Essential Oils for Acne
Acne is a common condition caused by the hair follicles on the skin becoming clogged. Follicles connect the pores on your skin to oil glands located under the skin. The glands produce sebum, an oily substance that carries dead skin cells to the surface.
Normally, the sebum and the dead skin cells are released through the pores. But if the follicle becomes plugged, the sebum and dead cells can’t be expelled and bacteria grows. The trapped bacteria then causes the follicle to swell and forms a pimple.
While acne can develop at any age, it’s most prevalent in teenagers and young adults. It’s estimated that 80% of individuals between the ages of 11 and 30 have experienced an acne breakout. There are several kinds of pimples. The most common are:1
- Whiteheads: Pimples that stay under the skin.
- Blackheads: Pimples that rise to surface of the skin and appear black.
- Papules: Tender, pink bumps.
- Pustules: Bumps that are red at the bottom and have pus on top.
- Nodules: Solid and painful pimples that stay deep beneath the skin.
- Cysts: Deep and often painful pimples that contain pus and can cause scars.
There is no shortage of over-the-counter and prescription acne treatments. While most cases are considered mild or moderate in nature, in severe cases, aggressive treatment under the supervision of a dermatologist may be appropriate. Severe and prolonged acne can cause dramatic scarring unless brought under control quickly.
However, in most cases, pimple outbreaks are moderate and temporary. In these situations, essential oils for acne care may be an affordable and effective treatment.
A significant advantage of using essential oils for pimples and acne is knowing exactly what is in the treatment. Over-the-counter and prescription remedies often contain ingredients designed to prolong shelf life, withstand manufacturing and shipping conditions, and make the cream, gel or oil look a certain way. Reduced risk of allergy or discomfort from the chemicals in commercial products is another benefit of using an essential oil for acne treatment.
Using essential oil for pimples is a natural and convenient acne remedy. In recent years, there has been an increasing amount of scientific research that demonstrates the effectiveness of using essential oils for acne treatment.2
The following sections give an overview of the most popular choices, including specific essential oils for acne scars, which are often used by people with severe and prolonged acne and essential oils for blackheads, which are most popular during teenage years.
Best Essential Oil for Acne
Finding what essential oil is good for acne is a process unique to each person. Skin type, sensitivity levels, and the kind of pimples you have factor into determining the best essential oils for acne treatment. The following are the most common and effective essential oils for healing and preventing pimples and blemishes.
Lavender Oil for Acne
Using lavender essential oil for acne is one of the most popular natural remedies for irritated skin. Recent scientific research has helped shed light on why lavender is a good essential oil for blemishes.
In a 2013 study, researchers tested the effectiveness of lavender essential oil on a bacterium commonly found in acne. Results showed that diluted lavender oil was a strong inhibitor of bacteria growth.3
How to Use Lavender Oil for Acne – Add 5 drops of lavender essential oil to 1 Tsp. of witch hazel. Shake gently to blend. Using a clean cloth, dab the mixture on the pimples and let dry. This can be done up to 3 times a day.
To use lavender essential oil for acne scars, apply 2-3 drops directly on the scarred skin. Massage in gently with a fingertip. Repeat 3 times a day for 3 days.
Melaleuca for Acne
The properties of tea tree essential oil, or melaleuca, have been well-documented to improve acne-prone skin. Using tea tree essential oil for acne has been clinically shown to reduce the number and severity of pimples when applied daily for 45 days.
Results of another study confirmed that using tea tree essential oil for acne treatment caused no adverse side effects and didn’t increase the risk of becoming resistant to acne-causing bacteria.
Tea tree is one of the most popular essential oils for pimples and blackheads. It’s also considered one of the best essential oils for clogged pores. To use, mix 2-3 drops of tea tree essential oil with ½ Tsp of carrier oil. Apply the mixture on a cotton-tipped swab and dab the blemishes. This can be done up to 3 times per day.
