Essential oils and acne
If you’ve got acne and are looking for an alternative to drugstore and prescription acne treatments, you might consider essential oils. Essential oils are plant chemicals extracted with steam from different parts of the plant, including:
Plant extracts have a long history in traditional folk medicine. They’re also studied in modern medicine for their benefits. This includes killing bacteria, one of the primary causes of acne.
While many people do report that essential oils can help treat acne, few studies have been done to support this information. While there isn’t enough evidence to recommend using essential oils for acne, they’re generally safe to try, and you may see positive results.
You should stop using essential oils if you notice irritation or sensitivity on the skin.
What causes acne?
Acne starts when skin flakes and skin oil (sebum) clogs your pores. A plugged pore becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, especially Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria, which contributes to causing pimples. Applying a topical bacteria-killing agent to the surface of your skin is one of the treatments used for acne.
Several essential oils kill bacteria. One laboratory study found the most effective against P. acnes include:
In the kitchen, this herb’s delicate essence is often used to enhance pasta sauces and cooked potatoes. In the laboratory, thyme has been shown to be effective in fighting the bacteria that causes acne. It’s also effective in killing germs that cause eye infectionsTrusted Source. However, never apply thyme to the eyes.
In lab tests, rosemary has been shown to damage P. acnes. Food scientists have also studied rosemary’s positive effect on preventing fungal growth that rots food during harvest and packaging.
It turns out cinnamon is good for more than just baking and sprinkling on your latte. This extensively studied tree bark product has been proven effective at fighting P. acnes. It has also been reported to reduce menstrual pain and cholesterol levels. And cinnamon has been shown to kill staphylococcal bacteria and E. coli.
Rose essential oil fights E. coli, Staphylococcus, and other kinds of bacteria. In animal tests, it’s also been shown to be effective at reducing liver damage caused by acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Tea tree oil may be useful for killing bacteria and fungi. It’s been shown to reduce acne. But scientists aren’t certain if that’s because it kills P. acnes or because it reduces swelling. If you don’t care for undiluted tea tree oil, it’s also used as an ingredient in many skin products.