The 10 essential oils for skin health

Olivia Chapman

Olivia Chapman, professional aromatherapist and founder of Oleo Bodycare, gives us her list of favourite essential oils, and why they’re so good in providing effective and pleasant treatments for skin issues such as cuts, burns, ailments and many more besides.

It’s important to begin with a few tips about essential oils in general:

* While essential oils should not be a substitute for professional medical care, they can be successfully employed for many minor skin complaints;
* Keep essential oils in dark glass bottles;
* Buy essential oils from a reputable supplier – some can be adulterated or impure, and this changes their potency and effectiveness;
* Essential oils are for use topically, not orally.

Here are my favourites, and their uses in skincare.

TEA TREE (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Tea tree is highly antiseptic and can combat many different kinds of bacterial infection, including streptococcal and staphylococcal types, and has also been shown to have significant anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. In addition, it has the ability to stimulate the immune response and actually works more effectively when there are signs of infection present. As an anti-fungal it can be applied locally to treat such conditions as athlete’s foot and ringworm.

Tea tree is widely used to treat pimples and acne and is also a mild analgesic, bringing relief of pain as well as combating infection in ailments such as corns, calluses, boils, cuts and burns. To disinfect a cut or soothe insect bites and stings, apply tea tree neat – it won’t even sting. Again, dab it on neat to warts and verrucae to eliminate. Tea tree is also effective in the treatment of cold sores and other types of herpes.

LAVENDER (Lavandula angustifolia)
This is the most versatile and well-used of all the essential oils, its lack of toxicity making it a valuable remedy for everyday use. Together with tea tree oil, it is one of the few essential oils that may be applied to the skin without dilution.

Lavender is extremely useful in a variety of skin conditions. As a first aid remedy it can be used neat on abrasions, wounds, burns and insect bites. Other skin conditions that lavender may help are dermatitis, eczema, acne, psoriasis and scarring. Combined with lemon essential oil and used as a compress, it will treat boils.

ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary is a very versatile warming oil which has the effect of stimulating and unblocking various systems in the body. It is antiseptic, tonifying and is also one of the main detoxifying oils. Traditionally, rosemary has been an important treatment for problems with the hair and scalp, conditioning and strengthening both.

GERANIUM (Pelargonium graveolens)
Geranium is calming but not necessarily sedative, as it also has an uplifting and strengthening effect. Geranium is a balancing oil, regulating in effect rather than overly sedative or stimulating. It has a powerful, sweet, green, floral smell and makes a fragrant addition to many blends for massage and the bath.

Geranium has an excellent reputation in skin care. It has a balancing effect on sebum secretion, making in suitable for dry or oily skin types, and it is a useful antiseptic and anti-inflammatory in the treatment of acne. Its soothing properties make it appropriate for dry, inflamed skin.

FRANKINCENSE (Boswellia carteri)
I love this oil equally for its therapeutic actions and its aroma. It has a sweet, spicy, resinous odour with a fresh, slightly camphoraceous top note. It is a tonifying oil with anti-inflammatory and astringent properties. It is a wonderfully rejuvenating oil to use in massage and skin lotions.

The rejuvenating properties of frankincense make it one of the most important oils for improving skin tone and treating ageing skin and wrinkles, as well as reducing scar tissue.

PEPPERMINT (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint is cooling, refreshing, warming and stimulating. The reason for this apparent paradox is that the body increases circulation and warms up in response to the cooling action of peppermint applied to the skin. Peppermint adds a stimulating note to many massage and bath blends, but use only one or two drops or the smell will overpower any other oils used.

Its analgesic and stimulating properties make peppermint an effective treatment for neuralgia and muscular pains. Combined with lavender, it makes an excellent foot bath for tired or aching feet. It is also a useful deodorant.

ROMAN CHAMOMILE (Chamomilla nobile)
Chamomile is a profoundly soothing and calming oil. It has pain-relieving properties and its antispasmodic properties make it a good treatment for menstrual cramp. It soothes inflamed joints and aching muscles and may help to relieve tension headaches.

One of the most important uses of chamomile is in treating skin inflammation; its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties make it particularly suitable for allergic skin conditions. It may also be used to treat eczema, rashes, herpes, irritation, dryness and any stress-related skin condition.

LEMON (Citrus limonum)
Lemon is primarily a refreshing, cleansing and tonifying oil, and is one of the most important bactericidal oils for any infection. It has a lovely fresh, sweet and green-citrus smell reminiscent of the ripe peel.

The antiseptic and astringent properties of lemon are appropriate for greasy skin and also any skin infection such as boils, acne and eruptions. Lemon’s astringent properties will help combat wrinkles. It is also an anti-viral oil and applied neat, will help eliminate warts and verrucae.

NEROLI (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
This isa lovely calming and uplifting oil, although its overall effect is relaxing. It has an exquisite, floral, sweet aroma which is powerful yet also light and refreshing.

One of neroli’s main areas of action is on the skin. The oil has a very low toxicity and its rejuvenating properties make it useful for treating dry, mature skin, wrinkles and broken capillaries. Applied during pregnancy, it will help prevent stretch marks. It is said to stimulate the elimination of dead skin cells. Neroli also has a deodorising effect.

ROSE (Rosa damascene)
Another essential oil that I love just as much for its intoxicating, sweet, floral aroma as for its therapeutic properties. Rose oil is cooling, relaxing and tonifying. It has a tonifying effect of the vascular system and is wonderful when added to creams and oils to treat broken capillaries.

Rose has a rejuvenating and healing effect on the skin and also has profound anti-inflammatory properties which can be used to treat dryness, inflammation and itching of the skin. A beneficial oil for use on older skin prone to dryness and wrinkles.

To learn more about Olivia and Oleo Skincare, see her website. You can also follow her on Twitter.

March 2013


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