essential-oils-for-glowing-skin

The Top 10 Essential Oils for Gorgeous, Healthy Skin

Essential oils are great for lifting the spirits and calming the mind; known for their strong fragrance, essential oils are commonly used in everyday aromatherapy. But did you know they can also benefit the body as well as the psyche?

For ages, essential oils have been studied for their therapeutic physical properties as well as their aromas. From helping heal the common cold to up-leveling your beauty routine, you can use essential oils to assist in improving a wide range of health issues!

Now, we know- once you branch out from two or three go-to essential oils, it can be hard to keep them all straight! In fact, it’s all too easy to create a stockpile of essential oils based on the allure of their aroma and therapeutic claims. Sometimes we find ourselves opening our fully-stocked bathroom cabinet and saying, “wait, what’s this for again?!”

That’s why we made this easy-to-reference list of the top 10 essential oils (plus one honorable mention) that can benefit your skin. Besides smelling amazing, these natural, plant-based oils have healing properties that can aid exfoliation, encourage cell regeneration, act as an anti-bacterial or anti-microbial agent, or even assist with anti-aging.

Now for our top 10 essential oils that most benefit the skin:

helichrysum-essential-oil-for-skin

1. Helichrysum or Immortelle Helichrysum italicum 

Great for: dry, mature, and inflamed skin, bruises, scar tissue, radiation burns, and broken capillaries.

How it works: This oil is known as “immortelle” for a very great reason. Once you use it, your skin will be immortal.  This oil is known for helping to heal everything from bruises, acne, eczema, scar tissue, rosacea, and help with mature skin.

The reason you don’t hear more about helichrysum (immortelle) is two-fold— the price and the fragrance.  First, you can expect to pay around $30 to $40 dollars for 5ml. Second is the scent; Helichrysum is also known as curry plant because of the strong scent of its leaves. Let’s just say if you walk past a field of helichrysum, you’ll know why it got that name!

According to Clinical Aromatherapy, the healing properties of helichrysum are said to be due to two unusual ketones — italidione and beta-diketone which are only found in Helichrysum italicum.

Because of the scent, this oil is best used in night creams. Trust us on this one.

Helichrysum or Immortelle Essential Oil Facts:

Origin: France, Italy, Corsica, Bosnia

Plant Part: Flowers and flowering tops

Extraction method: Steam distillation

Aroma: Mid-note. Known as ‘curry flower’. The scent is potent, warm and herbaceous. Some might find the fragrance off-putting.

Price: $$$ Expect to pay $30 to $120 for 5ml depending on the source.

 

 

lavender-essential-oil-for-skin-low

2. Lavender (True or French)

Lavandula angustifolia

Great for: Inflamed and sensitive skin, eczema, psoriasis, acne, and burns.  

How it works: Lavender is the Queen Bee of essential oils for the skin. In fact, the modern study of aromatherapy started because of chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé’s love affair with lavender after the oil healed a burn he suffered on the job.

Studies show it also presents antihistamine (a.k.a. It has anti-allergic properties). It has moderate antioxidant activity as well as antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effects.

Safety note: Lavender is considered very safe and most people tolerate lavender really well. Essential Oil Safety suggests to use no more than 8% on the skin, but I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of people being able to tolerate up to 25% dilution without irritation. Studies have shown success with lavender oil at much lower dilutions, around 1 to 2%, so it’s best to start small and work your way up to using more if desired.

True Lavender Essential Oil Facts:

Origin: France, Bulgaria, England, USA

Plant Part: Flowering tops

Extraction method: Steam distillation

Aroma: Mid note. Fresh, floral, sweet, herbaceous. Blends well with everything.

Price: $$ Expect to pay $12 to $18 for 5ml

 

tea-tree-oil-for-glowing-skin

3. Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia

Great for: acne, inflamed skin, fungal infections, sebum regulation, abscesses, boils, cold sores, cuts, and dandruff.

How it works: If you have something, itchy, scratchy, or puffy, there’s a good chance tea tree oil can help you. Fortunately, tea tree oil is one of the most heavily studied oils and there is much research to support all of the claims. Despite its name suggesting it would make a lovely tea, never drink tea tree oil since it is poisonous if ingested.

The “tea tree” is native to Australia and has been used by the Bundjalung people as a traditional medicine for centuries. Its essential oil became popular in the 1920s after chemist Arthur Penfold began to study its healing qualities. He found that tea tree essential oil was 11 to 13 times stronger than the top antibiotic at the time.

When antibiotics were discovered later on during World War II, interest in tea tree essential oil waned. But because of the renewed interest in plant-based medicines, tea tree oil is making a comeback.