Oil of Oregano Acne
The key active ingredient in oregano essential oil is carvacrol. Scientific research shows that carvacrol has potent, antimicrobial properties that help it break down the membrane wall of fatty acids. This action deprives many kinds of bacteria – including those that contribute to pimples – of food necessary for growth.4
To use oregano oil for acne treatments, mix equal amounts of oregano essential oil and jojoba or almond carrier oil. Use a cotton-tipped swab to dab the mixture on zits before bed. If the blemishes aren’t tender, you can gently massage the oil into the skin.
Frankincense Oil for Acne
Using frankincense for acne is a long-standing practice. In recent years, science has shown why using frankincense essential oil for acne may be particularly effective.
There are several well-documented benefits of frankincense essential oil including its anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties, which have been noted in dermatology to help heal minor blemishes and moisturize skin.
In recent years, frankincense essential oil has also been observed to contain antibacterial properties that may act synergistically with other essential oils.5 The combination of these three properties is why frankincense essential oil is often considered one best essential oils for acne treatment.
During a pimple outbreak, combine 10 drops of frankincense and 5 drops of lavender essential oil in ½ cup of lukewarm water Dampen a clean cloth with the mixture and gently press onto the blemishes each morning and before bed. Frankincense is also considered one of the best essential oil for acne scars.
Peppermint Oil for Acne
Using peppermint oil for acne is a traditional, natural remedy for problem skin. But interestingly, research into what essential oils are good for acne often overlook peppermint essential oil.
However, new research has reported that peppermint essential oil is effective against several strains of bacteria that are in the same family as acne-causing bacteria.7 Plus, its refreshing and minty aroma adds to the appeal of using peppermint essential oil for face acne.
The best way to use peppermint oil for acne is as an additive to unscented lotion or glycerine soap. Used on a regular basis, it may help prevent acne outbreaks. For gentle acne treatment, try soap made with peppermint and rosemary essential oils for adult acne.
Eucalyptus Oil for Acne
Eucalyptus is a well-known essential oil for blemishes. Clinical research shows that the antibacterial properties of eucalyptus essential oil effectively eliminate P. acnes, the bacteria responsible for most kinds of acne.
Preventing acne can be as easy as adding 3-4 drops of eucalyptus essential oil to 2 Tsp. of unscented lotion for daily application.
Lemon Essential Oil for Acne
One benefit of lemon essential oil is its valuable antibacterial properties. In clinical trials, lemon essential oil has demonstrated strong antibacterial activity against some of the most common strains of bacteria.
Using lemon oil for acne treatment is ideal for whiteheads and other pimples that stay under the skin since lemon essential oil can irritate open wounds or raw blemishes. That, combined with its reputation as an effective skin exfoliant, make it one of the leading essential oils good for acne prone skin.
You can also use lemon essential oil for acne scars. Lemon essential oil has been reported to help remove dead skin and improve skin tone.
Rosemary Oil for Acne
Rosemary is a common ingredient in blends of essentials oils for cystic acne. Studies show that three prominent benefits of rosemary essential oil are its antioxidant, antimicrobial and pain relieving properties.
In clinical trials, rosemary essential oil has been observed to help reduce pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, indicating its ability to penetrate deep below the surface of the skin.
Rosemary essential oil may be a good choice for cystic acne, which is often painful due to bacteria being trapped deep under the skin.
A common remedy for cystic acne is combining 5 drops each of rosemary essential oil, eucalyptus essential oil and tea tree essential oil with 1 Tsp. of carrier oil. Acne patients have also used this blend of essential oils for hormonal acne treatment.
Geranium Essential Oil for Acne
The benefits of geranium essential oil stem from its strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, both important qualities for treating acne. In a 2012 study, geranium essential oil was proven to significantly reduce growth of five different strains of bacteria. When tested for its anti-inflammatory activity in an animal model, geranium essential oil was found to act like a common anti-inflammatory drug.
When choosing a blend of essential oils for zits, those containing geranium essential oil may be particularly good for pustules. Geranium essential oil may simultaneously ease inflammation and reduce the amount of pus.
