The Truth About Essential Oils In Skincare

AriEstheticsAriEsthetics
Oct. 11, 2020
Whether or not essential oils are beneficial in skincare products is a highly debated topic. We either hear "This DIY essential oil cream saved my face!" or "Essential oils are a danger to your skin." There's not much in between.
But are they really as bad as people think? Let’s address some misconceptions and find out if they can safely be used topically.
What Are Essential Oils?
An essential oil is an extremely concentrated chemical compound from a plant. The “essence” of the plant is usually extracted through a distillation process. Distilling or cold pressing is what captures the pure characteristics of the plants, giving them their scent or flavor. Essential oils have many claims, ranging from improving mood to curing cancer. For skincare, different oils have been studied for their effects on certain skin ailments, but there isn’t any conclusive research. 
Tea tree, peppermint, lemon, lavender, sandalwood, geranium, eucalyptus, and bergamot are some examples of popular essential oils used in beauty products. You smell and see these listed in a LOT of natural beauty products. 
Plant extracts (like acai or blackberry extract) and non-fragrant oils (like jojoba or sunflower seed) shouldn't be confused with essential oils. Seeing "algae extract" in the ingredient list is GOOD. Seeing "tea tree essential oil" is BAD. Be advised, seeing non fragrant plant extracts in your product is usually a good thing, but too many plant extracts can cause irritation as well. How are you supposed to know if your skin will tolerate every plant extract??

Keep an eye on your ingredient lists.

Who Can Use Essential Oils?
Products that explicitly list essential oils in the ingredients are not suitable for most people, but especially those with sensitive skin. They are more likely to hurt your skin than help. The risk of irritation that essential oils bring can ruin an otherwise good product! 
A lot of us are already using essential oils indirectly. When a product lists “fragrance” in the ingredient list, that fragrance is usually a combination of essential oils and synthetic fragrances. While any fragrance can be irritating, this is much different than applying a pure essential oil straight to your skin or when a product lists an essential oil directly in the ingredients.
If you have sensitized skin, are breaking out for no reason, or your skin just won't seem to get better, check all of your products for essential oils. Cut those products out and see if your skin improves. If you're in fact reacting poorly to essential oils, your skin will feel better fairly quickly after removing them from your routine. If the typical vague "fragrance" is listed, it's still worth removing to observe how your skin reacts. You may be sensitive to even the smaller amounts of essential oils in the fragrance blend!
Potential Benefits
If you read my post on Skin Positivity, I mention how stress can negatively affect your skin’s progress. I use lavender or wild orange essential oils in a diffuser, because I do believe they can help with mood. Incorporating aromatherapy into your self-care routine could benefit your mind and your skin! You can read more on how to reduce stress and stay positive here: https://www.cherie.com/campaign/6878880515160621061/Don-t-Let-Acne-Rule-Your-Life-Why-it-s-Important-To-Stay-Positive?utm_source=web&utm_campaign=web_share&shareChannel=web&gid=6878880515160621061&gtype=long_article_post&utm_medium=long_article_post_detail_share
As for skincare benefits, some people swear by essential oils, while others have banned them from their routine. Lack of science on the effects of essential oils for skincare makes it hard to determine if they are worth using or actually dangerous. Just because a product claims to be “natural” doesn’t inherently make it better. Don’t choose your facial skincare based on how it smells or how pretty the packaging is. Stick with science and proven active ingredients when deciding what sinks into the delicate skin on your face!
Dangers
I’m pretty sure all of us have used tea tree oil as a spot treatment at some point. But HOW you apply essential oils (if you decide you want to) is almost more important than the oil you choose. Dabbing pure tea tree oil (or any essential oil) on a pimple will likely cause more issues to the area you're treating. If you choose to use essential oils on your skin, just be sure to dilute it by adding 1 drop of the essential oil per 1-2 tsp of carrier oil, like jojoba oil.
If you apply undiluted essential oil to your skin (this goes for your body as well), you could experience an allergic reaction, irritation, breakouts, dry/flaky skin, and even burns. Like I said, essential oils are STRONG. You also up your risk of sun damage considerably.
There are more effective ways to treat skin concerns, ways that are extensively studied, and proven. I would recommend sticking with the key players like BHA's, AHA's, retinol, sulfur, benzoyl peroxide, and pimple patches over essential oils if you want to see tangible results and lower the risk of a reaction. 
Final Thoughts
I don’t think fragrance is evil all the time, and I still use some scented skincare products myself. Is unscented better? Yes!! Do I recommend using straight essential oils or essential oil-heavy products on your face? NO!! But if you have a holy grail product that happens to be fragranced, you don’t have to stop using it. If it’s benefiting your skin and not causing any issues, then enjoy it! But it’s still a good idea to avoid fragrance when you can. It is important to note that you can develop a sensitivity to a product regardless of how long you've been using it. Keeping your routine "clean" from potentially irritating ingredients wouldn't hurt. And remember: "naturally-derived fragrance" is still fragrance and most likely essential oils!!
Netflix has an interesting docuseries called “[UN]WELL” with an eye-opening episode about essential oils and their impacts internally and on the skin.
Best Reviews
We’ll Miss You!
We’ll Miss You!
To our cherie fam who has inspired us deeply over the last year and a half: thank you. We are so grateful to have been a part of your beauty journeys and the community you created with us was nothing short of amazing. It's with sadness that we announce that cherie will be closing our doors on April 8, 2021, and your posts will no longer be available. While our platform will no longer be available, we encourage our community members to continue finding ways to create and allow their authentic voices to be heard.
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Do It All Toner 🍃🍃
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