Essential Oil Facials for Acne-Prone Skin

Despite the idea that you’re putting oil on your face to alleviate acne, it’s been shown that essential oils, combined with the right carrier oils, can truly support a reduction in breakouts.

So what are the crucial combinations? A mildly astringent base oil — or one with its own antibacterial properties, as we’ll see — and essential oils which are both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory.

  • Hazelnut oil is astringent, mild, and well tolerated by all skin types.  It softens skin without feeling greasy, and moisturizes by preventing moisture loss.
  • Tamanu Nuts on Tree

    Tamanu nuts from which this great oil is pressed.

    • Grapeseed oil is also a great base for acne care, with similar properties. It has a slightly greater nutrient content than hazelnut, being high in antioxidants.
  • Tamanu oil is a master of skin cell regeneration. It can be used in conjunction with  Hazelnut, grapeseed, or alone. It supports  healing of a variety of skin conditions, including acne and acne scarring. It’s really an excellent choice as a healing base.
  • IF you really, really are not wanting to use a base oil, liquid Aloe Vera can be used as your “carrier” for the essential oils.

And, as for the essential oils:

  • Tea tree oil of course is probably the most often recommended oil for the ‘antiseptic’ portion of a formula, though it doesn’t seem to work for everyone. We recommend at least blending it with other essential oils, unless of course, you’ve tried it and it works well for you :) There’s research that has shown it seems to be about the same in terms of efficacy as benzoyl peroxide — or at least a 5% solution of each resulted in the same amount of acne reduction. But we think one can do better….
  • Myrtle essential oil is highly antiseptic, smells nicer, and may be balancing to the hormones at the skin level. By many therapists, it is the “go to” essential oil for acne care, and can be dabbed on “neat” (you have to judge this for yourself if it’s too strong or not). Using Myrtle in some way is our first recommendation to anyone using essential oils for the first time for acne care.
  • Spike Lavender essential oil is both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. It’s an excellent “cleansing” essential oil, and is a component of many recommended acne treatment formulas.
  • Lavender essential oil, also astringent, is antiseptic, relieves pain and swelling, and speeds healing time. It also balances the sebaceous glands, and calms the nervous system, which both contribute to acne breakouts. It really does double-duty in reduction of inflammation, while acting as an antiseptic.
  • Blue Tansy essential oil calms swelling and redness deeply and quickly. Apply as a spot treatment to active blemishes, cuts, scrapes, and bug bites to take out the redness and shrink the swelling to practically unnoticeable overnight. It can be included in formulas in very small amounts to reap the benefits of its inflammation-reducing properties.

With acne-prone skin, it is tempting to use harsh chemicals that strip the oil off of the skin, as a necessary part of controlling oil. Not so.

Try this at-home facial for acne-prone skin, and be amazed at how much your skin adores the healing oils!

Step1: Cleanse the skin using Hazelnut oil and/or Grapeseed oils. If you are currently experiencing a breakout, or if you have signs of sun damage, add in some Tamanu oil to help regenerate the skin. Loosen dirt and debris with a gentle circular motion, and wipe off the oil with a clean cloth or cotton pad.

Step 2: Exfoliate using the following gentle scrub/mask.

  • 1 tbsp Oatmeal, ground finely in a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
  • 1 tsp of the Hazelnut-Grapeseed-Tamanu oil blend
  • 1 tsp honey (antibacterial, yummy, and sticky)
  • 1 tbsp or more water (to the consistency of applesauce)
  • 15 drops Wild Lavender essential oil
  • 1 tsp Bentonite clay (optional if you have active blemishes or very deep pores, omit for dry skin)

Mix with a spoon and apply to the face, avoiding the eyes and lips. Gently exfoliate the skin with tiny circles, and when the mixture is relatively even, let dry for 5-10 minutes. Once dry, rinse with tepid water and pat dry.

Lavender

Lavender to soothe, balance, and tone the skin.

Step 3: Tone and Moisturize in one step. Place a few drops of Lavender oil in your palm with one pump (.5-1ml) of the Hazelnut/Grapeseed-Tamanu blend. Massage gently into the face and neck.

Optional Night Spot Treatment: Use a couple drops of Blue Tansy oil atop your moisturizer at night to reduce inflammation and redness in active blemishes. (Use at night because it has a rich blue color, as the name implies.)

