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Are Essential Oils Safe for Your Skin?

June 10, 2023 by VitalSkin Dermatology

woman applying essential oils to her skin

The use of essential oils has become quite the fad in recent years. Many have used various essential oils for stress alleviation, to help boost their mood, or to ease the pain of an ever-growing headache or migraine. It is even thought that essential oils can help with the feeling of nausea or assist with sleeping better. But the real question that stands is – are essential oils bad for your skin?

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils, known as fragrant oils, are extracted from different things such as bark, stem, leaves, roots, the fruits of most plants, and even flowers. These oils create unique fragrances. Essential oils are easily evaporated at normal temperatures and dissolve in lipids, more commonly known as fats.

Certain essential oils are rich in antioxidants and contain antibacterial ingredients making them great for protection against some skin issues. However, these oils have also been known to cause irritation and damage the skin. Although not always seen immediately, the damage can grow under your skin.

What Oils Are Beneficial for the Skin?

There are several oils that are beneficial to be used on the skin. Things like tea tree oil, rosemary oil, and lemongrass are thought to reduce inflammation and help those with blemish-prone skin. However, it has not been proven that the benefits outweigh the risks, as they are still volatile oils.

Experts recommend that you avoid using tea tree oil if you have an open wound and not apply this specific oil in an area that has recently been picked.

In addition to the above-mentioned, neroli, patchouli and ylang-ylang have been proven to be beneficial in softening dry skin as well as providing a balancing effect on both your skin and emotions.

Are All Essential Oils Deemed Safe?

In short, not for the skin. All essential oils are not deemed safe or even recommended, to be used on the skin – especially on the face. Your face is a sensitive area of your body that may be easily irritated by the wrong product.

Citrus oils such as grapefruit, tangerine, bergamot, grapefruit, lemon or lime have been proven to be quite problematic when applied directly to the skin. Not only have these been known to cause problems, but mint oils such as wintergreen, balm mint, or peppermint are not recommended to be used on the face either. These are potential irritants to your sensitive skin.

If you are going to use essential oils on your skin, especially your face, it is recommended by many to use natural oils with no fragrance such as rosehip, coconut, and almond. Experts suggest it may be more beneficial to diffuse essential oils in the room you desire through an oil burner as this gives you the effects you are looking for, whether you are looking to enhance your mood, and energy levels or help you sleep better at night without risking the delicacy of your skin.

Potential Side Effects

While essential oils can offer benefits for the skin, it is important to be aware of potential side effects and take necessary precautions. Some individuals may experience skin irritation, redness, or allergic reactions when using certain essential oils. It is recommended to conduct a patch test before applying any essential oil to a larger area of the skin. Apply a small amount of diluted oil to the inner forearm or behind the ear and wait for 24 hours to observe any adverse reactions. If you experience itching, swelling, or discomfort during this period, refrain from using that particular essential oil.

In addition, certain essential oils can increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, a condition known as photosensitivity. Citrus oils, such as bergamot, lemon, and lime, are particularly prone to causing photosensitivity reactions. When using photosensitive oils on the skin, it is crucial to avoid sun exposure or use appropriate sun protection measures, such as wearing sunscreen and protective clothing.

Safe Application Methods

To minimize the risk of skin irritation, it is important to follow safe application methods when using essential oils on the skin. Direct application of undiluted essential oils is not recommended, especially on sensitive areas like the face. Here are some safe application methods to consider:

  • Dilution: Essential oils should be diluted with a suitable carrier oil before applying them to the skin. Carrier oils like coconut oil, jojoba oil, or almond oil help to reduce the concentration of the essential oil and minimize the risk of irritation. The recommended dilution ratio is generally 1-2% for most essential oils, although it may vary depending on the specific oil and individual tolerance.
  • Spot Application: When targeting specific areas of concern, such as blemishes or insect bites, you can apply a small amount of diluted essential oil directly to the affected area using a clean cotton swab or your fingertips. Avoid applying essential oils near the eyes, mucous membranes, or broken skin.
  • Facial Serums or Moisturizers: Add a few drops of essential oil to your favorite facial serum or moisturizer to harness their potential benefits. Mix well before applying the product to your face and neck.
  • Bathing: Add a few drops of essential oil to a carrier oil or an unscented bath gel before adding it to your bathwater. This allows the essential oils to disperse evenly and reduces the risk of skin irritation.

Consult With a Dermatologist

If you have specific skin concerns or conditions, it is advisable to consult with a dermatologist before using essential oils on your skin. A dermatologist can provide personalized advice based on your skin type, any existing skin conditions, and potential interactions with other skin care products or medications you may be using.

A dermatologist can help assess the suitability of certain essential oils for your skin and recommend appropriate alternatives if necessary. They can also guide you on the proper usage, dilution ratios, and application methods specific to your skin’s needs. Seeking professional guidance can ensure that you are using essential oils in a safe and effective manner to promote skin health and address specific skincare concerns.

Always remember that everyone’s skin is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Prioritize your skin’s health and safety by seeking professional advice when incorporating essential oils into your skincare routine.

If you’re looking to improve the condition and appearance of your skin, our team of experienced providers at VitalSkin Dermatology can help. Schedule an appointment today with one of our professional dermatologists.

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