Aromatherapy/Essential Oils for Acne and other Skin Conditions
Acne is a skin disorder common among teenagers. Dermatologists (skin doctors) report that nearly 100 percent of all adolescents have at least mild cases of acne at some time in their life. Acne may also occur later in life, affecting adults. While it is not a life-threatening condition, acne is often unsightly and embarrassing to a person with the condition. In the worst cases, acne can cause permanent scarring of the skin. Acne and similar skin disorders can be treated by aromatherapy with essential oils to provide a natural and safe treatment for the condition.
How Can Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Be Used to Treat Acne and Other Skin Disorders?
Aromatherapy has long been considered to be a useful method for treating acne. The choice of essential oils to be used in aromatherapy is based on the anti-infective properties of these oils. Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), for example, is thought to be both an antifungal (kills fungi) and antiseptic (prevents the growth of disease-causing organisms) agent. A group of oils that can also be used to treat acne include the chemical compound farnesol, known to be an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent. These oils include jasmine (Jasminum officinale), lavender (Lavendula agustifolia), myrrh (Commiphora myrrha), palmarosa, (Cymbopogon martini), sandalwood (Santalum album), and Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata).
Other essential oils found to be effective in treating acne and other skin disorders include:
- Bergamot (Citrus aurantium)
- Cajeput (Melaleuka leukadendron)
- Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica)
- Chamomile (Matricaria recutica or (Chamaemelum nobile)
- Clary sage (Salvia sclarea)
- Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
- Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)
- Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
As is often the case in aromatherapy, a practitioner may choose to use a combination of essential oils, each of which produces its own action on the skin. One combination that has been recommended consists of 5 drops of geranium oil, 7 drops of lavender oil, 7 drops of Atlas cedarwood oil, and 12 drops of tea tree oil mixed into a quarter ounce of jojoba oil. The jojoba oil in the mixture is a carrier oil, a neutral oil that has no effect on the condition itself, but which is used to dissolve the essential oils that make up the mixture. The above combination is then applied to the skin with a cotton swab or with one’s fingers.
In addition to their antimicrobial properties, essential oils have other properties that make them useful for the treatment of acne. They may help open the clogged pores in which sebum is trapped, heal scars that have formed as a result of acne, and, in general, make the skin smoother, more supple, and healthier, thus reducing the risk that acne will return in the future.
Practitioners of aromatherapy use other methods for applying essential oils to the body. For example, a few drops of an essential oil can be added to a warm bath. Or one can inhale the fumes of an essential oil that has been added to a basin of warm water. Care should be taken in all cases, however, not to exceed the recommended amount of essential oil used for a treatment, since some people may be allergic to a particular oil.
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that has been in use for thousands of years. Drawings on pyramids that date to the second millennium B.C.E. show healers using techniques that are familiar to modern aromatherapists. Practitioners of aromatherapy use essential oils to treat a wide variety of physical, mental, and emotional conditions. Essential oils are naturally occurring organic compounds obtained from the flowers, stems, leaves, roots, and other parts of a plant. The oils are extracted from plant material by heating it in steam. At least a hundred essential oils are known and used in aromatherapy, each of which has properties that make it suitable for treating a specific condition.
What is Acne?
Acne is a skin condition that develops when natural oil called sebum collects beneath the skin’s surface. The human body begins to produce sebum in significant amounts during puberty, which explains the occurrence of acne among teenagers. As sebum collects under the skin, it may form a number of structures, called whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, or pimples. These structures are breeding grounds for bacteria, which cause the skin to become inflamed in the region of a whitehead or blackhead.
Scientists do not know the precise cause of acne. They suspect that factors such as physical pressure on the skin, certain types of medications, and exposure to certain types of chemicals may increase one’s risk for acne. Increased production of hormones, which occurs especially often during puberty and during menstruation, is one factor that leads to skin break-outs. Heredity may determine hormone production, so genetics may be one factor in the onset of acne. A number of other factors, including diet, use of cosmetics, and stress can make symptoms of acne worse, though they probably have little to do with the onset of acne.
Healthy Living Answers. “Essential Oils and Acne Aromatherapy Skin Care.”
Kakaris, George. “Aromatherapy for Acne Cure.” Buzzle.com.
Price, Shirley, and Len Price, eds. Aromatherapy for Health Professionals. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2007.
Shutes, Jade, and Christina Weaver. Aromatherapy for Bodyworkers. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008.