The 7 Best Essential Oils For Skin

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Essential oils can be extremely beneficial to both our emotional brains and physical bodies. But since they can cause irritation if you have allergies or a sensitive complexion, determining the best essential oils for skin can be challenging and risky. Before applying them onto your face especially, you'll want to do the research to be safe.

"When it comes to essential oils used in skin care, things are not black and white," says Gretchen Frieling, board-certified dermatopathologist. "While several oils may aid in healing, toning, and brightening skin there are also elixirs that can spark serious skin reactions and even chemical burns due to allergies and phototoxicity."

To avoid any severe reactions, it's recommended to first dilute the essential oil of your choice with a carrier oil (like coconut oil, jojoba oil, or olive oil). Always do a patch test on the inside of your elbow before using a new essential oil, and keep in mind that some them are known irritants, especially if you have sensitive skin. And don't worry — diluting your oils won’t make them any less effective. According to Robert Tisserand's Essential Oil Safety, skin can actually absorb more of the essential oil through the process of dilution.

As a certified aromatherapist, I believe everyone should be able to experience the topical benefits of essential oils, even if you aren’t knowledgeable about the chemistry and math behind them. The seven suggestions, below, are a great place to begin, and they all have ample benefits to treat a variety of your skin's needs — naturally.

1. The Best Essential Oil For Acne-Prone Skin

Praised for centuries for its healing properties, helichrysum is an excellent essential oil for treating acne. It's incredibly cleansing, with each drop delivering antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory benefits. Since it's known for healing scars and stimulating cell growth, I always make sure to include it in blends for clients with cystic acne and oily or damaged skin. It’s less floral than geranium, carrying more of a potent, herbaceous aroma that will awaken both your mind and your skin. I recommend diluting helichrysum with a carrier oil to make an acne-fighting serum for nighttime use.

2. For Soothing Irritated Skin

One of the reasons aromatherapists love blending with lavender is because of its versatile properties that support all skin types. My favorite reason to reach for this oil is to relieve itchiness and skin irritation. Being naturally antibacterial, it'll soothe and disinfect any affected area, and it also reduces inflammation from hives, ingrown hairs, sunburns, and even eczema. With proper dilution, this essential oil can even help stop bleeding.

3. The Best Essential Oil For Dry Skin

"Ashy and dull-looking skin can benefit from lemon essential oil," says Dr. Frieling. Incredibly stimulating with a pungent citrus aroma, this essential oil is an astringent that can help brighten and hydrate skin that tends to be on the drier side. "[Studies show] that lemon essential oil can help reduce the effects of oxidative stress on the skin. When lemon essential oil was applied topically, it inhibited the reactions of free radicals."

That said, Dr. Frieling cautions, “if you plan to use lemon oil as a moisturizer, ensure that you only use it at night. The reason for this is that it is photosensitive and should never be worn when heading out into the sun."

4. The Best Essential Oil To Reduce Inflammation

If I had to choose my favorite essential oil for skin, I would certainly have this antiseptic, anti-inflammatory option in my top two picks. Lavender tea tree is actually Rosalina essential oil, but cleverly offers the unique properties of both that make it an excellent way to soothe shaving irritation. Due to its stimulating, soothing properties, it circulates blood flow while also reducing inflammation. Despite containing 1.8 cineole, this essential oil is a gentler alternative for treating things like ingrown hairs than regular tea tree oil.

5. For Damaged Skin

A truly amazing option that works on oily, dry, and combination skin, frankincense essential oil is growing in popularity because of its ability to restore skin that's damaged. With a balsamic woodsy aroma, it brings the same calming properties to damaged skin as it does to the mind. Anecdotally, it has been used to heal scars by lifting the appearance of dark spots. Though frankincense doesn’t contain the same brightening properties of lemon, more studies have found that it is an amazing wound healer. It’s a cleansing astringent with anti-inflammatory properties that has shown effectiveness in treating infected wounds, irritation, and redness.

6. The Best For Sensitive Skin

While most essential oils are far too potent to be used on infants and the elderly, chamomile essential oil is one of the few that can be used (with proper dilution, of course) to soothe frail skin. German chamomile oil is actually thicker than it’s Roman counterpart, plus, it comes with some incredibly soothing properties for dry skin. With cleansing benefits as well, it's commonly used for slow-healing wounds, eczema, and hives. I recommend making a whipped cream by adding three drops to equal portions of shea butter and coconut oil. This is also a great mixture to use in the winter for dry skin, regardless of your age.

7. For Mature Skin

You’re probably familiar with the notes of rose absolute, rose otto essential oil, which does retain its signature floral aroma, is incredible at revitalizing dry, mature skin. Unlike the absolute form, which is usually heavily diluted through solvent extraction, rose otto is extracted through steam distillation from newly-bloomed roses. This essential oil is ideal for topical use because it doesn’t contain residual components like the absolute form does. Rose otto has moisturizing and antibacterial properties, so it helps with everything from providing rich hydration to healing blemishes. It's also rich in antioxidants, so it promotes healthy cell turnover for an overall glowing appearance. This specific formula is already diluted with jojoba oil, which has a similar consistency to the sebum our skin naturally produces, so it makes for a wonderful diluter.

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This post was originally published on 2/23/2018. It was updated on 6/27/2019. Additional reporting by Maria Cassano.