If you’re needing extra strength support, once during the day, and once in the evening, use one or more of the essential oils mentioned above, also as spot treatment. An example formula may be: equal parts Tea Tree, Myrtle, and Lavender, at up to 10% in either the carrier oil formulation (Hazelnut at 100%, a blend of Hazelnut and Grapeseed, or either of these two with about 1/4 Tamanu oil). This is really pretty strong. If you’re simply prone to acne, follow the rest of the procedures described here, and…

Your skin will GLOW with regular use of this method.

As a person with acne-prone skin, I attest to the soothing and healing qualities of this process. Within one week, doing this treatment twice, and cleansing with warm water, then toning/moisturizing with oil in between, I saw visible improvement in my skin’s clarity, texture, and moisture balance (aka no shiny T-Zone by 2 o’clock). After a month of treating my skin carefully like this, I am make-up free, and enjoying a natural complexion without the use of harsh scrubs and cleansers. The Tamanu and Lavender have been helping to clear up my scars!

If you wear makeup, it is necessary to do the cleansing and exfoliating steps to avoid any stray makeup staying put under your oil, particularly at the jawline and hairline.

As you feel more confident wearing your skin, maybe apply eye makeup if you want to, but let your skin show off its health and radiance!

 

 

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19 Responses to Essential Oil Facials for Acne-Prone Skin

  1. Emma says:

    This is really helpful. I’m developing my own natural skincare line and I use my friends to test the products I make. I have a friend who has acne and sensitive skin and I used to knew very little about acne and how to heal her skin, I want to make some products to test on her skin and this info is quite helpful to start. But I have a question, for what I know, is not recommendable to use rosehip on acneic skin types, is this true? Has rosehip any side effect on acne?

    • Eric@Ananda says:

      Hi Emma, it really depend on your skin. Julia’s is oily, but not overly acne-prone. Yes, if you tend to have acne, rosehip should be avoided, yet here’s where Tamanu makes a great base.

    • Julia says:

      Hi Emma,

      Thanks for your comment! I love it that you’re making your own blends!

      You are right that many websites contraindicate Rosehip seed oil for active acne breakouts. In the research I have done on Rosehip seed oil and acne, it does have the risk of inflaming acneic skin; these trials used Rosehip Seed oil undiluted, and without the benefit of other oils to mitigate its effects. This is why I diluted the Rosehip seed to 10% in my blend.

      Used pure, Rosehip seed oil applied between breakouts can reduce their frequency and severity, which makes it ideal for intermittent use, even if daily treatment isn’t appropriate for active acne. Each person will have to judge which formula and proportions will work best for their particular skin type.

      The original recipe blended Rosehip oil with Tamanu and Hazelnut carrier oils, which mellow the effect of Rosehip oil, as well as add their own regenerative and soothing qualities. Add Lavender, an astringent, anti-inflammatory, and healing oil, and the blend lends itself to repairing the blemishes that already exist, and preventing new ones by balancing sebum production.

      If, however, your friend’s skin is more highly acneic, perhaps Rosehip seed in a daily blend isn’t appropriate for her. A substitution that contains similar EFAs without the controversy is Evening Primrose oil. It helps break up sebum as Rosehip seed does, and speeds healing of wounds and scars.

      My skin is acne-prone, though not severely, and I have been using the combination of oils I recommended with great results. That said, everyone’s skin is different, so if you’d rather not run the risk of Rosehip seed oil, there are many other nutritive oils that can support the skin during active acne breakouts.

      Thanks again for raising the question. I appreciate it, and I will be more careful in the future to report on caveats and contraindications.

  2. ether says:

    Wow, Julia, I can’t wait to try this facial! One question though: I thought Rosehip Seed Oil was contraindicated for active acne?

    • Julia says:

      Hi Ether,

      Thanks for posting. I’m glad to know that we have thoughtful folks in the community who are raising questions to help others!

      I responded to the contraindication of Rosehip Seed oil and acne in a reply to Emma on this same topic. Please let me know if you have other questions after reading it.

      Cheers!

  3. ether says:

    Julia, if I understand correctly, in the “cleansing step”, you only use the oils and a dry cloth – never water?

    And inbetween the twice-weekly facials, you cleansed with ONLY water?

    Thanks for the clarification,
    ether

    • Julia says:

      Hi Ether,

      That’s right, I rinse my face with water, and then apply a little oil (Tamanu-Rosehip-Hazelnut, plus a few drops of Wild Lavender) every night. If I do wear makeup on a special occasion or something, I’ll cleanse with oil first, wipe it off with a clean cloth, use the scrub, and then more oil. I’ll also use the scrub if I’ve been in the garden or it’s a hormonal time when my skin feels flakier than normal. (Remember, too, that if you don’t want to risk Rosehip oil flaring acne, use Evening Primrose or Grapeseed or Jojoba instead.)

