More and more people are looking to clean up their skincare and makeup routine. Choosing plant-based options and going the DIY route can be rewarding if you have frequent skin issues, and it can also be a fun hobby. But sometimes, the world of essential oils can seem a little daunting to get into.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through some of the key things you need to know about using oils safely. We’ll also share a few of our favorite essential oils to use on your skin and some of the best ways to use them in your routine.
- What Are Essential Oils?
- Exercising Caution With Essential Oils
- Our Favorite Essential Oils for Your Skin
- Add Essential Oils to Your Skincare
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts. Depending on the plant, manufacturers can use different methods of extracting the essence of the plant and its active compounds. Many plants are steam distilled; in this process, the chemical compounds and natural oils of the plant evaporate and are captured and distilled to concentrate them.
There are a few other methods of extraction, depending on the part of the plant that is being used. For example, citrus peels are often “cold-pressed” to extract the natural oils from the fruit peels, similar to the way olive oil is extracted.
The liquid that comes from the extraction process will be pure and highly concentrated. True essential oils should not contain any synthetic material and should not be pre-diluted. It can take a very large quantity of raw ingredients to create an essential oil. It’s estimated that it can take 10,000 roses to make 5 ml of rose essential oil, making it one of the most expensive essential oils on the market.
Some essential oils, like citrus oils, have a much higher yield, making them more affordable. Whichever oils you choose, though, keep in mind that you won’t be using a lot of them, since they are highly concentrated.
Exercising Caution With Essential Oils
Due to their concentrated nature, some essential oils can be harsh on your skin. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid them altogether; since many have beneficial compounds, you just need to use them correctly.
General Safety Guidelines
Most essential oils are created for aromatherapy and topical use. This means they aren’t closely regulated and are not considered safe for internal use. You shouldn’t consume essential oils, as they are not the same as plant-based flavor essences.
Some companies will state that their products are edible, which can be a good indication of their purity and the company’s overall safety regulations. In most cases, though, we still don’t recommend internal use.
Some essential oils can also increase your photosensitivity, possibly increasing your risk of sun damage. If you’re using essential oils in your skincare routine, be sure to protect yourself from sun exposure if you’re spending time outdoors. Use SPF, wear a hat, and all the other usual practices.
Essential Oils and Pregnancy
Most essential oils will contain a warning that women who are pregnant or nursing should exercise caution when applying essential oils. This is due to those extra concentrated chemical compounds in the oils.
Many oils are fine in small, properly diluted amounts, whether in your favorite bar of natural soap or in a diffuser for therapeutic purposes. However, there are several essential oils that should be strictly avoided, such as aniseed and sage oils.
Always consult your doctor if you’re planning to start incorporating new essential oils into your skincare while pregnant or nursing.
Diluting Your Essential Oils
There are a few essential oils that can be applied to the skin “neat,” or undiluted. These include lavender, tea tree, and chamomile, among a few other gentler oils. Some people will use these to spot-treat blemishes, irritation, or rough patches. You should only be using 1 to 2 drops of any of these oils on your skin at a time, and you shouldn’t be applying them undiluted to your whole face.
If you have very sensitive skin, you still might want to dilute these oils. Most oils will need to be diluted to about a 5% concentration in a carrier oil to ensure that they are non-irritating to the sensitive skin of your face.
You can dilute your essential oils in any oil you already use for skincare, like perhaps coconut oil. If you use virgin coconut oil that is solid at room temperature, you may need to warm up the oil until it reaches a liquid state.
Sweet almond oil is a popular choice for therapeutic purposes, and jojoba is also popular. You can also dilute your essential oils in a liquid compound like a facial mist – just be sure to shake well before using.
Testing Your Oils First
Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it won’t bother you; after all, plenty of natural substances are harmful. It’s best to be certain that any new item you add to your skincare routine won’t be a problem.
One of the most common ways to test a new product is to apply it to your inner arm first. Dab your essential oil, properly diluted if needed, onto clean skin there and wait 24 hours to see how you react. Avoid washing that area until the 24 hours are up. You might also wrap a thin layer of gauze around the area to ensure that it doesn’t come in contact with anything else.
