If you’re thinking about trying essential oils skin care for acne, you might have a few questions, like, do they really work? Is there any hard science behind essential oils for acne? Can these oils make acne worse?
1. Is there any scientific proof that essential oils really work?
Overwhelmingly, yes. Even though essential oils skin care bears the lingering stereotype of airy-fairy nonsense in some circles, the medical community ? has largely accepted it as a reliable treatment for a variety of conditions, including the treatment of acne and other skin conditions.
Medical studies say "Yes, essential oils could help acne-prone skin"
Medical journals such as the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, and the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology have published various research articles and studies on essential oil acne spot treatments.
There is, unfortunately, a lot of nonsense doing the rounds on the Internet in this regard, so, read on to learn which are the best essential oils to add to your acne skincare routine - according to science. That said, if your skin condition is very serious, rather visit a dermatologist.
2.What causes acne, and how can essential oils help?
Acne breakouts have many causes, from hormones to genetics, but at its most basic level, acne is caused by three main factors: inflammation, excess bacteria, and excess oil production.
Inflammation is the big culprit
First and foremost, acne is an inflammatory condition. When the skin is inflamed, it swells slightly, which causes the pores to constrict and trap oil and dead skin cells under the surface of the skin. This can easily clog pores, leading to whiteheads and blackheads, but it can also cause pimples or even cystic acne if bacteria are part of the mix.
Bacteria - not bad, unless trapped
Although bacteria play a role in acne, they aren’t all bad. Propionibacterium acnes or P. acnes, the type of bacteria primarily associated with acne, consume the oil our skin produces as their main food source. This means they can actually help reduce clogged pores by preventing oil buildup.
However, once bacteria are trapped under the surface of the skin, they can create a problem. Stuck in a pore with excess oil, they have an abundance of their food source and nowhere to go, so their numbers grow rapidly until they’ve created a minor infection, aka a pimple.
Too much oil contributes to acne breakouts
Excess oil (or sebum) production contributes to all kinds of acne. If the skin produces too much oil, it can build up in the pores, causing clogs that form blackheads and whiteheads. But an excess of oil also means an excess of food for p. acnes bacteria, which increases the likelihood of pimples.
The best way to treat this very common skin condition is to address all three issues in your skincare routine.
3. Are essential oils better for acne than traditional acne treatments?
Yes, very often they are. Most essential oils are very gentle and safe to use on the face and body - if diluted.
Why are they better?
Truth is, if the skin is damaged or treated harshly, you will notice negative side effects such as the increase or re-appearance of acne. This is especially so for sensitive skin but true for all skin types.
Unfortunately, many traditional acne products ignore this fact in favor of immediate results. Acne often returns because the skin is being irritated and damaged with harsh chemicals such as too-high concentrations of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
At Exposed Skin Care, we recognize the importance of gentle essential oils, and therefore we include them in all our products. The Exposed 3-step system available in our Basic Kit won’t clear your acne in three days, but it may help keep your skin clear for good. No skincare company utilizes all kinds of ingredients to develop the best possible formula for treating acne like we do.
What is the best dilution?
There's no standard optimal carrier oil vs essential oil ratio, as the ideal concentration would depend on the oil and the skin or other condition you're addressing. However, we think that starting with a low concentration would be prudent. After all, one laboratory study showed that essential oil has antimicrobial activity even at very low concentrations.
For a 2.5% dilution, 15 drops of essential oil to six teaspoons of carrier oil. To increase the strength, add more drops per six-teaspoon carrier oil measure.
4. Can essential oils make skin worse?
Nope! This is a different kind of oil from the sort that your skin produces. The only two ways essential oil acne spot treatments might make acne worse is if you use them undiluted or combine them with the wrong carrier oil, but more on that in the next section.
