First examining the antiseptics, the choice for many people is tea tree essential oil. It has been the gold standard of topical antiseptic essential oils. It is readily available, inexpensive, and actually “proven” effective. A recent study was produced comparing the efficacy of tea tree to oxybenzone, the most popular over-the-counter active ingredient for acne treatment. A 5% tea tree formulation was found to be as effective as a 5% benzoylperozxide preparation, without side effects (benzoylperoxide can cause drying and peeling). Tea tree can be used at much higher concentrations if desired, as it will not produce the peeling and drying action of oxybenzone. Some people find they can use it “neat” (undiluted) without side effects, though it’s crucial you test a very small amount to see if this is both safe AND effective for you personally. Other popular antiseptic essential oils in acne blends include geranium and palmarosa — you can combine one or more of these in your formula, which may result in greater therapeutic activity.
Myrtle essential oil may be the single oil most often specifically recommended by aromatherapy practitioners for acne treatment. Myrtle has a powerful antiseptic action, plus other important effects. It may create a balance of natural skin oils; if the skin is too dry, it can stimulate production, if it is too oily, it can decrease production. Myrtle is also thought to balance hormones, both on a cellular and systemic level. This balancing of hormones may be directly related to balancing skin oil production. Myrtle too can be dabbed on the skin at full strength without harm for many people, though it may be most effective at a 5-10% concentration in a carrier.
Lavender is found in many blends for its soothing, anti-inflammatory and regenerative action. Perhaps even better would be spike lavender, sort of lavender’s more strongly antiseptic cousin. Myrrh has a host of therapeutic actions for the skin, the most well-known being antiseptic and anti-aging (a good choice for inclusion in an adult acne formula). Sandalwood is excellent for adults where the skin is dry, yet still acne prone.
These are most of the essential oils recommended for acne care, aside from the citrus oils. The oils pressed from the peels of citrus fruits, including lemon and bergamot, are antiseptic and astringent — an excellent combination of actions. They do cause the skin where they’ve been applied to be photosensitive, meaning the skin is much more susceptible to sunburn. For this reason, they should be used sparingly, and are not a good choice for blends to be applied over larger areas of the face on a regular basis.
As mentioned, essential oils can be dabbed (not rubbed!) directly on pimples. However, for treating any area — and limiting future outbreaks in that area — you’ll want to create a blend of oils in a carrier. While there are many choices, the best are oils that have their own therapeutic activity. The two most well-known are coconut and tamanu nut oils; both are naturally antiseptic, and have been used by some individuals to successfully treat acne alone. Equal parts of these oils will create a simple, effective base to which you’ll add your essential oils.
Creating you blend is a simple process: chose up to 4 essential oils and measure them into an empty bottle. Create a blend with a total of around 5% essential oil concentration: 1 milliliter, or 20 drops, of essential oil in each ounce is a 3% concentration — 7 drops of essential oil in each ounce is 1%. This means you can use around 35 drops total (from a standard glass eyedropper) of essential oils in each ounce of base. You may want to measure the number of drops per ml using a measuring pipette.
A very effective formula for teens would be this: In one ounce of equal parts Coconut oil (you may need to warm before mixing) and tamanu carrier oil, add 9 drops each of tea tree, myrtle, geranium and lavender. For adults, try 9 drops each tea tree, myrrh, spike lavender and rosewood. If skin is dry, add sandalwood as well. These both offer incredible blends of antiseptic, balancing and anti-inflammatory essential oils. You can reduce the total number of essential oils and add a little more of each, or select different oils if you think they’d be a better choice for you. Many people have had excellent success using natural essential oils and carrier oils to treat their acne, with many benefits not available from synthetic preparations. You’ll smell great while you look great, too!
The author is proponent of the varied and potent healing actions of aromatherapy essential oils. For more, see http://www.anandaapothecary.com/essential-oils.html.