Essential oils can be used to treat acne—here’s how

Essential oils are all the rage right now, with different scents that are used in aromatherapy and topical varieties that solve an array of ailments, such as muscle inflammation. They’re often hailed as antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and more. But did you know that certain essential oils can do wonders for your skin care routine, too?

If you suffer from acne, you may be tempted to research the most intense topical creams to rid your face of pesky breakouts and blemishes. And while we don’t blame you, you might want to consider essential oils as a more natural alternative before turning to heavy-duty ingredients like retinol. Breakouts are annoying, but remember that everyone gets them.

Whether you suffer from acne on the regular or experience a few pimples that pop up during that time of the month, you’re not alone in searching for solutions. That’s why we asked experts for tips on how to use essential oils for acne, which ones are best, and of course, how they actually work.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are derived from trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, roots, fruits, and flowers. They are plant extracts used to support health and well-being, and each oil has its own medicinal and healing properties. They’re also pretty potent. Most essential oils are very concentrated, meaning that just a little bit can go a very long way, and when it comes to essential oils in skincare, they should usually be diluted before applying directly to the skin’s surface.

How to use essential oils to treat acne:

“Although it seems counter-intuitive, oil can be extremely helpful for someone struggling with breakouts,” explains Barbara Close, founder of Naturopathica. Despite what you may think, essential oils are actually  able to balance the skin without prompting the glands to produce more sebum (that’s the pesky oil secretion that causes breakouts).

Close explains that essential oils can “help balance and control the skin’s natural sebum production, resulting in a clearer and less shiny complexion.” However, she says that blemish-prone skin does tend to be reactive, so all actives—including essential oils—should be used with caution.

Ido Magal, an herbalist and founder of Lavido natural skincare, says that one of the main challenges about treating a breakout is that once you develop a pimple on the skin, there is a small infection already there. That teeny tiny infection is something that existing bacteria can feed on, which results in inflammation and redness.

“To treat acne at the source, we want to kill the bad bacteria with antiseptic oils so that the skin can begin to heal itself,” he says.

When it comes down to the proper way of using essential oils to treat acne, our experts recommend spot-testing the oil on your neck before applying it anywhere on your face, and making sure that the oils are diluted with soothing ingredients (like mineral oil and skin-friendly wax) that will help to heal breakouts and prevent further inflammation. They also suggest looking for a spot treatment that has a high concentration of antibacterial essential oils, to help with the bacteria that’s causing redness.

Just remember: Different types of acne react differently to certain ingredients, so while essential oils can help mitigate scars and a few active breakouts, this isn’t the kind of stuff you should slather on all over if you suffer from widespread, cystic acne.

What are the best essential oils for acne?

1Tea Tree Essential Oil

You may already know about tea tree oil since it is well-known for its antiseptic and skin-clearing properties. It works because of its high terpene alcohol content and anti-inflammatory benefits that can calm active acne and prevent new breakouts from forming. To spot-treat the site of a breakout, Close recommends placing a small amount on a tissue and dabbing it onto the affected area.

2Rosemary essential oil

Rosemary leaf oil is great because it has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties to help tone and treat breakouts. Close explains that astringent benefits found in rosemary leaf oil also help to control oil production, which helps to reduce that late afternoon T-zone shine.

3Lavender essential oil

Lavender oil is antiseptic and helps to eliminate blemish-causing bacteria. It also has anti-inflammatory properties to soothe the redness and irritation caused by breakouts. Magal recommends adding lavender oil to a face cream to increase its antiseptic and soothing properties. Also, it’ll smell nice.

4Geranium essential oil

Geranium essential oil is reputed to effectively eliminate dead cells, tighten the skin, promote the regeneration of new skin, and diminish signs of aging, so it’s another great ingredient for treating breakouts, too.

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