      Are you considering changing your regimen? What are you currently using? What’s working and not working about it? Transitioning can be scary!

      It stressed me out at first not to put cleansers and toners on; I grew up believing they were helping me, but when I quit them, I found out they were actually contributing to my acne. My acne came from a dried-out top layer not letting the sebum underneath out. Clogging was the name of the game. When I stopped stripping my skin twice a day, the blemishes slowly cleared up and my skin stopped producing so much oil. The first time I weaned, it took a month of feeling insecure and worrying that my acne would flare to start trusting the oil-cleansing method. At the time, I was taking daily makeup off with olive oil lotion, not scrubbing, and using Shea butter as a moisturizer. It’s been even better since starting the scrubs and essential-carrier oils. They’re a lot cleaner, and don’t have the additives of lotion. Plus, the Lavender cools my skin and firms it so it looks smoother, too.

      All this said, you know best what is going to serve your skin. I do hope that essential oils bring as much relief and joy to your skin as they have to mine! Let me know if you want to talk more about it.

      Julia

  4. ether says:

    I’ve actually been finding cleansers/cleansing to be too harsh, and lately I’ve been using a foaming (yikes!) cleanser and I think it’s been making my skin break out more. Previous to that I was using plain cornmeal with a little water as a cleanser, and my skin was in better shape. But scrubbing twice a day, even if very gently, with the cornmeal feels like too much. The worst of my “acne” is on the chin and mouth area – classic sign of a hormonal issue, but I wasn’t breaking out like that until I started using a foaming cleanser. So, I’m going to try this facial/regimen you’ve shared, and see if this gentler approach helps to rebalance my skin some. By the way, I don’t have an oily skin issue (just FYI).

    Thank again!

  5. Julia says:

    Hi Ether,
    Thanks for your post!

    I’ll have to try cornmeal sometimes, too. This month my skin really got sensitive around my moon time, so I’m thinking about keeping a bottle of Evening Primrose around to substitute in case this happens again.

    Please do let me know how your journey with oil cleansing goes. Thanks for being in touch so far!

  6. Sowjanya says:

    Hi Julia,

    You article is very encouraging to try blending essential oils for skin care. I am glad I stumbled upon your blog.

    I am 28 yrs old and I have acne-prone sensitive skin. I dry out very badly too. If I don’t apply moisturizer soon after I wash my face I have a tight and visibly dry skin within the next 5-10mins. I also have uneven skin tone with blemishes and whenever i get a spot it seems to heal very slowly and leaves a mark.

    I have tried lot of moisturizers and medication suggested by dermatologists and nothing seemed to help on a long-term basis. I am currently using Lush’s Vanishing Cream. Though I found it helpful I still breakout regularly.
    Can you please suggest me a blend that I can make to address the above issues.Also please let me know if you want me to use a different blend for day and night. Just for your information I have used Jojoba oil previously as a nightly application(maybe around 2-3yrs ago) having read about its properties to heal acne but I still broke out after using it and discountinued using it. If possible please suggest me a clenser and a scrub that I can use for my skin.

    Thanks in Advance.
    Sowjanya

  7. Alyssa says:

    I usually wear a little bit of foundation and powder. Will this method work to wash it off? I generally wash in the morning and evening but sometimes midday too, especially if it’s hot or I’ve done a workout. Should this method be used every time as a substitute for washing the face? I now use Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash, but sometimes it seems a bit harsh.

    Thank you!!

    • Eric@Ananda says:

      Hi Alyssa,

      Thanks for your inquiry. In my humble ‘male’ opinion (sorry, the writer of this post isn’t currently available :) …I don’t expect this would take off foundation. It seems this would be best to do after your regular makeup removal process before retiring for the night. I believe using this process just once per day is absolutely enough for your skin to receive the benefits of all the oils. Give it a try this way, and see how you feel about it after a week or so…and you may also evaluate whether using the ‘exfoliation’ portion of the process daily feels good, or is also a little too ‘harsh’…you want to be careful of finding that balance between ‘gentle exfoliation’ and ‘irritation’ for your skin. Removing a layer of ‘old’ skin cells is one thing, causing any further inflammation is counter-productive.

      I hope your face glows from using this!

