What is the Best Essential Oil for Acne

acne and essential oils

Before we get into what is the best essential oil for acne, let’s have a look at what acne is, how it is caused, and the conventional medications typically prescribed. This will give a context as to how essential oils can help.

So what causes acne? 

skin and acneAccording to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the single most common skin problem in the US and it affects around 50 million people every year. So the first thing is to try and avoid being in this number in the first place.

Our skin is a pretty complex organ, as you can see from this image. But here are the basics that will explain what causes acne – and give a clue how to deal with it.

Our skin has 3 layers: 

  • The outermost layer, which is what we see, is called the epidermis. (“epi” means “upon” in Greek, “derma “ means skin)
  • The middle layer is called the dermis
  • The innermost layer is the subcutaneous layer

Sebaceous glands, which are located in the dermis, produce an oil called sebum. This oil lubricates the skin, protects it against friction, and keeps moisture out.

Our skin is constantly shedding dead cells and growing new ones. Acne problems begin when dead cells and the sebum skin oil clog our pores. And a clogged pore becomes a breeding ground for bacteria generally and the Propionibacterium acnes in particular. 

This causes blackhead and whitehead eruptions, which in turn become the pimples or zits, which are the symptoms of acne. 

Contributing causes of acne 

Oher contributing or exacerbating causes of acne include stress, hormone imbalances, diet, and some medications like androgens, birth control pills, and lithium. Acne normally affects the face, chest, shoulders, upper back, and even arms.

Acne can be painful and, because it is unsightly, it can cause embarrassment and lowered self-esteem It can also cause scarring, both physical and emotional.

What causes acne in teenagers? 

Acne can affect all age groups but is particularly common in puberty. This is attributed primarily to hormone changes and genetics. But stress and skin irritating activities, such as sports, can contribute.

Is acne increasing among women? 

There are indications that modern living may be associated with the increased frequency of acne in adult women. The reasons for this are unclear but appear to be due to a number of factors, including increased stress (perhaps brought on by juggling work and kids) and insufficient sleep.  

Do modern medications actually make acne worse? 

One of the treatments typically used for acne is the application of a topical bacteria-killing agent to the skin. And there are also prescription drugs, such as Tetracycline and Erythromycin, that are supposed to help with acne.

But the problem with these solutions is that the medications have side effects and the topical applications contain chemicals that are harsh on the skin. For example, a frequently recommended over the counter acne treatment is benzoyl peroxide. Certainly, this kills bacteria but it dries the skin out and even makes it peel.

Besides, the other main problem is that all too often these conventional acne solutions just don’t work.

Essential oils and acne 

Some essential oils can kill bacteria on the skin naturally and gently. Other essential oils can reduce the feelings of stress and anxiety that are associated with outbreaks of acne. And they can also help with insomnia and sleep deprivation.

Plus – they do not need a prescription. You don’t have to go to a pharmacy. You can get what you need online or in the health section at your local grocery store.

Putting Oil on Acne? Isn’t there something wrong with that picture? 

Wait a minute – acne is an oily skin problem. Won’t putting more oil on it make it worse?

It does seem counterintuitive, but no. It will make it better. The cleansing action of essential oils will actually remove and displace the oily and greasy sebaceous compounds in the skin that cause acne. And they will replenish your skin.

So what is the best essential oil for acne? 

We’ll now get into the specifics of essential oils that many sources recommend for the treatment of acne. We do it with this caveat – the same we have in our post on essential oils and psoriasis – some of these oils will work better for some people than others. You have to experiment to find what works best for your skin.

But here they are in the order that does appear to be most effective for most people. For your convenience, we have added links to where you can find them on Amazon. Just click on the red underlined headings.

Carrier Oils

Carrier oils are made from plant material, as are essential oils. However, carrier oils are used to dilute the essential oils and at the same time “carry” them to your skin. This is because many essential oils are quite potent and should not be applied to the skin directly.

Most carrier oils are unscented and do not interfere with the therapeutic properties of the essential oils themselves.

Carrier oils include coconut oil, jojoba oil, apricot kernel oil, sweet almond oil, olive oil, argan oil, rosehip oil, black seed oil, grape seed oil, avocado oil, and sunflower oil.

So the question here is which carrier oil is the best to use for treating acne in conjunction with essential oils. In our opinion, jojoba oil is hands down the best. And here’s why.

jojoba carrier oilJojoba oil comes from the seeds of the jojoba plant and, technically, it is not an oil. It is a wax and it is believed to be very similar to sebum, which is the natural oil in the skin.

So using jojoba oil in treating acne may reduce the skin’s oil production by making it think it has produced enough.

