Many acne treatment solutions on the market are hard on your skin, use harsh chemicals and sometimes leave you worse off (like with acne scars) than where you started.
Your skin needs a solution that not only successfully combats your acne breakouts and pimples, but is also good for you. This is where essential oils come into play.
What Exactly Are Acne and Pimples?
Acne is an inflammatory skin disease brought on by dead skin cells and trapped oils that get clogged inside hair follicles. Pimples, also known as zits or spots, are symptoms of acne.
While acne typically surfaces during puberty, it can occur at any stage in life.
The American Academy of Dermatology noted acne as the “most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually.” Perhaps a better understanding of its causes and solutions, as far as essential oils are concerned, may keep you out of this statistic.
Our skin is made up of three structures:
- Epidermis (outer layer)
- Dermis (thick middle layer)
- Subcutis (deepest layer)
Oil that is produced in the skin is called sebum, and it is made in oil glands called sebaceous glands located in the dermis. The function of sebum acts as a shield, locking in moisture to keep your skin balanced and radiant.
When dead cells and skin flakes accumulate at the opening of pores, the sebum has no way of escaping. Here, in these clogged pores, oil builds up in the sebaceous gland, acting as a breeding ground for bacteria, especially Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria, giving way to blackhead and whitehead eruptions.
The problem worsens if these areas develop a rash, or become inflamed, a reaction brought on by various factors such as heat, infection, genetics, bacteria, skin disease or allergic reactions. Those blackheads and whiteheads then become pimples (also known as papules or pustules). Acne-prone areas include the face, chest, upper arms, shoulders and back — where sebaceous glands are more prominent.
Unlike creams and lotions, oils penetrate deep into the pores to extract dirt and gunk. Most cream-based face washes only take care of the surface of the skin or clog your pores, failing to get to the root of the problem.
Applying a topical bacteria-killing agent like the ones found in essential oils to the surface of your skin in these areas is one way to treat acne.
Treat Acne With Essential Oils
One over-the-counter product dermatologists typically recommend to treat acne is benzoyl peroxide. While it successfully kills bacteria, it also contains harsh chemicals that can leave your skin dry, itchy, or cause it to peel. Essential oils, on the other hand, work at replenishing and balancing your skin.
In fact, one study found tea tree oil to be just as effective in treating acne as benzoyl peroxide on 124 participants, noting those treated with tea tree oil experienced “fewer side effects.”
Essential oils, made by distilling raw plant material that includes bark, flowers, leaves, rinds, roots and seeds of fruits and plants, are a natural remedy that works and won’t leave acne scars.
Because of their unique chemical composition, many essential oils contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties that leave your skin clear and smooth. Because they are available over-the-counter, they are an accessible remedy that can be used in various ways, depending on which oils you use and blend with one another. Even acne-prone skin and sensitive skin can benefit from certain essential oils.
Though there are plenty of tools and utensils available on the market that poke and prod your skin to excavate those unsightly blackheads that typically crop up in oily areas, they can either be expensive or painful.
How to Use Essential Oils to Help Stop Acne
One misconception is that treating oily skin with an oil-based product is contradictory.
Essential oils actually replace and remove the greasy, oily compounds in your skin. Your skin no longer has to take excessive measures to produce oil. That unsightly, oily shine that develops on your face throughout the day becomes diminished thanks to essential oils.
Best of all is you don’t need a prescription, and you don’t need to visit a pharmacist to get something over the counter. Check out the health section of your grocery store, or shop online at Public Goods for essential oils.
The Best Essential Oils to Treat Acne
Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca Alternifolia)
Tea tree oil contains terpineol, an antimicrobial agent that fights a wide range of bacteria linked to acne. Applied topically, it’s a natural way to soothe itchy, irritated skin for a smooth complexion. Tea tree oil also reduces blemishes and keeps acne at bay.
One recent study led by Chao Juan, who serves as Principal Investigator of the clinical trials in the Skin and Cosmetic Research Department in Shanghai Skin Disease Hospital, tested 30 acne volunteers and 30 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30. The acne volunteers were instructed to use a facial cleanser containing terpineol to apply twice a day over a four-week span. The healthy volunteers, conversely, were given a mild facial cleanser.
At the end of the trial, results showed acne subjects who used the terpineol-based facial cleanser “demonstrated a reduction in P. acnes and S epidermidis levels and a concurrent reduction in acne counts.” The outcome also revealed terpineol to “normalize the level of P. acnes and S epidermidis in acne to a state that is closer to health, leading to a reduction in acne symptoms.”