Grapefruit Essential Oil for Acne
Blends of essential oils for acne prone skin often contain grapefruit essential oil as a key ingredient. Beyond its pleasant aroma, research has shown that a valuable benefit of grapefruit essential oil is its antibacterial properties, which make it an effective topical agent for natural wound healing.
With acne prone skin, a person is usually battling with multiple kinds of pimples (e.g. whiteheads, pustules, papules, etc.) at one time. Grapefruit essential oil may help speed healing of pimples on, or just under the skin.
Lemongrass Essential Oil for Acne
Lemongrass is widely considered one of the best essential oils for acne prevention. When used in a facial steam, lemongrass essential oil’s antimicrobial properties help eliminate bacteria trapped in follicles. Additionally, its natural anti-inflammatory properties may also help reduce the severity and discomfort of pimples already growing.
Juniper Berry Essential Oil for Acne
A valuable quality of juniper berry essential oil is its ability to combat many kinds of bacteria, including those that can contribute to acne. With antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, juniper berry essential oil is one of the most common essential oils used for acne. When applied topically, the warming sensation of the oil may help ease the pain of tender blemishes.
Essential Oils for Acne Recipe
There are a variety of recipes for acne prevention and treatment using essential oils. Choose a recipe based on the kind of blemishes you have, and which combinations are most aromatically appealing you.
When creating any essential oil mix for acne, be sure to include a carrier oil. Essential oils should be diluted before being used on skin. Users shouldn’t be concerned about the carrier oil further blocking the follicles. External oil doesn’t create pimples. Remember, acne develops when sebum gets trapped under the skin and bacteria starts to grow.
Basic Essential Oil Recipe for Acne
To treat whiteheads, pustules, and papules, combine 7 drops of Melaleuca (tea tree) essential, 3 drops of frankincense essential oil and 3 drops of grapefruit essential oil with 15 drops of jojoba or almond carrier oil.
Apply the mixture to each blemish using a cotton-tipped swab. If a pimple isn’t sore, gently massage in the blended oil. This can be repeated up to 2 times a day.
For blackheads, combine equal parts tea tree, sandalwood and carrier oil. Apply to affected area every morning.
Essential Oil Face Wash Recipe
Using an essential oil face wash every day is a great way to prevent and treat occasional acne outbreaks. For a homemade essential oil face wash, add 15 drops of tea tree essential oil, 10 drops of geranium essential oil and 10 drops of lavender essential oil to 1 cup of warm water.
Soak a clean cloth in the diluted oils. Wring the cloth and press against your forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin for 10-20 seconds at a time. Be careful to not put the cloth over or near your eyes. You can also re-dampen the cloth and run it along the outer contour of the nose and under the jawline.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (2014). What Is Acne? Retrieved April 24, 2017 from https://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/acne/acne_ff.asp – View reference
- Shenefelt PD. (2011). Herbal Treatment for Dermatologic Disorders. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Chapter 18. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92761/
- Zhang M., Han Y., Fu Y., Feng Y., Wu D. (2013) Influence of lavender essential oil and aloe on main flora of facial acne. (Abstract) Chinese Journal of Microecology. (6) Retrieved from http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTOTAL-ZGWS201306010.htm
- Di Pasqua, R., Betts, G., Hoskins, N., Edwards, M., Ercolini, D., Mauriello, D. (2007). Membrane Toxicity of Antimicrobial Compounds from Essential Oils. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 55(12). 4863–4870. DOI: 10.1021/jf0636465
- de Rapper S, Van Vuuren SF, Kamatou GP, Viljoen AM, Dagne E. (2012). The additive and synergistic antimicrobial effects of select frankincense and myrrh oils–a combination from the pharaonic pharmacopoeia. Letters in Applied Microbiology. 54(4). 352-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-765X.2012.03216.x
- Işcan G, Kirimer N, Kürkcüoğlu M, Başer KH, Demirci F.(2002). Antimicrobial Screening of Mentha piperita Essential Oils. Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry. 50(14). 3943-6. http://jonnsaromatherapy.com/pdf/GC-MS_Mentha_piperita_2002_01.pdf