The Best Essential Oils Proven To Fight Acne And Swelling

These natural products can help fight acne and the inflammation that comes with it.
Best essential oils and blends for treating breakouts
Image Source: Mareefe on Pixabay

I have incredibly sensitive skin, and oftentimes products meant to treat my acne leave me with a rash or worse, more acne. Though gentle skin cleansers did help reduce whiteheads and clogged pores, I was still struggling to find a spot treatment that didn't cause irritation and redness. Then, I tried an essential oil spot treatment of diluted tea tree and lavender. It actually reduced the size of my pimples and didn't cause redness that might draw more attention to the problem area! Now, essential oils are one of my go-to tools for handling my skincare. 

If you're looking for more natural alternatives to drugstore or prescription acne treatments, essential oils may work well for you. 

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are compounds extracted from different parts of various plants. They capture the "essence," or scent and flavor, of those plants. Essential oils can be made from the roots, leaves, stems, seeds, or flowers of plants and are extracted either by distillation via water or steam, or through mechanical methods like pressing. 

How can essential oils treat acne?

Acne is caused by a buildup of excess skin oil (sebum) and dead skin cells, often leading to bacterial growth. Certain essential oils can be used to reduce the amount of oil produced by the skin and fight the bacteria that cause acne. In addition, some essential oils can reduce the redness and inflammation that often come with acne, making the problem areas less visible.

Essential Oils for Treating and Preventing Acne

1. Tea Tree

Tea tree oil is probably one of the most popular and well known essential oils due to its variety of uses. The oil is made from the tea tree plant that is native to Australia, and one of its most researched uses is as a treatment for acne. Both a 2007 study by Iranian researchers and a 2016 study by Australian researchers found tea tree oil to be an effective and well-tolerated treatment for mild to moderate acne. Additionally, a study published in "The Medical Journal of Australia" found tea tree oil to be as effective in treating acne as benzoyl peroxide, one of the leading over-the-counter acne treatments. 

2. Thyme

Though thyme is most commonly known as an herb for cooking, a study in "Molecules" showed that thyme essential oil is one of the strongest and fastest acting essential oils in terms of killing off C. acnes, formerly known as P. acnes, which is one of the most common acne-causing bacteria. 

3. Cinnamon 

This common baking spice is best known for its flavor and aroma. However, the essential oil derived from the bark or leaves of the Cinnamomum verum tree (previously known as Cinnamomum zeylanicum) was also proven to be effective at killing C. acnes bacteria. In addition, a systematic review published in "BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine" found cinnamon to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which are important for healthy skin. 

4. Rose

Roses are known for their distinct floral scent, and the essential oil made from its petals also carries that same sweet scent. Rose essential oil, specifically one made from the petals of the Damask rose, was proven to kill C. acne bacteria quickly and effectively. Additionally, it is reported to have antioxidant properties. 

5. Lavender 

This popular calming aromatherapy scent has also been proven to kill C. acnes bacteria. Though it wasn't one of the strongest in the study, it was one of the fastest working essential oils. Additionally, a study by Gabriel Fernando Esteves Cardia \et al. found that lavender essential oil had anti-inflammatory effects for mice. This is an added benefit when dealing with acne, as reducing inflammation can cause the acne to be less swollen and red, and therefore less noticeable. 

6. Rosemary 

Chinese researchers found that the essential oil made from this common cooking herb was effective at damaging P. acnes bacteria. Additionally, a systematic review done by Portuguese researchers found that there are several studies showing the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of rosemary. 

7. Clary sage

Clary sage essential oil, made from the leaves of the Salvia sclarea plant, has been proven to control the production of sebum, which means that it will keep your skin from becoming too oily while also preventing it from becoming too dry. 

8. Geranium

Geranium essential oil, sometimes called rose geranium essential oil, is made from the leaves of the plant Pelargonium gravolens. In an overview of geranium's uses in the "Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology," geranium essential oil is said to be useful in cleansing the pores of excess sebum and dead skin cells.

9. Peppermint

Peppermint oil contains menthol, which has been found to have antimicrobial properties, though research has not been done specifically on P. acnes bacteria. Additionally, menthol has been proven to induce a "cool" sensation, leading to reduced redness and inflammation. 

How To Use Essential Oils Topically? 

Because essential oils are highly concentrated, you should never apply the oils to your skin without first diluting them. They can be diluted into water, unscented lotion, unscented soap, or a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba oil. 

Whatever you decide to dilute your oil into, the recommended concentration for essential oils is 1-3%, with 1% being the most recommended for facial application. 

  • For 1% concentration: Use 6 drops of essential oil per 1 oz of the carrier substance
  • For 2% concentration: Use 12 drops of essential oil per 1 oz of the carrier substance 
  • For 3% concentration: Use 18 drops of essential oil per 1 oz of the carrier substance

If you're creating your own blend of oils, remember to use 6-18 drops total and no more. For example, a 1% concentration blend of thyme and rose might use 2 drops of thyme oil and 4 drops of rose oil, for a total of 6 drops of essential oil in 1 oz of the carrier. 

Pre-made Essential Oil Blends for Acne

As you can tell, all the measuring and math required to create your own blends of essential oils can easily get complicated. If you're not interested in doing all that work, but still want to use essential oils in your skincare, you're in luck! Many companies and small businesses sell pre-made blends of essential oils that are already diluted and ready to use. 

Here are a few ready-to-use essential oil blends for acne: 

1. Plant Therapy Pre-Diluted Tea Tree Oil

Essential oil roller for acne
via Amazon

If tea tree oil's proven effectiveness was something you were interested in, try this blend of tea tree and coconut oil, packaged in a convenient roll-on. 

2. Blemish Buster Essential Oil Blend

Essential oil blends for acne
via Etsy

This blend also comes in a convenient roller and contains lavender, tea tree, rosemary, geranium, and frankincense essential oils diluted into jojoba oil. 

3. Acne Fighting Soap and Spot Treatment Set

Essential oil blends for fighting acne
via Etsy

This set comes with soap and spot treatment, so you save money. The soap contains tea tree oil and activated charcoal. The spot treatment is made of tea tree, lavender, rosemary, frankincense, and lemongrass essential oils diluted into avocado oil.  

4. Desert Essentials Tea Tree Skin Ointment

Creams and lotions for acne essential oils
via Amazon

This ointment can be used as a spot treatment when breakouts occur, as it contains tea tree and lavender oil. Additionally, the jojoba and almond oil it is diluted into will help keep the skin moist and healthy. 

Taking care of your skin is important because after all, it is your body's biggest organ and protects you from the outside world. If you're just starting out on your skincare journey, I hope you've seen just how easy essential oils can make the process of caring for your skin, and if you're a skincare pro, I hope you've found something that fits well into your regimen! Whether you choose to make your own blends or find a pre-made blend that works for you, always remember to spot test new skincare products before using them, applying the product first to a small area to test for irritation. 

Stevie is a writer who perpetually has a coffee in her hand and a cat on her lap. Her other hobbies include reading and playing video games.

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