The Ultimate Guide to Oils for Acne

Jeff Hautala
By Jeff Hautala, Co-Founder of Exposed Skincare

If you’re skeptical of using oils for acne, we understand. Oil can exacerbate acne, which is why it’s important to be well-informed before applying it to your face. However, if you know what you’re doing, essential oils especially remain one of the most natural and probably safest ways to calm breakouts.

In this article, we’re especially focusing on essential oils for acne. Research has shown some essential oils to have antibacterial properties, and others’ anti-inflammatory properties are well-documented, too. These characteristics are very important in acne treatments 🍃.

We suggest you use essential oils in a good carrier oil on acne prone skin.

The Role of Oil in Acne Formation

Excess oil production is one of the three key factors in acne formation, along with inflammation 🔥 and bacteria 🦠, but it can also be part of the solution. However, it’s important to understand how exactly acne forms.

How Acne Forms

All acne from blackheads to cysts starts with inflammation, because acne is an inflammatory skin condition. The skin can become inflamed through a variety of causes, including illness, stress, pollution, allergies, and more. When the skin is inflamed due to severe irritation, it releases a burst of protective oil and the pores constrict slightly.

That’s where the problems begin, because this constriction traps any excess sebum (oil), dead skin cells, and bacteria in the pores, which leads to all kinds of acne.

How Essential Oils for Acne Can Help

Essential oils for acne can

  • reduce inflammation 🔥;
  • prevent excess sebum production;
  • kill P. acnes (bacteria that cause pimples) 🦠, and
  • accelerate wound healing (pimples are technically tiny wounds).

Because inflammation is where all acne starts, preventing and reducing it is one of the most helpful qualities of essential oils for acne.

The 4 Best Essential Oils for Acne

There are countless essential oils out there, all with unique benefits, but if you are looking for the best essential oils for acne, these are the top four. They all fight pimples 💪in more than one way, and they all have at least preliminary research confirming their ability to help improve your skin.

  1. Tea tree oil
  2. Lavender oil
  3. Frankincense oil
  4. Rosemary oil

1. Tea Tree Oil: The Best Essential Oil for Acne Prone Skin

Tea tree oil has been medically reviewed, and a number of clinical studies have demonstrated its helpfulness in a variety of skin conditions, including acne vulgaris. Here’s why we think it’s one of the best essential oils for acne prone skin.

It Kills Acne-Causing Bacteria and Speeds Up Healing

This essential oil is often used on acne skin because it can kill P. acnes 🦠, even at low concentrations. Some products contain 10% tea tree oil, but one study showed efficacy at only 5%. There seems to be no significant difference in results based on concentration. It furthermore has the same antibacterial properties as benzoyl peroxide.

The same clinical research has also shown that tea tree oil can speed up wound healing 🩹.

It’s a Proven Anti-Inflammatory Agent

Anti-inflammatory products can come in especially handy when treating cystic acne. Cysts form when bacteria get trapped in a pore and then cause an infection under the epidermal layer of the skin. This is often due to excessive inflammation, which is why this essential oil can be an ideal treatment.

It Can (Maybe) Reduce Oil Production

Tea tree essential oil 🍃 can dissolve sebum in clogged pores, but its usefulness regarding oil production may extend beyond this. Some non-clinical studies show that it can affect certain hormone functioning.

Why does this matter? Hormonal breakouts appear whenever testosterone increases, as it often leads to increased oil production in the skin. The research suggests that tea tree oil may help suppress this action, and thus oil creation. However, more study is needed 📚.

Tea tree essential oil could work for hormonal acne, but it may not be the best option for men.

The essential oil’s action has a drawback, because it also stimulates estrogen production. Because of this, using tea tree essential oil may be feminizing, meaning it can decrease hair growth and stimulate breast tissue growth.

Read our blog post dedicated entirely to the pros and cons of using tea tree essential oil for acne.

2. Lavender Essential Oil

If you notice increased blemishes when you get stressed, you may want to try lavender essential oil for acne. Researchers believe stress is a common trigger for acne formation, and for this, lavender oil may be able to help.

Lavender can help reduce stress, which may be a key step toward reducing acne.

