Essential Oil: Should You Avoid it in Skincare Products?
Essential oil appears to be having a moment. Influencers frequently promote their favorite type of essential oil to use in their diffusers and how applying it to the skin can promote sleep, ease headaches, and just make life better. But with essential oil, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies, there’s potentially a not-so-pleasant side effect when it’s included in skincare.
“While there are several oils that may aid in healing and brightening the skin, there are others than can cause acne, irritation, burns, allergy and even a severe photoxic reactions, such as oil of bergamot, citrus, lemon and lime,” says Manhattan Beach, CA dermatologist Nina Desai, MD.
Cosmetic formulator Annalisa Branca agrees that essential oils can be good and bad. “Some of these compounds can be beneficial, they can be anti-oxidant or anti-bacterial, but other compounds are known allergens.”
Branca also adds that just because something has been identified as an allergen, doesn’t mean everyone is going to have a reaction to it. Those with sensitive skin or an impaired skin barrier should be cautious.
Redondo Beach, CA dermatologist Annie Chiu, MD recommends to stay away from them because of this chance of irritation and skin damage. Plus, there are other ingredients that better treat skin issues.
If you do feel the need to use one, your best bet is to combine the essential oil with a fatty oil to minimize skin irritations, says esthetician and formulator Bella Schneider. It’s also a good idea to patch test the essential oil on the skin before you fully use it, says Dr. Desai.
One more aspect of essential oils to consider is the possible ecological impact. “It is our responsibility as consumers to ensure proper growing, harvesting, packaging, application and disposal practices,” says Los Angeles esthetician Biba de Sousa.
De Sousa adds “Most essential oils are extremely flammable and need to be disposed as such. Also, they can be very harmful to plants and animals that live in the water and should never be poured in the drains and ground water.”
The verdict? There are plenty of other products and ingredients that can address the same concerns you’d use an essential oil for, so there’s not really a need to use them.