Safety note: According to the book Essential Oil Safety, the maximum limit on the skin is 15% of a solution. Whereas according to the Australian Tea Tree Industry Association, in one study when participants were exposed to a cream, ointment and gel containing concentrations of 25% or less of tea tree oil, no irritation occurred. They suggest irritation is more likely to occur when using aged oils with higher levels of peroxides.  

Tea Tree Essential Oil Facts:

Origin: Australia, New Zealand

Plant Part: Leaves

Extraction method: Steam distillation

Aroma: Mid to top note. Spicy, warm, balsamic. Blends well with eucalyptus and lavender.

Price: $ Expect to pay $12 to $18 for 5ml

 

clary-sage-essential-oil-for-skin

4. Clary Sage

Salvia sclarea

Great for: eczema caused by stress or anxiety, inflamed skin conditions, mature skin, wrinkles, excessive sebum production, dry itchy skin.

How it works: It’s time to open your eyes to Clary Sage. The story behind the name Clary Sage is interesting but not as interesting as the plant itself. In the medieval days, Salvia sclarea was used to treat vision issues. It developed the name ‘clary’ as a shortened form of the term “clear eye” (despite the name,  don’t add clary sage EO to your eyes). At the same time, the plant was used as a wine flavoring and often called “muscatel sage” because of its similarities of the sage we use in cooking today.  Somehow along the way, the two names were combined to give us the name we use today — Clary Sage!

Another fun fact, the Latin name for clary sage, Salvia sclarea, comes from the Latin salvere meaning to feel well, to feel healthy, and to heal.

A 2012 study found a massage treatment of 2 parts lavender, 1 part clary sage, and 1 part marjoram used at a 3% dilution was effective in reducing menstrual pain and cramping.

Safety note: In a study of people with a history of reactions to fragrances, clary sage produced a reaction at .25% of the solution (~2 drops in 1 ounce of a carrier oil.) For people without a history of reactions , it’s ok to increase to around a .75% to 1% dilution for use on the body.

Clary Sage Essential Oil Facts:

Origin: France, Germany, Russia, North Carolina

Plant Part: Flowering tops

Extraction method: Steam distillation

Aroma: Mid to base note. Sweet, herbaceous, floral, earthy

Price: $$ Expect to pay $12 to $18 for 5ml

ylang-ylang-for-skincare

5. Ylang Ylang Cananga odorata

Great for: oily skin and regulating sebum production, mature, inflamed skin, and scalp health. Also great for stress reduction.

How it works: Ylang-ylang comes from a flower native to Indonesia. The scent is similar to what you’d expect from a tropical flower, with a slight hint of banana.  

Not only does this oil smell lovely, but it also works wonders regulating sebum production, treating skin aging or stressed skin, and as a scalp tonic.

Research has shown a natural remedy of coconut oil, anise oil, and Ylang ylang oil can successfully treat head lice in children. Additionally, a 2018 study found ylang ylang helpful in calming the central nervous system and anxiety.

Ylang-ylang flowers can be used multiple times in extractions. Each round of extractions changes the chemical makeup. The are five grades available: Extra Super, Extra, First, Second, and Third. The Extra super and  Extra fraction of Ylang Ylang is the oil that is collected from the first hour of distillation and used primarily in the fragrances. The grades become richer in less volatile compounds (sesquiterpenes) and poorer in volatile compounds (esters, aldehydes, alcohols, etc.).

Safety note: Although the exact reason is unknown, ylang-ylang has been known to cause skin sensitivities when used in amounts higher than .8% of a solution.  To be safe, I never use more than .2% in my formulations because the scent is very strong.

Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil Facts:

Origin: Indonesia, Reunion Islands, Comoros, Madagascar

Plant Part: Flowers

Extraction method: Steam distillation up to 6 times. The are five grades available: Extra Super, Extra, First, Second, and Third. Ylang-ylang complete is a mixture of the first 4 grades. The grades become richer in less volatile compounds (sesquiterpenes) and poorer in volatile, more fragrant compounds (esters, aldehydes, alcohols, etc.).

Aroma: Mid to base note. Warm, tropical, sweet, heavy

Price: $$  The price depends greatly on the extraction. Expect to pay around $15 for 5ml of ylang-ylang complete and around $20 for ylang-ylang extra.

Botaneri “Level-up” Tip

There are many ways to get the calming benefits of essential oils. One of the best ways is by using a diffuser. If you don’t have a diffuser, try one of these 13 genius hacks when you don’t have a diffuser.

Frankincense-for-skincare

6. Frankincense Boswellia sacra Flueck. syn. Boswellia carteri Birdw.

Great for: Mature skin, dry skin, wrinkles, scar tissue, eczema, acne, inflamed skin conditions, stretch marks and blackheads

How it works: Even those who know nothing about essential oils are probably familiar with frankincense. Yes, this is the same Frankincense from the stories of the gifts the Magi brought to Jesus. Today, the essential oil is still used in religious and spiritual rituals all over the world.