It Can Reduce Stress

Aromatherapy doesn’t directly reduce acne, but studies show it has a significant impact on stress reduction. This action can lower cortisol levels, and reduce general inflammation in the body. When we’re chronically stressed out, our bodies release a lot of cortisol which eventually causes inflammation 🔥. Diffusing lavender oil, or using it with a carrier oil for a relaxing massage, may effectively reduce stress and prevent inflammation.

It’s a Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Agent

Lavender essential oil is also known for its high antioxidant content, which reduces inflammation.

So, it packs a double punch against this primary cause of breakouts, which explains why it is another of the most popular essential oils to treat acne with.

However, research suggests this essential oil may also be an endocrine disruptor.

3. Rosemary Essential Oil

Rosemary essential oil can be helpful in important ways. If you have primarily blackheads or whiteheads, this may be a great treatment option.

Its anti-oxidant (aka anti-inflammatory) properties alone would make rosemary oil a great essential oil for acne, but non-clinical studies show that it also has antibacterial qualities. It’s not as potent against P. acnes 🦠 as tea tree oil, and especially in sensitive skin, it needs to be used only in low concentrations.

4. Frankincense Oil

One of the most frustrating aspects of having acne is the scars it can leave behind. Good news is, frankincense is one of the best essential oils for acne scars, because it helps speed up wound healing. The quicker a wound heals, the less likely it is to leave behind a scar, so applying frankincense to your acne could help prevent acne scarring in the first place 👍.

Which Carrier Oil Should You Use for Acne?

Even the best essential oils need a good carrier oil. Carrier oils dilute essential oils to make them safe for application on the skin, but if you know what you’re doing, you can find carrier oils that contribute their own skin care benefits. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 best carrier oils for acne, but we’re only going to discuss jojoba oil at length, because there is so much to love about it 📝.

  1. Olive oil
  2. Argan oil
  3. Hemp seed oil
  4. Jojoba oil
  5. Rosehip oil
  6. Neem oil
  7. Tamanu oil
  8. Evening primrose oil
  9. Grapeseed oil
  10. Maracuja oil

Jojoba as Carrier Oil

If you run out of your essential oils, or if you just don’t feel like using essential oils today, never fear, because the jojoba oil acne treatment works well all on its own.

To moisturize your skin, simply take a dime-sized amount of jojoba oil, rub it between your hands and gently apply it to your skin, then immediately rinse with lukewarm water 💧.

Jojoba oil is composed largely of a fatty acid called eicosenoic acid, which closely resembles the oil our skin produces. Applying a thin layer can be protective and result in smoother, softer skin.

Finally, jojoba oil can also help heal wounds, making it a great spot treatment for acne as well. Applying a drop of it to a painful pimple or cyst may actually help it heal faster, which will also decrease the likelihood of its leaving an acne scar.

Carrier oils dilute essential oils to make them safe for application on the skin

Oils To Avoid

There are still several oils you’ll want to avoid if you have acne breakouts, primarily because they are comedogenic.

Most substances can be ranked on the comedogenicity scale, which is a helpful tool that measures how likely it is that a particular substance will clog pores. A ranking of five means it will almost definitely clog pores, and a ranking of zero means there’s very little chance it will clog pores.

We recommend staying somewhere between zero and two. Any higher, and the benefit of the oil may be outweighed by its pore-clogging tendency. Two popular oils in skin care right now are marula oil and coconut oil. Unfortunately, what these two oils have in common is that they are ones you’ll want to avoid because of their high comedogenicity counts.

Exposed Skin Care

At Exposed Skin Care, we pride ourselves on creating the best combinations of natural and scientific ingredients 🧬 to treat acne breakouts in all skin types.

Since we’ve spent this entire article singing the praises of various essential oils for acne, it only makes sense that we would include such great ingredients in our own products.

Our Clearing Tonic contains maracuja oil (listed as passion flower extract on our website) to reduce free radicals, prevent inflammation, and soothe the skin. We keep our products as gentle as possible, but it can never hurt to have a little extra maracuja oil to help prevent any potential irritation.

Our Acne Treatment Serum aims to treat the acne that you currently have, so of course, we included tea tree oil. It’s a powerful natural antibacterial that also helps reduce inflammation 🔥 and control oil, so we knew it had to be included.

Different products for skincare routine found in Exposed Basic Kit
Our Basic Kit contains gentle products that are effective for all skin types.