Are Essential Oils Essential to Your Beauty Routine?

Are Essential Oils Essential to Your Beauty Routine?

Why are essential oils are so hot in skin care right now?

Right now, natural is all the rage in skin care. However, natural does not mean safe or good for the skin. Many natural products are filled with irritating ingredients that can do more harm than good. Essential oils are part of this group.

What are essential oils? A mixture of ingredients extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots, seeds and fruits. They smell wonderful but contain many different substances, some of which might be helpful to the skin (like antioxidants and antimicrobial ingredients), and others that could be irritating (fragrances like limonene, citronella, eugenol, linalool). You cannot have one without the other in essential oils because they are a unique combination of natural chemicals special to each plant.

Yes, there is some scant data showing that a few essential oils (rosemary, thyme and tea tree oils) can help with acne. But they also were also shown to cause significant irritation and are not as effective as standard acne treatments such as retinol and benzoyl peroxide.

As for essential oils to combat the signs of aging, it is a similar situation. They just don’t work as well as the well-studied, readily available options while carrying a significantly higher risk of irritation. Instead of turning to essential oils to fight fine lines and brown spots use products proven to stimulate cell turn to combat these common concerns. Options include AHA/BHAs, retinols, antioxidant serums and products containing biologically active ingredients such growth factors and peptides.

What are some of the most important things to consider before adding essential oils to your beauty regimen? 

Just don’t do it. Essential oils are incredibly common irritants, and irritation ages the skin. It is simply not worth it. Do not add to your skin care regimen and avoid skin care products with the following essential oils because they have the highest risk of irritation.

camphor oil

cinnamon oil

citrus oils: angelica, bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, tangerine (all can cause increased sensitivity to the sun!)

eucalyptus oil

flower-derived oils: lavender, rose, jasmine, geranium

ginger oil

lemongrass oil

mint oils: peppermint, wintergreen, pennyroyal, and balm mint

neroli oil

oregano oil

patchouli oil

rosemary oil

sage oil

sandalwood oil

ylang ylang oil

Is there a safer way to include essential oils in your routine?

If you MUST use essential oils, then use homeopathic concentrations. Ideally less than 0.1% (1M) to decrease the risk of irritation and do not apply to your face or other thin-skinned areas such as the chest or inner wrist. Instead, apply it to your shoulders, back of the neck, or behind your ears. Even better…..don’t apply it to your skin at all and instead use a candle or diffuser to get the benefits of the fragrance you love with the risks to your skin.

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Meet the author: Board-certified and practicing dermatologist, Dr. Heather D. Rogers, MD, is the founder of Doctor Rogers Skin Care and Modern Dermatology in Seattle, Washington. She studied at Stanford, University of Washington School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. She lectures nationally, is well published, and an active member of the American Academy of Dermatology. Highly respected among the skin care community, Dr. Rogers has been annually named “Top 1% of Most Honored Doctors in the US” by Castle Connolly.

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