5. What are the best essential oils for acne-prone skin?
The best essential oil for acne-prone skin may differ from one person to the next. Research shows that many essential oils, including peppermint oil (an anti-inflammatory), rosemary oil (another one with anti-inflammatory properties that is also good for controlling sebum production), and frankincense essential oil (an astringent), are excellent additions to any face lotion, but when choosing treatments, you're looking for diversity of action. Therefore, we recommend these as the best essential oils for acne skin care:
- Tea tree essential oil
- Lavender essential oil
- Clary sage essential oil
- The best combination - lavender and sage oil
Tips to remember
Before we discuss each, here are a few important tips to remember.
- Never use any of these undiluted - always mix it in with a carrier oil. Even the best essential oils will be too abrasive or even toxic if used undiluted.
- Don't choose a carrier oil like olive oil - it will clog pores, so rather check an oil's comedogenicity index before buying. We particularly like jojoba oil.
- Diluted, each of these can be used as a spot treatment too.
- These oils' fragrance is good for more than only skin wellness.
6. How does tea tree oil work for acne?
Tea tree oil is one of the most well-researched essential oils for skin with mild to moderate acne. It shows excellent action against P.acnes and is very well tolerated with no severe side effects such as peeling, scaling, or dryness, even on dry skin.
Even extremely low-concentration tea tree oil can act as a gentle anti-inflammatory, which is a big deal. Inflammation is the leading cause of acne, as we have already mentioned. It is also a solvent, meaning that if any blackheads do form, this oil can get rid of them.
Because it addresses all three of the main causes of acne, tea tree oil is one of the most popular essential oils for acne.
7. How does lavender oil for acne work?
Lavender is another very popular and powerful treatment, well known also for its soothing fragrance. It can fight bacteria, just like tea tree oil, but we love it for its biggest strength - preventing inflammation due to its antioxidant properties and ability to combat stress. Antioxidants are great news for acne-prone skin because they fight free radicals, which are molecules that damage cells and cause inflammation.
Studies show that aromatherapy with lavender oil can significantly reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and overall anxiety. This is important because the research shows that stress is directly related to acne breakouts. When we’re stressed, our bodies react as though there is a real, physical threat, and they go into fight, flight, or freeze mode. This triggers the inflammation response throughout the whole body.
8. How does Clary sage oil for acne work?
Clary sage oil has all the acne-fighting properties that we love: it’s antibacterial, it reduces oil production, and it can relieve stress. It may not be as powerful an anti-inflammatory as lavender oil or as potent against bacteria as tea tree oil is, but clary sage is great if you are treating acne on a budget. It works well on oily skin.
9. To mix or not to mix
The Internet abounds with layman advice regarding different essential oil mixes for acne, but there's very little scientific validation for most of these claims. In fact, researchers of a recent South African study that evaluated the antimicrobial activity of essential oil combinations for acne, said this:
It was found that not one of the synergistic interactions identified were based on the combinations recommended in the layman’s aromatherapeutic literature.
They found, in fact, that only three combinations were really effective against p.acnes, and of these, we love lavender-and-sage combo the most. We already discussed soothing lavender. Sage complements it well not only for its anti-bacterial properties but also because it's loaded with anti-oxidants. So, this combo will have anti-bacterial, anti-stress, and anti-inflammatory properties - a winner.
10. Are there any good essential oils for acne scars?
One of the worst parts of acne is the scarring that comes afterward. It’s hard to celebrate clear skin when you still have severe discoloration or scarring. Luckily, there are several essential oils that significantly reduce scarring, including cedarwood, frankincense, and lavender oil.
Which oils are good for acne scars in the skin?
Cedarwood oil is an especially helpful essential oil for acne scars that are still slightly painful because it has some pain-relieving properties in addition to reducing inflammation-associated scarring.
Frankincense oil can also reduce inflammation, but it is especially helpful because it promotes the production of new skin cells.
Lavender can help reduce acne scars at any point, but it is particularly effective if used as soon as you notice a scar appearing. It can considerably speed up the wound healing process and encourage new cell growth. Some people have seen positive results in just one week.