Essential oils are nothing new. Humans have been drawn to the oils of aromatic plants and their aromatherapy benefits for thousands of years, and for good reason. But these oils can also be a key topical ingredient in your natural beauty routine—if you know how to use them.
The ancient history of essential oils
One of the earliest applications of essential oils was in ancient Egypt, where they were used in the embalming process. They knew that certain oils had strong preservation qualities and they soon learned that these preservation qualities also worked on their own skin to maintain a youthful and vibrant glow.
Distilled into liquids from various parts plants, these volatile oils can come from roots, stem, flower, fruit, seed, bark, and leaves. The extraction method varies depending on the plant (and parts used); however, most methods include the use of heat, which in ancient times was the sun.
When we use ingredients that come from plants, the body responds, and synergy happens between cells. The skin is a sponge, designed to absorb water and fat-soluble vitamins. Essential oils, which are highly concentrated, offer a high degree of bioavailable nutrients, although some oils are more easily absorbed than others.
Essential oils in skin care
Essential oils beautify and improve the skin’s appearance while uplifting the spirit with their unique scents. This is particularly true of flower oils such as lavender, geranium, rosewood, and rose, among others, which can restore the skin’s vitality by promoting the regeneration of healthy skin cells and by encouraging the elimination of dead cells.
Learning how to make your own skin care products is not as challenging as you may think, especially with the help of a beauty expert at your local health food store. Because one size doesn’t always fit all, essential oils allow you to customize a blend for your skin and the season. You can also find a growing number of products already infused with the benefits of essential oils at your local health food store.
Dos and don’ts
- Do read the label closely for quality and specific instructions.
- Do dilute essential oils—in carrier oils such as coconut, almond, grapeseed, or jojoba, or lotion—prior to using. A good rule of thumb for skin application is 3 percent dilution, or 20 drops per 2 Tbsp carrier oil.
- Do conduct a 48-hour patch test to see how your skin responds before applying diluted oils more widespread to your skin.
- Do discontinue use if you have an allergic reaction.
- Do check with a healthcare professional to avoid unwanted side effects and use only oils suitable for use with children or during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Use with caution.
- Do your research. Citrus oils, for example, can be phytotoxic and cause damage to the skin when exposed to sunlight.
- Don’t use older oils that look or smell like they may have spoiled.
- Don’t use essential oils in ears, eyes, and nose.
- Don’t use internally without the guidance of a qualified professional.
Buy the best
Last but definitely not least, give your skin the care it deserves by choosing organic essential oils wherever possible. Look for a reputable manufacturer that engages in fair trade, harvests raw materials using environmentally sound approaches, avoids the use of harsh extraction solvents or other synthetic ingredients, and uses therapeutic species. And don’t be fooled by oils that are labelled as “fragrance” oils, “perfume” oils, or “natural identical” oils, as they’re usually made from synthetic chemicals that offer no therapeutic value.
Popular essential oils and common uses in skin care
Essential oil Common uses in skin care lavender acne, eczema, bruises, sunburn; antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties geranium cell regeneration in mature skin; healing (bruises, burns, scars) rosewood moisturizing sensitive, mature skin rose moisturizing sensitive, mature skin; toner; anti-inflammatory properties palmarosa balancing, moisturizing; anti-bacterial and antifungal properties tea tree oil Acne; antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties neroli moisturizing mature skin; antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties juniper acne, toner; anti-inflammatory properties eucalyptus anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties