Essential oils for acne: benefits, risks and more

Many people with acne are looking for alternatives to over-the-counter or prescription treatments to ease their symptoms. Some may consider trying essential oils.

Essential oils are extracts from various plants. Recently, scientists have become interested in the health potential of certain natural oils.

In part, this is because there is some evidence to suggest that essential oils have antimicrobial effects.

This article will look at essential oils that can be beneficial for acne. It will also look at how to use essential oils and the potential health risks.

While research suggests that essential oils may have certain health benefits, it’s important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor or regulate their purity or quality. A person should speak to a healthcare professional before using essential oils and should be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. A person should always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

Certain essential oils can be beneficial for acne. However, it is important to note that the evidence is still somewhat limited.

Essential oils that can help with acne include:


A recent animal study suggests that bergamot oil might decrease the amount of oil hamsters produce in their skin.

However, it is not clear whether bergamot oil would affect humans in the same way or if these effects would reduce acne symptoms.


Some people suggest that oregano oil might improve acne. This is because oregano oil has antimicrobial properties that destroy or inhibit microorganisms such as bacteria. Certain bacteria can make acne worse.

However, there is little direct evidence to suggest that oregano oil eases acne.

Specifically, scientists indicate that oil of oregano can harm Cutibacterium acnes (Previously Propionibacterium acnes) and Staphylococcus epidermidis, which are two types of bacteria associated with acne. They also suggest that oregano oil may improve acne symptoms in mice.

However, no research currently shows that oregano oil could reduce acne in humans.


A Study 2012 provides some evidence to suggest that jojoba oil may help relieve acne symptoms. When people regularly used a clay mask infused with jojoba oil, there was an improvement in mild symptoms of acne.

However, the clay mask, rather than the essential oil, may have led to these effects.

Other oils

Some people suggest that there are many other essential oils that might help with acne, including:

  • rosehip
  • tamanu
  • lavender
  • thyme
  • cinnamon

A Study 2020 suggests that rosemary and tea tree oil may be harmful to samples of certain acne-related bacteria.

However, scientists are not yet sure if similar results would occur on a person’s skin, where many other chemicals could interact with these oils.

Acne occurs when a mixture of dead cells and sebum blocks the pores of a person’s skin. This causes inflammation of the areas surrounding the pores.

Scientists know that the overproduction of sebum, which is a fatty secretion produced by the skin, often causes acne.

There is also some evidence to suggest that certain groups are more likely to develop acne, including:

  • people with a family history of acne
  • teenagers
  • people who have their period
  • stressed people

Some common symptoms of acne include:

  • papules, which are small red bumps on the skin
  • pustules, which are similar to papules but contain white or yellow pus
  • white dots
  • black dots
  • scars on the skin
  • rinsing around affected areas
  • cysts

Some people may feel embarrassed by their acne. However, it’s important to remember that scientists haven’t found any reliable evidence to confirm that essential oils can reduce acne.

Essential oils are concentrated extracts from raw plants. Different plants produce different essential oils.

Manufacturers sometimes sell these oils in their pure form. Other times, they dilute them in a carrier oil.

There are two main methods for extracting essential oils. Steam or water distillation involves pushing steam or water through plant material, which extracts the extracts. Cold pressing requires squeezing the plant, which forces it to release its essential oils.

The two main methods of using essential oils are inhalation and topical application.

People can use essential oil diffusers, sprays, or oil droplets in their rooms. Alternatively, steam rubs and steam baths allow people to inhale essential oils in a more localized manner.

People can also apply essential oils topically by massaging them into their skin. However, people should not use essential oils directly on the skin. They should always be diluted with a carrier oil, such as olive or almond oil.

Doctors also warn people not to ingest essential oils, as this could damage organs and potentially lead to dangerous interactions with drugs. Scientists report the case of an individual who nearly died after ingesting peppermint oil.

Essential oils are extracts from natural products, so some people think they are completely safe. However, like other natural products, essential oils carry certain risks, even when people use them correctly.

For example, some people may have allergic reactions to certain essential oils. For this reason, people using essential oils for the first time should only be exposed to a minimal amount. They should then wait and see if they experience any side effects, which may include:

Additionally, some people report nausea and headaches when inhaling certain essential oils.

There is scientific proof to suggest that people can experience serious health problems from exposure to large amounts of certain essential oils, including the following:

  • sage oil
  • hyssop oil
  • thuja oil
  • cedar oil

For example, some people involved in the commercial preparation of these oils have experienced seizures. The use of essential oils in aromatherapy can also lead to dermatitis.

Many people use essential oils as an alternative to medication.

However, while some evidence suggests that certain essential oils may help with acne, scientists have a lot more work to do in this area before they can draw any definitive conclusions.

About Sally Dominguez

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