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. Instead of rubbing chemical-laden commercially-produced acne treatments onto your skin, it’s time for you to consider using essential oils instead.
Treat Acne With Essential Oils
One over-the-counter product that dermatologists typically recommend to treat acne and related skin conditions is benzoyl peroxide. It successfully kills bacteria, but it also contains harsh chemicals that can leave your skin dry or itchy, or cause it to peel. Other astringents commonly suggested by medical professionals also dry out the skin excessively. Essential natural oils, on the other hand, work at replenishing and balancing your skin.
Essential oils, made by distilling raw plant extracts and other material including the bark, flowers, leaves, rinds, roots and seeds, are a natural remedy that works and won’t leave acne scars behind.
Because of their unique chemical composition, many essential oils have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties that leave your skin clear and smooth. Because they are available over-the-counter (or you can make them yourself), they are an accessible remedy which can be employed in various ways, depending on which oils you apply and blend with one another. Even acne-prone skin and sensitive skin can benefit from certain essential oils; they work with all skin types.
They’re also preferable to tools and utensils available on the market, which poke and prod your skin to excavate the blackheads that typically crop up in oily areas. Unlike those tools, essential oils aren’t expensive or painful.
Are Essential Oils Bad For Acne? Clearing Up Some Misconceptions
Many believe that treating oily skin with an oil-based product is counterproductive.
In reality, it’s not. Essential oils actually replace and remove the greasy and oily acne-causing compounds in your skin, so your body no longer has to take excessive measures to produce oil. As a result, the unsightly, oily shine that develops on your face throughout the day is diminished thanks to essential oils.
Best of all: you don’t need a prescription for essential oils, and you don’t need to visit a pharmacist to buy something over the counter. Just check out the health section of your grocery store, or shop online at Public Goods for essential oils.
What Are The Best Essential Oils for Acne Treatment?
Any essential oil, when applied safely and properly, will help your skin. Nonetheless, some types are particularly effective, and have supplementary benefits you should be aware of.
But which essential oil is best for acne? Here’s a full breakdown of the oils you can use, as well as how to use them. Remember to always keep carrier oils nearby!
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 is a natural way to soothe itchy, irritated skin for a smooth complexion. Tea tree essential oil also reduces blemishes and keeps acne at bay.
In fact, one study with 124 participants found tea tree oil to be just as effective in treating acne as benzoyl peroxide, noting those treated with tea tree experienced “fewer side effects.”
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 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.”
How to Use
Add 1-2 drops of tea tree oil to a cotton ball and spot-treat blemishes. Those with sensitive skin can dilute it with a carrier oil like avocado, jojoba, grapeseed or coconut. Those with oily skin, however, should avoid using coconut oil because it can clog pores.
Tea tree oil can also be mixed into face lotions, but be careful using it around the eye area because the menthol in the oil can be an irritant.
Dilution Ratio (applies to all oils): Dilute 1-2 drops of essential oil for every teaspoon of carrier oil.
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, which relaxes upset skin and deters bacteria growth through its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Lavender essential oil is also known to relieve stress, a factor that can trigger breakouts.
Because it also contains camphor, the same topical analgesic agent found in Vicks VapoRub, lavender oil relieves skin irritation.
Dr. Ahuva Gamliel, licensed in both 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, unclogging pores and allowing your skin to breathe.
Lavender oil also regulates the blood circulation underneath your skin, promoting higher levels of oxygen and nutrients within skin cells. This can help diminish the appearance of acne scars.
How to Use
Stubborn blemishes can be treated by blending one drop each of lavender and argan oils together and applying directly to skin. For a refreshing DIY toner, add 10 drops of lavender oil, four drops of vitamin-E and four ounces of witch hazel to a spray bottle.
Avoid using a clear-colored spray bottle, as essential oils tend to oxidize from light and sun. Shake well and spray all over the face. Store the oil in a cool, dark place.
Rosemary Oil (Rosmarinus Officinalis)
You can 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 widely-used for medicinal purposes due to its antioxidant (an anti-aging godsend), anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
Like lavender oil, rosemary essential oil reduces the anxiety that can cause acne breakouts. It also unclogs pores. Finally, the oil’s promotion of blood circulation in your skin helps to create a radiant complexion.
How To Use
Add 1-2 drops to a cotton swab and use as a spot treatment directly on the skin. Dilute with one teaspoon of carrier oil if necessary.
Oregano Oil (Origanum Vulgare)
Oregano originated in the Mediterranean, where ancient Greeks cultivated the leafy plant to treat an array of symptoms including skin irritations and infections. Oregano essential oil is an antibacterial, 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) and thymol, (which contains strong antiseptic properties), oregano essential oil is ideal for inhibiting bacteria growth and reducing inflammation.
A 2018 study found that, 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.
How to Use
Make a DIY spot treatment by adding 1/3 oregano oil to 2/3 carrier oil, place it into an amber-colored rollerball, and use daily. Store in a cool, dark place.
If you do not have a rollerball, add one drop of oregano essential oil to one teaspoon of carrier oil and apply directly to skin.
Frankincense Oil (Boswellia Sacra)
Originating in the Middle East, frankincense oil is both an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, ideal for fighting bacteria grown and alleviating irritated skin thanks to its cooling properties. 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 as a revitalizing face mask. You can, too.
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.