      All the Best,
      Eric

  8. Juliana says:

    Hi there,

    After several months, I use the mixture of carrier oil rosehip + jojoba, and the essential oil rosemary, teatree, Sage. Now I find my mouth and eye area is getting easy to have acne.
    I apply some teatree oil alone on that pimple for medicating it, but it won’t help, it keeps coming.

    Is it because of the rosehip oil ? or something wrong in my mixture which is triggering the breakouts?

    After reading your review of rosehip oil, I’m getting pretty sure of it. What other carrier oil you suggest to replace the function of rosehip oil ? and what other essential oil should I add more in the mixture ?

    Short info for your review : i’m in my 30′s with combination skin and staying in tropical country.

    Another question, just curious … what is the difference between Sage oil and Clary sage oil ?

    Much Thanks
    Juliana

    • Eric@Ananda says:

      Hi Juliana,

      Thanks for your note. I’d replace the Rosehip Seed with Grapeseed (mildly astringent).

      As for the essential oils in the formula, you could replace them all with Benchmark Thyme. It was developed by Benchmark Oils of the UK to be a broad spectrum anti-microbial, and it’s chemical profile is similar to a blend of Tea Tree and Thyme. You could use anywhere from 5% to 10% concentration.

      As for Sage & Clary Sage: Sage is similar to Rosemary in the way that it’s main constituent is 1,8-Cineol…no need to use them both. Clary Sage is floral, with a high percentage of Linalool and Linalyl Acetate, similar to Lavender in that respect.

      Hope this helps!

      All the Best,
      Eric

  9. Erin says:

    Hey there…..i would just like to start off by saying “apothecary” is actually my favorite word (thought you all should to know) …..anywho i am on the wrong side of 30 and never have had clear skin. Therefore never felt pretty but i think its almost going past the point of not even caring about how i look anymore but just being in pain constantly. There horrible painful cists and yes now bein 36 its moved down to my chin and jawline. I actually work at a natural food market and have been using the “Evan Healy” products which i love but wayyyy too rich for my blood right now so i really cannot wait to make my own. I’ve never had oily nor dry skin infact i absolutly loooove my skin around my acne and if i didnt have acne i would never wear make-up. I guess after all this unecessary rambling i should ask a question…..at our store we carry a few facial products with blue chamomile in them for acne proned skin and so ive been kinda focusing on that and i havent seen anything on blue chamomile in your recipes yet…….so whats the word thunderbird??? And thank you very much for your blog and letting me rant…..felt good!!!

  10. Eric@Ananda says:

    Hi Erin,

    German cham in acne formulas are a great idea – something we will consider due to it’s anti-inflammatory action. Oils you should strongly consider for the cysts: Helichrysum (Balkan) and Bay Laurel. Heli is anti-inflammatory and regenerative – very pain relieving, and Bay Laurel is known for its lymph-moving ability. You may even be able to use these ‘neat’, sparingly, once or twice per day.

    Hope this helps!
    Eric

  11. Melissa says:

    I am currently experimenting with natural skincare. I am in my early 30′s with acneic normal to dry, sensitive skin. Before I began my natural skincare routine I thought I had oily skin, but I never get oily once I stopped stripping my skin with cleansers. Here is my regimen: cleanse with honey (sometimes mixed with baking soda to exfoliate), tone with a mixture of ACV and Green tea mixed with tea tree, lemon and rosemary oil. Moisturized with Jajoba oil. My skin doesn’t like me using much jajoba (or really any oil that I have found) without breaking out, but my cleansing leaves me feeling a little dry.

    Do you have any suggestions of EOs that I can add to my toner that won’t be as drying to my skin, but will still prevent acne? Or another moisturizing oil or blend that might make my picky skin happier? I tried blending tamanu with the jajoba, but I had an adverse reaction to the tamanu. Any direction that you could give would be greatly appreciated.

    • Eric@Ananda says:

      Hi Melissa,

      Great question. First, yes to the Tamanu – like Rosehip Seed, it’s regenerative, and shouldn’t be used unless one is not prone to breakouts any longer, and is desiring to heal ‘old’ acne scars.

      “Benchmark” Thyme is the most potently anti-bacterial essential oil we’ve got, that’s gentle enough for even ‘neat’ application to the skin (though we wouldn’t recommend it frequently). You could try up to a 5% concentration in your toner, though maybe start with 3% and see what you think. Every 10 drops in each ounce of carrier oil or base is approximately a 1% concentration.

      Hope this helps!

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