If your face is much more sensitive than the rest of your skin, you can always do a secondary test on your neck or jawline if the arm test goes well and you want to be extra certain that it won’t cause a reaction on your face.
Our Favorite Essential Oils for Your Skin
There are hundreds of essential oils on the market, and all boast unique chemical compounds that can be used for skincare, aromatherapy, and other applications. To get you started figuring out what might work best for you, though, we’ve narrowed it down to a few of our favorites.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is one of the most common oils for skincare, particularly for oily or acne-prone skin. This oil has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties that make it popular for treating not only skin issues but helping to improve the health of nails and scalp too.
Tea tree oil can sometimes be applied neat, directly on a blemish to help kill the bacteria that are feeding the breakout. For daily use for larger areas of skin, it’s better to dilute it in some way.
Carrot Seed Oil
This potent compound should always be diluted in some way. Many commercial creams and treatments include carrot seed oil, thanks to its potential anti-aging effects. This oil is rich in nutrients, like vitamins A and E, which can help heal damaged skin.
It can help reduce wrinkles and give skin a firmer appearance. Some studies suggest it can even be beneficial for conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
While often used in perfumery and aromatherapy for its soothing fragrance, vetiver also has a number of properties that make it fantastic for your skin.
Vetiver is loaded with antioxidants that can help rejuvenate your skin. It also has antibacterial properties and can encourage healing. This can stimulate your skin to produce new cells more quickly, reducing the appearance of scars and blemishes.
For glowing skin, geranium oil is a great addition to your routine. It can soothe irritation and boost skin regeneration. This results in firmer, fresher-looking skin. It can also help balance your skin’s oil production, helping prevent it from getting too oily or too dry.
Geranium is naturally astringent and has a strong, distinct scent. It’s an excellent overall tonic for almost any skin type, and it can help repel insects and reduce anxiety.
Sweet Orange Oil
Bright and invigorating, sweet orange oil is loaded with vitamin C. This essential oil has some impressive antimicrobial properties that make it effective even against bacteria that is antibiotic-resistant. More importantly, orange oil doesn’t damage human cells even when fighting bacteria.
Applying diluted oil to your skin can improve circulation and increase your natural collagen production. It’s a soothing and nourishing addition to your skincare.
Many herbalists swear by lavender oil as one of the best multipurpose botanicals around. It’s no surprise then that it has some great benefits for your skin. Not only is lavender therapeutic for the mind, but it can also be deeply soothing for your skin too.
Lavender is gently moisturizing and has antioxidant properties that can heal environmental damage. It can also help remove excess bacteria on the skin, which can reduce acne breakouts. There’s also some evidence that lavender can promote healing to damaged skin.
Frankincense is an aromatic resin that has been prized in various cultures for thousands of years. Modern science has suggested that it has plenty of very real benefits, including for your skin.
For anti-aging products, frankincense essential oil is a popular choice. It can help naturally tone your skin and prevent wrinkles from forming. The overall effect of frankincense if one of toning and strengthening. It has benefits as an acne treatment thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties as well.
While chamomile tea can be incredibly soothing to your body, chamomile oil can soothe your skin. It can be deeply calming for irritated skin, reducing inflammation and redness.
Studies have shown that chamomile oil can be beneficial for healing conditions like acne and eczema. Chamomile can also help heal skin damaged by sunburn and other damage. The herb’s analgesic qualities mean that it can reduce pain and irritation caused by a number of skin conditions.
Add Essential Oils to Your Skincare
You choose to create your own facial oil or mist with essential oils, or you can even add a few drops to your favorite moisturizer or eye cream to boost your regimen. However you decide to start incorporating them, it’s clear that with essential oils, the power to customize your skincare to your needs is in your hands.
Essential oils don’t have to be intimidating. While you do need to exercise some caution when using them, they can offer plenty of benefits to your skin. Take some time to do your research, always patch test a new product, and properly dilute your blends. Beyond that, it’s about having fun and seeing what works best for you.