A few years ago, if you would've told me to slap essential oils all over my face to cure my acne, I would have honestly looked at you like you were bat sh*t craaaaa-zayy. After all isn't all oil bad for your skin? Aren't we taught that oil clogs pores, and a clogged pore is what causes a buildup of bacteria, blockage, inflammation, and overall acne?!
That is exactly what I (and I'm sure some of you) have believed for the longest time, using countless over drying and irritating products in hopes that it would sop up any micro amount of oil, thus creating an inhabitable breeding ground for bacteria. Well folks, we couldn't be more wrong. Over drying and over working your skin can actually exasperate acne symptoms, causing worse inflammation, irritation, and an unnecessary need for over inflammatory acne.
If a product claims to work quick, let's say overnight or within 24 hours, it's really just zapping out all of the moisture from your skin and overtime will create a damaged lipid layer. This process of over washing, over exfoliating, and continuously using harsh products strips away natural oils that your skin NEEDS to function properly, again making it more susceptible to acne and irritation. When it comes down to our skin barrier, it's all about balance.
Too much comedogenic oil can 100% clog your pores, but not enough oil (over drying scrubs, using harsh chemical filled products, over exfoliating) and you're destroying the outer barrier of your skin which protects you from bacteria, toxic chemicals, and UV exposure. This leaves you susceptible to bacterial infection, fungal infection, and oh of course, acne.
How Essential Oils Work for your Skin
Essential oils are deemed "essential" because they carry the essence, or fragrance, of the plant it is extracted from. There are about 101 uses for essential oils, from aromatherapy and hair care to fighting colds and even purifying your air but, today I want to specifically address the power of essential oils when it comes to acne.
Essential oils are an effective natural solution to treat acne when compared to typical drug store spot creams and serums. Instead of stripping your skin of necessary oils with manmade and often toxic chemicals, essential oils work naturally to regulate oil production, hydrate the skin, decrease stress, and balance your hormones all while helping you achieve clear glowing skin. They are often used as a spot treatment or in a carrier oil* for acne and typically contain some type of anti-inflammatory or antibacterial property.
*Carrier Oil: The main oil which is used as the base oil to dilute essential oils. Examples include Jojoba, Sweet Almond Oil, Avocado Oil, Rosehip Oil and more!
Essential Oils for Spot Treatment
Essential oils have an extremely strong potency, and for that reason are typically diluted with a carrier oil such as jojoba, sweet almond oil, or another moisturizing oil of your choice. The rule of thumb is to use a 2%-3% dilution ratio, that’s a whopping 10-12 or 15-18 drops of essential oil per one ounce of carrier oil.
You can (of course) always use less or more, but I suggest starting out with a small amount and then adjusting the ratio depending on the sensitivity of your skin. You can concoct your own facial oil by using a blend of several essential oils or by simply using one as a spot treatment on a small q-tip or cotton ball.
When shopping for essential oils be sure that the bottle reads 100% pure essential oil. This is so you receive the maximum purity and effectiveness without any extra added yucky gunk! It should also be noted that it isn't recommended to mix more than 4 essential oils together at one time or you begin to lose overall effectiveness. Now, let's get into the top 5 best essential oils that work for acnegenic skin!
Tea tree oil is probably the most common essential oil used to treat acne prone skin. Even some brands like have picked up on the amazing benefits of tea tree oil and carry an entire range from a daily face wash to makeup removing cleansing cloths. Tried and true, tea tree oil is a great option for beginners just starting out in essential oil therapy and expert skincare lovers alike.
Tea tree oil has natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties with a fresh piney like scent, meaning it can kill off fungus, bacteria, and even reduce allergic skin reactions all without over drying or irritating your skin. According to :
" Applying a 5% tea tree oil gel appears to be as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide (Oxy-5, Benzac AC, and others) for treating acne. "
Another Study Published in Letters in Applied Microbiology proves that tea tree oil carries terpinen-4-ol, alpha-terpineol, and alpha-pinene, which all have antimicrobial activity against Propionibacterium acnes (aka P-acnes aka acne causing bacteria aka the bad guys).
It was also noted that tea tree oil, along with many other natural products, work slower at treating acne prone skin when compared to prescription creams but are far less irritating. This is when that good ole saying "patience is a virtue" comes into play, although you may see quicker results using harsher skincare products, tea tree oil wont over dry and in time will contribute to a healthier skin barrier.
Lavender oil is another great essential oil which is antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and boasts numerous other healing benefits for acne. It aids in new skin cell regeneration and reduces redness from acne and acne scars, making skin tone not only smoother, but appear more even as well.
Lavender Oil is also great for aromatherapy, treating anxiety, depression, stress, and balancing out hormones, which are all linked to acne. It is believed that when lavender oil is inhaled it enters the brain and interacts with two specific areas that are linked to emotion, the amygdala and hippocampus. It tends to act as a sedative to these areas, reducing overall anxiety and reducing cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
*To use for Aromatherapy: Dab a few drops on the insides of your wrists or on your neck and inhale it throughout the day when feeling overwhelmed or in need of a clear mind. 2- 3 drops should be plenty.
Clary Sage is extremely effective at regulating the oil on the skin, a huge component when it comes to clogged pores and breakouts. It also contains an ester called linalyl acetate, which reduces inflammation and soothes the skin from irritation. A recent study done by found that Clary Sage is an active natural antimicrobial agent. The study showed, when clary sage was tested on multiple drug-resistant bacterial strands, it was effective at fighting the bacteria that can cause infection, skin irritation, or acne breakouts.
Clary Sage has also been proven great for aromatherapy, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety while supporting hormonal balance, more specifically balancing out estrogen levels and reducing cortisol (up to 36% according to ).
It's not just for the kitchen anymore, folks! Oregano oil has been proven time and time again to effectively reduce acne due to its antibacterial properties originating from thymol and carvacrol, two powerful antioxidant compounds. The high levels of antioxidants also work to boost your immune system, unallowing bacteria to overgrow easily. Oregano oil, when applied topically or ingested, has actually been tested to work better than most antibiotics due to its flavanoids and photochemicals. Basically, it's the bees knees; use it when you have acne, a cold, or to spice up your dishes!
Rosemary is great at reducing overall oil production on the skin. It contains anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties which are great for reducing redness, swelling, and of course bacteria that comes along with acne. It also improves circulation which helps to firm and tone the skin while promoting a glowing, even skin tone.
The second way Rosemary oil is used to treat acne is through aromatherapy; it is used to reduce stress by actively reducing the cortisol levels in saliva and in the bloodstream. Excess cortisol from chronic stress also has the ability to cause achiness, tiredness, and throw your hormones allll out of whack.
By rubbing a few drops on your palms or wrists and breathing in for 5 to 10 minutes you can actively reduce your stress levels, preventing your body from going into that chronic stress fight-or-flight mode. Not to mention, Rosemary is an extremely versatile oil that can be used in your hair care routine, to help with digestion, improve oral health, boost your immune system, treat respiratory problems, and even improve cognitive function.
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Kali Kushner, known as the Instagram alias myfacestory, is a natural beauty advocate in the greater Cincinnati area who is passionate about using organic skincare and holistic remedies to heal acne from the inside out. Her dedication lies in her own chronic acne struggles as she continues to restore herself while helping those around her.