Jojoba oil has a number of additional beneficial properties including antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, wound-healing, and moisturizing. It will also boost skin health in its own right. It will reduce skin lesions and also speed up the healing process.

In addition, jojoba oil is absorbed easily into the skin and, unlike, say, coconut oil, will not clog the pores. This is why jojoba oil is the oil option of choice in many skincare products, such as massage oils, moisturizers, and bath oils.

Tea tree oil contains an antimicrobial agent called terpineol. This combats a range of bacteria that are tea tree essential oilassociated with acne.

When applied topically, tea tree oil soothes irritated and itchy skin and helps smooth out the complexion. It seems to reduce blemishes and ward acne off. Tea tree oil is antifungal and antibacterial.

A study of 124 patients found that tea tree oil was equally as effective as benzoyl peroxide in treating acne but with fewer side effects.

Another review of the treatment of acne with tea tree oil found that products containing tea tree oil reduce the number of lesions in acne patients. And it appears that this may be attributed to the anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties of these products.

Another study by the Skin and Research Department of the Shanghai Skin Disease Hospital found that in side-by-side tests subjects who used a facial cleanser made with terpineol (the same substance as in tea tree oil)  had reduced acne symptoms.

How to use tea tree oil for acne:

  • It is in many over the counter products.
  • You can mix it into face lotions
  • Add it to a jojoba carrier oil (1 – 2 drops of tea tree oil to 1 teaspoon of jojoba oil)

Beneficial bioactive components in clary sage oil include linalyl clary sage essential oilacetate that soothes the skin; terpineol that inhibits microorganisms, and anti-inflammatory and antioxidant flavonoids that combat bacteria.

The overall effect is that clary sage regulates the production of sebum oil on the skin, restricts the growth of bacteria, and calms feelings of anxiety and stress. It appears to do this by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. So it has an antidepressant effect.

How to use clary sage oil for acne:

  • Apply 1–3 drops of clary sage oil to a problem area with a clean cotton ball. Or you can dilute the clary sage oil with a jojoba carrier oil and then massage it into the skin.
  • Mix 1-3 drops of clary sage oil into your regular face cream or body lotion before massaging it into your skin.
  • Use clary sage oil in a diffuser. This will help with stress and insomnia, both of which are associated with breakouts of acne.

Lavender essential oil (LEO)has a well known calming effect. It also lavender essential oilcontains linalyl acetate, which will treat inflammation, soothe rashes and help stabilize the skin’s natural oil production. 

LEO also contains the linalool terpene, which is known for anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, sedative, and stress-relieving properties. It is, of course, stress which is one of the factors that can trigger an acne breakout.

Studies suggest that increases in acne are associated with higher levels of sebum production during times of stress This is because the cells that produce sebum have receptors for stress hormones. 

Lavender essential oils have a documented calming effect on the central nervous system and mood response. Here is one Thai study, for example, that showed decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, and skin temperature among subjects who inhaled lavender oil.

And on top of that LEO also contains camphor, which is a topical analgesic and relieves skin pain and itching. So all of this makes lavender essential oil such an important tool in managing acne.

How to use lavender essential oil for acne:

  • To relieve stress, use lavender oil with a diffuser or apply topically to temples, back of neck, or wrists.
  • Try a blend of lavender oil and thyme
  • Apply a few drops of lavender oil directly to inflamed areas or blackheads with a cotton swab

Juniper berry essential oil contains natural juniper essential oilantimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. So this will fight acne when applied topically. And there is a study supporting the use of juniper berry essential oil in the treatment of acne. It can be applied neat or used in conjunction with a carrier oil as a natural antiseptic.

How to use juniper berry oil for acne:

Apply 2-3 drops of neat juniper berry oil topically to a problem area.  And for sensitive skin, you can dilute it with jojoba oil.

Rosemary essential oil has been found to rosemary essential oilseverely damage the p. Acnes bacterium that causes acne on the skin. It also has anti-fungal properties.

Rosemary oil also contains the compound p-Cymene, which has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. 

In addition, rosemary oil (much like lavender) also has an aroma that has been found to lower the level of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood. And, as we have seen, stress can trigger an acne outbreak.

This oil is used to help with a variety of skin conditions, including inflamed or oily skin, acne breakouts, and eczema.

How to use rosemary essential oil for acne:

  • Take a cotton swab and apply 1 – 2 drops of neat rosemary oil to the affected area. Or dilute it with 1 teaspoon of a jojoba carrier oil.
  • For dry or irritated facial skin, mix 6 drops of rosemary essential oil with 1 teaspoon of aloe vera and apply.

Cinnamon oil is antimicrobial and has been shown to be cinnamon essential oileffective against P. acnes, which causes acne. It will also kill staphylococcal bacteria and E. coli.

