Skeptical about using oils to treat facial acne? We get it—oil can exacerbate acne. That’s why it’s important to be well-informed before applying it to your face. However, if you know what you’re doing, essential oils especially remain one of the most natural and safest ways to calm breakouts.
In this article, we’re especially focusing on essential oils for acne. Some essential oils have antibacterial properties, and others have anti-inflammatory properties. These characteristics are very important in acne treatments.
The Role of Oil in Acne Formation
Yes, it’s true. Excess oil production is one of the three key factors in acne formation, along with inflammation and bacteria. However, oil can also be part of the solution. That’s why it’s important to understand how exactly acne forms.
How Acne Forms
All acne from blackheads to cysts starts with inflammation, because acne is an inflammatory skin condition. The skin can become inflamed due to illness, stress, pollution, allergies, and more. When the skin is inflamed from severe irritation, it releases a burst of protective oil and the pores constrict slightly.
That’s where the problems begin. This constriction traps any excess sebum (oil), dead skin cells, and bacteria in the pores, which leads to all kinds of acne.
How Essential Oils for Acne Can Help
Essential oils for acne-prone skin can
- reduce inflammation
- prevent excess sebum production
- kill P. acnes (bacteria that cause pimples)
- accelerate wound healing (pimples are technically tiny wounds)
Because inflammation is where all acne starts, preventing and reducing it is one of the most helpful qualities of essential oils for acne. What’s even more useful is a simple skincare routine that incorporates the benefits of essential oils for reducing inflammation plus low levels of very powerful anti-acne actives. This combo is what makes the Exposed Skincare routine proven to clear acne in less than 30 days.
The 4 Best Essential Oils for Acne
There are countless essential oils out there, all with unique benefits, but if you are looking for the best essential oils for acne, these are the top four. They all fight pimples in more than one way, and they all have at least preliminary research confirming their ability to help improve your skin.
- Tea tree oil
- Lavender oil
- Frankincense oil
- Rosemary oil
1. Tea Tree Oil: The Best Essential Oil for Acne Prone Skin
Tea tree oil has been medically reviewed, and a number of clinical studies have demonstrated its helpfulness in a variety of skin conditions, including acne vulgaris. Here’s why we think it’s one of the best essential oils for acne prone skin.
It Kills Acne-Causing Bacteria and Speeds Up Healing
This essential oil is often used on acne skin because it can kill P. acnes, even at low concentrations. Some products contain 10% tea tree oil, but one study showed efficacy at only 5%. There seems to be no significant difference in results based on concentration. It also has the same antibacterial properties as benzoyl peroxide.
The same clinical research has also shown that tea tree oil can speed up wound healing.
It’s a Proven Anti-Inflammatory Agent
Anti-inflammatory products can come in especially handy when treating cystic acne. Cysts form when bacteria get trapped in a pore and then cause an infection under the epidermal layer of the skin. This is often due to excessive inflammation, which is why this essential oil can be an ideal treatment.
It Can (Maybe) Reduce Oil Production
Tea tree essential oil can dissolve sebum in clogged pores, but its usefulness regarding oil production may extend beyond this. Some non-clinical studies show that it can affect certain hormone functioning.
Why does this matter? Hormonal breakouts appear whenever testosterone increases, as it often leads to increased oil production in the skin. The research suggests that tea tree oil may help suppress this action, and thus oil creation. However, more study is needed.
How To Use Tea Tree Oil In An Acne-Fighting Routine
Acne treatments that incorporate tea tree oil are even more effective when they combine other proven acne-busting ingredients. For example, the Exposed Skincare Acne Treatment Serum uses tea tree oil to disinfect and treat blemishes. It also has benzoyl peroxide to kill acne bacteria. This combo knocks acne out while also keeping the skin soothed.
Tea tree oil is a smart choice for treating body acne as well. Its powerful antibacterial and immunostimulant properties allow it to boost the body’s natural defenses while fighting pathogens. That’s why we put tea tree oil in our Body Wash, plus salicylic acid to unclog and shrink pores. If you want to get rid of body acne fast, get our Body Acne Kit, which comes with Body Wash and two tubes of Acne Treatment Serum.
2. Lavender Essential Oil
If you notice increased blemishes when you get stressed, you may want to try lavender essential oil for acne. Researchers believe stress is a common trigger for acne formation, and for this, lavender oil may be able to help.
