL (1 fl. oz.) of Vegetable Glycerin, and 3-5 drops of essential oils. Cap, shake, and use as needed for up to 10 days (the cleanser can be stored in the fridge). For a basic facial mask, combine 30 g (1 oz.) of a cosmetic clay of your choice with 1 teaspoon of a carrier oil, 2-3 drops of essential oil, and enough water to create a paste. Apply using a face brush and leave on for 5-10 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water.
SUGGESTED ESSENTIAL OIL BLEND RECIPES FOR SKIN
The following blends can be used to optimize a natural skincare regimen. The guidelines in the previous section can be used to easily make a DIY skincare treatment based on your needs.
For Dry Skin - soothes, hydrates, and helps keep dry skin soft and supple
- Chamomile Essential Oil - 5 drops
- Rose Geranium Essential Oil - 3 drops
- Rose Absolute - 1 drop
Carrier oil suggestions for dry skin: Sweet Almond Oil, Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, Hemp Seed Oil
For Oily & Acne-Prone Skin - helps cleanse and regulate sebum levels
- Tea Tree Essential Oil - 5 drops
- Lavender Essential Oil - 5 drops
- Lemongrass Essential Oil - 2 drops
- Lemon Essential Oil - 2 drops
Carrier oil suggestions for oily skin: Jojoba Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil, Macadamia Nut Oil
For Mature Skin, Fine Lines, & Wrinkles - softens and smooths out wrinkles, naturally supports skin regeneration
- Palmarosa Essential Oil - 6 drops
- Rose Absolute - 2 drops
- Frankincense Essential Oil - 2 drops
Carrier oil suggestions for mature skin: Rosehip Oil, Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, Argan Oil
For Acne Scars, Dark Circles, & Other Pigmentation Issues - naturally brightens and evens out skin complexion over time
- Frankincense Essential Oil - 2 drops
- Ylang Ylang Essential Oil - 2 drops
- Lavender Essential Oil - 2 drops
- Turmeric Essential Oil - 1-2 drops
Carrier oil suggestions for scarring: Evening Primrose Oil, Rosehip Oil
Interested in discovering some of the most powerful essential oils for hair? Check out our compilation here.
Learn how to make your own nourishing skincare blends in our beginner's guide to the theory and practice of essential oil blending here.
CAUTIONS & ESSENTIAL OILS SAFETY
It is important to enjoy the benefits of essential oils while using them safely and responsibly. This includes never using them undiluted, performing a skin patch test prior to use, being knowledgeable about the sun's effects after use, and sourcing them from an ethical brand known for quality and purity.
External use only
As with all other New Directions Aromatics products, essential oils are for external use only. Essential oils must never be used near the eyes, inner nose, and ears, or on any other particularly sensitive areas of skin. It is imperative to consult a medical practitioner before using these oils for therapeutic purposes.
Avoid sun exposure for a minimum of 12 hours after topically applying Bergamot Essential Oil, Grapefruit Essential Oil, Lemon Essential Oil, and any other phototoxic oils.
Pregnancy and other health conditions
Pregnant and nursing women are especially advised not to use essential oils without the medical advice of a physician.
Those with the following health conditions are especially recommended to consult the advice of a physician: cancer, heart-related ailments, skin disorders or allergies, hormone-related ailments, or epilepsy.
Individuals that are taking prescription drugs, undergoing major surgery, or who are at a greater risk of experiencing strokes, heart attacks, or atherosclerosis are also advised to seek medical consultation prior to use.
Children and safety
These oils should always be stored in an area that is inaccessible to children, especially those under the age of seven.
How to conduct a skin patch test
Prior to using any essential oil, a skin test is recommended. This can be done by diluting 1 drop of the essential oil in 4 drops of carrier oil and applying a dime-size amount of this blend to a small area of non-sensitive skin.
Essential Oil side effects
Potential side effects of essential oils include redness, rash, hives, burning, bleeding disorders, decreased speed of healing, low blood pressure, dizziness, headache, nausea, diarrhea, convulsions, and rapid heartbeat. In the event of an allergic reaction, discontinue use of the products and see a doctor, pharmacist, or allergist immediately for a health assessment and appropriate remedial action. To prevent side effects, consult with a medical professional prior to use.
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