This 2013 study seemed to find that cinnamon oil was more effective in preventing acne breakouts rosemary oil and tea tree oil.  

Cinnamon oil also seems able to reduce excess sebum oil and help with acne scars. It is found in some face washes and you can mix it with honey to make a face mask or a spot treatment for acne.

How to use cinnamon oil for acne:

  • Add 1 drop of cinnamon oil to 1 teaspoon of jojoba carrier oil and dab onto areas of acne.
  • To make a face mask to fight acne, combine 1 drop of cinnamon oil with 2 teaspoons of honey, apply to the face, and rinse off after 10 minutes.  

peppermint essential oilPeppermint oil has antiseptic and antibacterial properties and it appears to be helpful in the treatment of acne. And this 2016 study found that topical application of peppermint oil could reduce pruritus, which is the severe itching of the skin. This is associated with acne. 

So peppermint oil provides soothing relief from the irritation and inflammation that acne causes. This is why you often find it in anti-acne creams.

How to use peppermint oil for acne:

  • Dilute a few drops of peppermint oil with a jojoba carrier oil. Apply it to the skin and leave it overnight. You can include vitamin E oil with the carrier oil.
  • For a facial scrub,  mix 2-3 drops of peppermint oil with 2 tablespoons of salt, and three tablespoons of jojoba carrier oil. Massage into the skin and leave for 10 minutes before rinsing. Avoid your eyes. 

Frankincense is a resin obtained from the Boswellia species of tree, originally from frankincense essential oilEthiopia. It has been used in medicine for thousands of years. And it is used in both traditional Chinese medicines and in the Indian Ayurvedic tradition.

Frankincense contains alpha-pinene. This has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that will combat acne. And, according to this study, frankincense oil works with dermal fibroblasts in promoting the healing of the skin. So it also helps with acne scarring.

How to use frankincense oil for acne:

  • This is a mild oil that you can apply directly to the skin. Use 1 – 2 drops of the oil on a cotton ball. 
  • You can make your own face serum by combining  2 drops of frankincense oil with 2 drops of vitamin-E together with 2 teaspoons of jojoba carrier oil.  Apply it to your face and neck morning and night.

rose absolute essential oilThis laboratory study found that rose essential oil is one of the most effective in combating acne.

And this one found that rose essential oil exhibits strong antibacterial properties.

How to use rose essential oil for acne:

Mix a few drops into a jojoba carrier oil to avoid irritation and then apply it to the skin.

Oregano has its origins in the Mediterranean. The ancient Greeks used this plant to treat oregano essential oilsymptoms that included skin irritations and infections. 

This 2018 study found that, of seven essential oils commonly used in Mediterranean folk medicine, oregano exhibited the most effective antimicrobial effect against P. acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis. These bacteria are associated with causing acne.

Oregano essential oil has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which will help reduce the swelling associated with acne.

Oregano essential oil is an antibacterial, an agent that either kills or reduces the spread of bacteria.

How to use Oregano essential oil for acne:

  • You can add 1 drop of oregano essential oil to 1 teaspoon of jojoba carrier oil and apply it directly to the skin as a spot treatment for acne.
  • Add 5 – 7 drops of oregano oil to a bowl of hot water. Wrap a towel around your head and put your face close to the water for an oregano steam face bath.

Rosehip has been known for its healing properties since ancient rose hip essential oiltimes. It is a powerful natural source of vitamin C. This is an antioxidant that can reduce the inflammation associated with acne. So it is particularly effective on the inflammatory type of acne.

Aside from reducing inflammation, rosehip essential oil will also boost elastin and collagen production which will help with skin regeneration.

This oil also contains linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that has been shown to modify the skin’s natural oil production. A 1986 study found that there is a lower than normal level of linoleic acid in acne-prone skin. And a 1998 study found that linoleic acid is helpful in reducing the scarring associated with acne.

How to rosehip essential oil for acne:

  • Combine 1 drop of rosehip oil with one drop of tea tree oil. Add them to a jojoba carrier oil and dab onto the skin. 
  • Or add 1 drop of rosehip oil to your regular face lotion.

thyme essential oilThere is some authority that thyme oil can reduce the bacteria that cause acne. And here is another report. We offer this here for informational purposes. The science is pretty thin. But it is something that you can try. Do not use thyme oil near your eyes.

So, in conclusion, what is the best essential oil for acne?

We come back to our earlier observation, which is that some essential oils work better with acne for some people than others. So you should experiment. Try everything. However, it’s a good idea to be methodical about the process. Observe your reactions. Take notes.

In the world of essential oils and alternative medicine, there is tremendous anecdotal support for their effectiveness with acne and relatively little hard scientific support. So we become researchers ourselves.

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