Whether it's due to allergies, sensitive skin, or is simply a personal choice, there are plenty of reasons some people avoid traditional acne treatments like drying lotions, medicated ointments, and masks. The best essential oils for pimples offer a natural alternative to spot treatments that often contain harsh chemicals. Essential oils boast powerful, naturally therapeutic properties and can be applied topically.
"Pimples are a type of breakout characterized by excessive oil, overgrowth of bacteria, and buildup of dead skin cells. This leads to inflammation, redness, and can progress to pustules or papules," Lindsey Elmore, PharmD, BCPS told Bustle in an interview. For this reason, she recommends that when looking for essential oils to treat pimples, you "consider oils that can kill bacteria, have an exfoliant effect, and can calm inflammation."
When you're choosing an essential oil to fight a blemish, you'll need to think about what kind of pimple you're trying to treat. A picked or scabbed pimple could benefit an oil with calming properties, while a stubborn cyst that needs to be brought to a head might benefit most from something stimulating — though esthetician Elina Fedotova told Bustle that she cautions against applying essential oils to the skin without mixing them with a carrier oil. "You should never apply any essential oils straight without diluting," she says, though she cites tea tree oil as the one exception.
While some essential oils might be harmless or even helpful for many people, there's always the possibility that you might experience a negative reaction. Both Fedotova and Elmore recommend testing an essential oil (diluted) on your forearm before applying to your face. Observe it for a minimum of 30 minutes, though Fedotova suggests waiting a full 48 hours to be safe.
You should also make sure that you're using a pure essential oil, rather than an artificial fragrance. Fedotova points out that while essential oils can possess healing properties, fragrances "are not delivering any therapeutic effects on your body." Dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee (aka Dr. Pimple Popper) told Bustle that oils "can be drying if they have fragrance to them which will further irritate the skin and can certainly exacerbate a rash/ skin condition."
Dr. Lee is wary of treating pimples with essential oils in general, recommending instead the "abundance of wonderful acne treating ingredients that have been proven and safe for most skin types, including Benzoyl Peroxide, Sulfur, and Salicylic Acid." And both sulfur and salicylic acid, she points out, "can be naturally derived."
Obviously, there’s a lot to consider before choosing an essential oil to treat acne — including other types of treatment. Anecdotal evidence, studies, and experts like Elmore and Fedotova show that essential oils have something to offer, while Dr. Lee and some others firmly believe in other methods. Every face and acne case is different, so if you're not sure what to do, you should always consult your dermatologist or seek the advice of a certified aromatherapist. For many people, however, these five essential oils could be a truly effective, natural way to reduce and prevent pimples.