Frankincense comes from Boswellia trees (actually it’s more of a shrub) and historically only grew only in Southern Arabia, India, and Northern Africa making it hard to find, and therefore very expensive.

Today, Frankincense is more widely available, but it’s still the only oil on the list where over-harvesting is a concern.

What makes it so wonderful for the skin is its wound healing and regenerative properties. Because of this, Frankincense is effective on boils, acne and scarring. It can also help stretch marks to fade.

Frankincense Essential Oil Facts:

Origin:  Somalia, India, North Africa, Oman

Plant Part: Resin

Extraction method: Steam distilled gum, white resin

Aroma: Mid to base note. Clean, fresh, earthy, woody

Price: $$  Expect to pay around $15 to $20 for 5 ml of frankincense

 

Rosemary-essential-oil-for-skin

7. Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis L.

Great for: Acne, promotes circulation, rosacea, varicose veins.

How it works: It’s not just for food anymore! Rosemary is just as great on roasted potatoes as it is on the skin. It leaves the skin feeling warm, helping to relieve muscle tension as well as focusing the mind.

A 2009 study found Rosemary essential oil increased autonomic arousal (stimulating effect) and made participants feel more attentive, alert, vigorous and even more cheerful

Rosemary has been used been used in cooking and in traditional medicine for thousands of years. It also has a history in folklore steeped in the fantastical often associated with witches, fairies, and the ability to ward off evil spirits!

It’s also been a symbol of love  (Remember the lyrics “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme… for she once was a true love of mine”?). Rosemary was seen as the gift of love and the perfect wedding present.

Safety note: Rosemary is generally safe and according to one study, no participants had any skin irritation when used at dilutions of 2%. People with high blood pressure may want to do more research before using the oil.

Rosemary Essential Oil Facts:

Origin:  Tunisia, Morocco, France, Spain, South Africa

Plant Part: Flowering plant/herb, flowers

Extraction method: Steam distillation

Price: $. Expect to pay around $6 to $9 for 5ml

Aroma: Top to mid-note. Fresh, strong, balsamic

Botaneri “Level-up” Tip

Many of these essential oils are expensive, but it’s important to buy the highest quality you can from reputable suppliers. Since you will be using these on the skin, a little goes a long way. Not an ad, but if you’re wondering, my favorite suppliers are Stillpoint Aromatics and Florihana.

carrot-seed-oil-for-skincare

8. Carrot Seed Daucus carota

Great for: Inflamed skin, dry, winter-chapped skin, wrinkled skin, acne, whiteheads and blackheads

How it works: Carrot seed essential oil isn’t for the faint of heart. In fact, one sniff and I’m not sure you’ll be back for more. But, if you want an improved complexion you really ought to give it another shot. Carrot seed oil is the real deal.  I have heard many stories from people who have seen “miracle” results after using carrot seed oil.  

A surprise to many is that carrot seed comes from a plant called “Wild Carrot”, “Bird’s Nest” or “Queen Anne’s Lace,”  and not from the orange plants Bugs Bunny likes to eat.

The high carotol content of carrot seed oil  (36-73%) is said to be the key to its skin healing properties.

Safety note: Many medicinal claims for wild carrot include supporting elimination, stimulating the flow of urine, and the removal of wastes by the kidneys. Because of this, don’t use carrot seed if you are pregnant or nursing. It’s safe when used on the skin in dilutions up to 4%.

Carrot Seed Essential Oil Facts:

Origin: France, Poland, Holland, and Hungary

Plant Part: Seed

Extraction method: Steam distillation

Price: $. Expect to pay around $6 to $10 for 5ml

Aroma: Mid note. Earthy, herbaceous, woody

 

chamomile-essential-oil-great-for-anxiety

9. Roman Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile

Great for: Inflamed and itchy skin in need of extra love, eczema, psoriasis, hives, and razor burn.

How it works: If you’ve ever enjoyed a cup of calming chamomile tea, you’re already familiar with some of the properties of Roman Chamomile essential oil! Long known for its stress-reduction properties, chamomile is one of the most soothing and safe oils on the market. Roman chamomile is simply a stronger form of the delicate flower.

The thing that makes roman chamomile so effective in combating skin issues are its intense natural anti-inflammatory properties. Any inflamed or irritated skin will benefit greatly from this soothing essential oil.

Safety note: According to Tisserand’s Essential Oil Safety, one study found undiluted Roman Chamomile used on 50 volunteers produced no side effects.