Lavender Oil (Lavandula Angustifolia)
Lavender essential oil, known for its calming scent, contains linalyl acetate that reduces inflammation, treats rashes and stabilizes your skin’s natural oil levels. The oil also contains linalool that relaxes upset skin and deters bacteria growth through its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, respectively. This compound is also known to relieve stress, a factor that can trigger breakouts.
Because it also contains camphor, a topical analgesic agent found in Vick’s Vapor Rub, lavender oil relieves skin irritation.
Dr. Gamliel, licenced in Naturopathy and Acupuncture, recommends applying a few drops of lavender oil (or eucalyptus or tea tree oil) directly to blackheads or inflamed areas with a cotton swab. The oil’s natural antioxidants will remove toxins and dead skin cells from your skin to unclog pores and allow your skin to breathe.
Lavender oil also regulates blood circulation underneath your skin, aiding to promote oxygen and nutrients within skin cells. This result can ultimately diminish the appearance of acne scars.
Rosemary Oil (Rosmarinus Officinalis)
Use rosemary oil for a wide range of skin-related issues, such as oily or inflamed skin, acne breakouts and eczema.
One of rosemary oil’s chief compounds, p-Cymene, exists in over 100 plant species and is employed for medicinal purposes due to its antioxidant (an anti-aging godsend), anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Like lavender oil, it also reduces anxiety to stave off triggering acne breakouts.
With its stimulating features, rosemary oil can also promote blood circulation in your skin to generate a radiant complexion. Use as a spot treatment or as an overall body toner.
Oregano (Origanum Vulgare)
Oregano originated in the Mediterannean, where ancient Greeks cultivated the leafy plant to treat an array of symptoms, including skin irritations and infections.
Oregano essential oil is an antimicrobial, an agent that either kills or reduces the spread of bacteria.
Because of its high levels of carvacrol, a compound responsible for inhibiting bacteria growth, as well as thymol, which contains strong antiseptic properties, oregano essential oil is ideal for inhibiting bacteria growth and reducing inflammation.
A 2018 study found that out of the seven essential oils tested, oregano exemplified the strongest antimicrobial activity against P. acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis, the two most egregious forms of acne-associated bacteria.
Frankincense Oil (Boswellia Sacra)
Originating from the Middle East, frankincense oil is both an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, ideal for alleviating irritated skin with its cooling properties and fighting bacteria growth. It also improves tissue remodeling in the skin, helping to treat scarring, burns and aging skin.
With high levels of alpha-pinene, an organic compound found in many coniferous trees, frankincense oil is great for fighting the acne strains Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.
The ancient Egyptians used frankincense not only as a gift to their gods, but also as a revitalizing face mask.
A study published in Biochimica, a peer-reviewed scientific journal in the field of biochemistry and biophysics, indicated that frankincense oil “showed significant anti-proliferative activity in dermal fibroblasts.” Dermal fibroblasts are cells within the skin that produce and bind connective tissue and are responsible for repairing your skin from injury.
If You Have Sensitive Skin, Use a Carrier Oil
Because of their high concentration levels, some essential oils are highly volatile and should be mixed with a carrier oil, especially if you have sensitive skin. Diluting essential oils helps to tone down the potency. You can compare this to a can of Minute Maid frozen concentrated orange juice. Failing to mix the juice concentrate with three cans of water like the directions indicate leaves you with an overly tart drink that shocks your taste buds.
Almond, avocado, coconut oils, or jojoba oils work well as carrier oils. The added bonus is that their nut and vegetable-based formulas mirror your skin’s natural lipids. These structural similarities can help both restore and balance your skin’s moisture barrier.
You can dilute essential oils to make them safer on your skin, and you may want to try a test swab on your skin in a small area before applying topically all over. A rule of thumb: it is best to contact your dermatologist if you have any reservations.
Essential Oils Could Be the Essential Treatment for Your Acne
Thanks to their accessibility, functionality and economical price point, essential oils boast both a safe and efficacious means of treating your skin as far as natural remedies are concerned.
When shopping for essential oils, make sure the ingredients read 100% essential oil. You can find solace in that every Public Goods’ bottle of essential oil is 100% pure, organic and carefully sourced for the highest quality. Because your skin is the largest organ in your body, tending to it should be a top priority.
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