Aromatherapy doesn’t directly reduce acne, but studies show it has a significant impact on stress reduction. This action can lower cortisol levels, and reduce general inflammation in the body. When we’re chronically stressed out, our bodies release a lot of cortisol which eventually causes inflammation. Diffusing lavender oil, or using it with a carrier oil for a relaxing massage, may effectively reduce stress and prevent inflammation.
3. Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary essential oil can be helpful if you have primarily blackheads or whiteheads. Its antioxidant (aka anti-inflammatory) properties alone would make rosemary oil one of the best essential oils for acne-prone skin. Non-clinical studies show that it also has antibacterial qualities. It’s not as potent against P. acnes as tea tree oil, and especially in sensitive skin, it needs to be used only in low concentrations.
4. Frankincense Oil
One of the most frustrating aspects of having acne is the scars it can leave behind. Good news is, frankincense is one of the best essential oils for acne scars, because it helps speed up wound healing. The quicker a wound heals, the less likely it is to leave behind a scar, so applying frankincense to your acne could help prevent acne scarring in the first place.
Which Carrier Oil Should You Use for Acne?
Even the best essential oils need a good carrier oil. Carrier oils dilute essential oils to make them safe for application on the skin. If you know what you’re doing, you can find carrier oils that contribute their own skin care benefits. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 best carrier oils for acne, but we’re only going to discuss jojoba oil at length, because there is so much to love about it.
- Olive oil
- Argan oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Jojoba oil
- Rosehip oil
- Neem oil
- Tamanu oil
- Evening primrose oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Maracuja oil
Jojoba as Carrier Oil
Jojoba oil acne treatment works well all on its own as an acne treatment. To moisturize your skin, simply take a dime-sized amount of jojoba oil, rub it between your hands and gently apply it to your skin, then immediately rinse with lukewarm water.
Jojoba oil is composed largely of a fatty acid called eicosenoic acid, which closely resembles the oil our skin produces. Applying a thin layer can be protective and result in smoother, softer skin.
Finally, jojoba oil can also help heal wounds, making it a spot treatment for acne as well. Applying a drop of it to a painful pimple or cyst could help it heal, which will also decrease the likelihood of its leaving an acne scar.
Oils To Avoid
There are still several oils you’ll want to avoid if you have acne breakouts, primarily because they are comedogenic.
Most substances can be ranked on the comedogenicity scale, which is a helpful tool that measures how likely it is that a particular substance will clog pores. A ranking of five means it will almost definitely clog pores, and a ranking of zero means there’s very little chance it will clog pores.
We recommend staying somewhere between zero and two. Any higher, and the benefit of the oil may be outweighed by its pore-clogging tendency. Two popular oils in skin care right now are marula oil and coconut oil. Unfortunately, what these two oils have in common is that they are ones you’ll want to avoid because of their high comedogenicity counts.
How To Safely Use Essential Oils
Unless you do a lot of research and mix essential oils properly, you run the risk of doing damage to your skin. That’s because it’s tough for the novice to know how concentrated their essential oil mix is. Without a lot of knowledge, you could be mixing something that’s far too strong for your skin. This will actually have the opposite effect on your skin and will cause skin reactions.
In addition, some essential oils may contain fragrance ingredients, which can irritate skin further. So—why take the risk? Instead of mixing your own acne products, use products that are proven to be safe and effective.
How To Incorporate Essential Oils Into Your Routine
Exposed Skincare products are formulated with low levels of very powerful anti-acne actives. This means we use powerful ingredients, but only in a concentration that’s effective without being damaging. Plus, we combine these powerful actives with natural botanicals, including oils like tea tree and even maracuja oil. This combo is what makes our products so effective. Not only is the Exposed Skincare routine proven to clear acne in less than 30 days, it also helps soothe and heal skin, leaving it in better condition. (Oh, and if it doesn’t work, we give you your money back—guaranteed.)
Our products are made in North America and only use responsibly-sourced ingredients. Our products have no added fragrance, parabens or other harmful ingredients, so you know what you’re putting on your skin is the safest.
Ready to try? You need the Basic Kit, which contains our Facial Cleanser, Clearing Tonic with maracuja oil, Acne Treatment Serum with tea tree oil and Clear Pore Serum.