How to Use
Spot treat stubborn blemishes by directly applying 1-2 drops of frankincense oil to the skin with a cotton ball.
Or make a DIY face serum by mixing two drops of frankincense oil, two drops of vitamin-E and two teaspoons of a carrier oil in a bowl. Apply a thin layer to the face and neck, in the morning and at night.
Another popular essential oil that has antibacterial and antiseptic properties is peppermint oil. You can incorporate peppermint oil into your skincare routine to cleanse the face, while the cooling effect of menthol relieves inflammation and irritation caused by acne.
Peppermint essential oil should be diluted in water or a carrier oil like jojoba oil before being applied directly to the skin. You can dab it directly onto acne before bed and leave it on overnight.
You’ll find that several anti-acne creams include peppermint essential oil to provide soothing relief while rejuvenating the skin. One 2016 study found that topical application of peppermint oil could reduce severe itching of the skin. And of course, it’s not hard to make your own DIY peppermint oil.
How to Use
Mix 1-2 drops of peppermint oil, one teaspoon of carrier oil and one teaspoon of vitamin E in a bowl and apply to combative blemishes. Avoid the eye area.
For an exfoliating DIY facial scrub, mix 2-3 drops of peppermint oil with three tablespoons of carrier oil and two teaspoons of salt. Gently massage into skin – avoiding the eye area – then rinse.
Pressed from the fruit and seeds of the rose plant, rosehip oil contains an assortment of acne-fighting vitamins and essential fatty acids. Rosehip is a natural source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation caused by acne; it also increases collagen and elastin production which can boost skin regeneration.
This essential oil also contains a generous amount of linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that has been shown to modify the skin’s natural oil production. A study from 1986 found that acne-prone skin typically has lower levels of linoleic acid production.
In addition to preventing whiteheads and blackheads, evidence also suggests that linoleic acid may help reduce the appearance of acne scarring. In a 1998 study, researchers discovered that the topical application of linoleic acid could reduce hyperpigmentation in flat, dark-colored scars that are left behind from acne.
How to Use
To treat acne, add one drop of rosehip oil, one drop of tea tree oil and one teaspoon of carrier oil and apply to clean skin.
Or add one drop to your daily face lotion and apply to face and neck; add 3-4 drops to your daily body lotion regime.
Thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, cinnamon oil is another popular option for acne treatment. In fact, a 2013 study found that cinnamon oil was more effective in preventing breakouts than tea tree and rosemary oil.
Cinnamon oil has also demonstrated the ability to limit the appearance of acne scars and reduce excess oil. You’ll find that this oil is an ingredient in many face washes designed to improve skin health. Cinnamon oil is sometimes mixed with honey and used to create a face mask; it can also be applied as a spot treatment for pimples and acne blemishes.
How To Use
Add one drop of cinnamon oil to one teaspoon of carrier oil and apply to acne-prone areas.
To make a DIY acne-fighting face mask, combine one drop of cinnamon oil with two teaspoons of honey. Apply to the face for 5-10 minutes and rinse.
Or make an exfoliating body scrub to slough off dead skin in the shower. Mix three drops of cinnamon oil, six teaspoons of vanilla extract and one cup of packed brown sugar together in a bowl. Then slowly fold in 12 teaspoons of solid coconut oil. Apply it to clean skin to exfoliate, and then rinse.
Those are the most commonly-used essential oils used to treat acne, but you may also want to look into clary sage, lemongrass, oregano and geranium essential oils. All have been shown, in studies that can be viewed on the NCBI database, to be effective at killing the bacteria that cause acne breakouts and/or cleansing clogged pores.
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 their potency.
You can compare this dynamic to a can of Minute Maid frozen concentrated orange juice. Failing to mix the juice concentrate with three cans of water, as suggested by the directions, 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. Check out our helpful guide on how to dilute essential oils with coconut oil.
After diluting essential oils in a carrier oil to make them safer on your skin, try a test swab on your skin in a small area before applying topically all over. A rule of thumb to remember: it’s always best to contact your dermatologist if you have any reservations.
What Causes Acne and Pimples, Anyways?
Acne is an inflammatory skin disease, caused when dead skin cells and trapped oils 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 is the “most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually.” A better understanding of its causes and solutions (like essential oils) may keep you from becoming another 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. It is made in oil glands called sebaceous glands, which are located in the dermis. Sebum acts as a shield for the skin while locking in moisture, keeping your skin balanced and radiant.
When dead cells and skin flakes accumulate at the opening of pores, the sebum has no way of escaping. The clogged pores cause oil to build up in the sebaceous glands, which then act as a breeding grounds for bacteria, especially Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes). Blackheads and whiteheads erupt as a result, and they eventually become pimples.
Applying a topical bacteria-killing agent, like the ones found in essential oils, to the skin’s surface one of the best ways to treat acne.
Essential Oils Could Be the Essential Treatment for Your Acne
Thanks to their accessibility, functionality and economical price point, essential oils are both a safe and efficacious means of treating acne. Once you’ve purchased or made an essential oil, you can also use it in aromatherapy to treat cold and flu symptoms, soothe your cough, and even for weight loss.
When shopping for essential oils, make sure the label reads “100% essential oil.” Every bottle of Public Goods essential oil is 100% pure, organic and carefully sourced for the highest quality. Don’t go cheap when it comes to taking care of your skin; it’s the largest organ in your body, and one of the most important.
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