Roman Chamomile Essential Oil Facts:

Origin: England

Aroma description: Fresh, strong, green

Notes: Mid-note

Plant Part: Flowers

Extraction method: Steam distilled 

Blends well with: Clary sage, lavender, bergamot, cypress, patchouli

Botaneri “Level-up” Tip

If you want to try your hand at a DIY essential oil recipes, we love our Japanese Forest Bathing bath salt soak as well as this ultra-healing DIY cuticle oil.

rose-geranium-essential-oil-for skin

10. Rose Geranium Pelargonium graveolens L’Hér. ex Ait. var. roseum, syn. Pelargonium capitatum (L.) L’Hér. ex Willd.

Great for: Hormone-related acne, pain relief, and muscle strain, wound healing, chronic inflammatory skin disorders, and adding a floral aroma.

How it works: I could write an ode about Rose Geranium in skincare and have good reason to believe others would agree. Rose geranium has been used for generations as a medicinal plant – particularly across North Africa and the Middle East – as a treatment for a number of ailments.  

The fragrance is often used in the perfume industry as a way to more economically stretch the scent of rose.

Results showed geranium oil to significantly reduce both evoked and spontaneous pain as compared to placebo. Geranium oil relieves pain within minutes and may last several hours (more studies are needed to confirm the longevity of application benefits in pain reduction).

The concentrations of Geranium essential oil used in that study, 100%, 50% and 10% dilutions may also cause skin sensitization, so it’s best to proceed with caution if using high doses directly on the skin.

Geranium has a very strong floral aroma. It is a good choice for mature skin in anti-aging products as well as for problem skin. Its aroma is extremely potent with a tendency to be overpowering, so we recommend you use it in smaller amounts.

Rose Geranium Essential Oil Facts:

Origin: China, South Africa. Reunion Island, Egypt, Madagascar

Plant Part: Leaves

Extraction method: Steam distillation

Aroma: Mid to base note. Warm, tropical, sweet, heavy, sensual.

Price: $$ Expect to pay around $12-15 for 5ml.

 

sweet-orange-essential-oil-for-skin

Runner Up. Sweet Orange Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck syn. Citrus aurantium var. sinensis L.

Great for: “Harmonizing” with other oils and uplifting the spirit

How it works: Don’t worry, be happy should be the motto of sweet orange.

Sweet orange is a rare citrus oil. Although their smell is fresh and rejuvenating, many citrus oils can make the skin more prone to sun damage (phototoxicity). But not sweet orange.

I often add sweet orange in small quantities to most facial oils to brighten up the aroma of a lotion, facial oil, or serum.

Studies have suggested application of sweet orange essential oil on the skin results in ‘harmonization’, which researchers defined as “a reduced level of arousal of the autonomic nervous system” (reduction of pulse and breathing rate). They also identify increased cheerfulness and vigor on the behavioral level as reported by individuals in the sweet orange group.

Please store sweet orange properly in a cool dark place. Also, be mindful of the shelf life of sweet orange. Once the oil oxidized (ie. old and dusty), it can cause skin sensitization.

Sweet Orange Essential Oil Facts:

Origin: Israel, USA, Spain, Italy

Plant Part: Peel of fruit

Extraction method: Expression

Aroma: Top note. Refreshing, citrusy, orange juice. Blends well with lavender, clary sage, frankincense and patchouli.

Price: $ Expect to pay $4 to $9 for 5ml

A few tips about using essential oils on the skin:

  • Never use essential oils undiluted on the skin. Most are too strong to use without being diluted with a carrier substance like an oil, lotion, or gel.
  • Citrus oils have chemicals that can cause sensitization to the sun. If you use them, use in very small amounts in skincare products.
  • People with sensitive skin, children, and pregnant women tolerate essential oils differently than other people.
  • When using essential oils on the skin, the following is a good rule of thumb:

    • Facial oils/lotions: under 1%  
    • Around the eyes: less than .1%
    • Body: 2 to 5%
    • Therapeutic application: up to 10% (except Ylang ylang)

We love researching and nerding out about essential oils! If you’re interested in learning more, check out our articles on the 10 best essential oils to help with anxiety, or our 13 genius hacks for aromatherapy when you don’t have a diffuser.

Do you use essential oils in your skincare as well as for aromatherapy purposes? Let us know in the comments!

Curious about Making DIY beauty but don’t know where to start?

Let us help take the mystery out of customized, natural skincare you can make right at home. Download the free guide and join the Botaneri community.

About the author

I’m Drew, creator of Botaneri and an artisanal skincare formulator and certified aromatherapist who is here to help take the mystery out of DIY natural beauty. I started creating my own plant-based skin and body care products at home to deal with my own skin issues.

I love helping people create luxurious and effective self-care products right in their own kitchens. It’s a lot easier than you think. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you.