I’ve had skin problems for a long time, so over the years I’ve experimented with all kinds of treatments for my acne, clogged pores, and constant oily sheen. One of the skin treatments that has served me well since I started is essential oils.
When I first started researching them, I was torn between ‘this seems too easy and there must be something I’m missing,’ and ‘this has got to be really complicated for it to be effective.’ Turns out, no – it’s just easy and effective. Here are some oils I use for my skin, the benefits I’ve gotten from them, and things I’ve learned from research or, well, from making some kind of mistake and choosing to do something different next time. As always, learn from my mistakes.
- Lavender – This is one of my favorite smells, so sometimes I’ll just use it instead of perfume. No regrets here. Lavender is purported to have a calming effect, and I can safely say that when I’m feeling tense, a hot bath with some lavender oil in it does the trick. I’m sure you’ve seen piles and piles of bath salts, lotions, and candles that are lavender-scented and marketed for people who need to Calm The Eff Down, but save yourself some money and just buy the oil straight-up. You can put it in a carrier oil or unscented lotion (just a drop!) and have your own, way cheaper, scented lotion. Lavender oil on a cotton pad under your pillow will give you a lovely night’s sleep. You can also put a drop onto a pimple to dry it out – and to help you not stress about your stress-breakout, because let’s face it, stress is like a human centipede in that it’s gross and we can’t forget about it.
- Peppermint – Yet another great smell, peppermint has an energizing and uplifting effect when you smell it, and it increases circulation to your skin – hence why most sports creams for joint pain smell minty. I like to mix a few drops of peppermint oil with a handful of coconut oil and massage my scalp with it once a week before I shower. The increased circulation from the peppermint, plus the cleansing properties of both oils, make it great for keeping your scalp and hair in good shape, and it might even help your hair grow out longer and healthier.
- Eucalyptus – Who doesn’t want to smell like a koala bear, right? J/K, I doubt koalas smell all that pleasant. But eucalyptus oil really does smell great – I put some in an oil burner or in a shallow dish in a hot shower when I’ve got a cold or allergies, and it acts just like that vapor rub your mom put on your chest as a kid. Speaking of which, you can do that with plain eucalyptus oil too! You can put it in a carrier oil if it’s too strong for your nose or skin – anything without a strong scent will do the trick. A trick I learned when I was acting at a Renaissance festival and needed to push through a bad cold was to tie a knotted piece of leather cord around my neck or wrist and drip some eucalyptus oil onto the leather knots. It let me breathe the aromatic oil as I walked around, keeping my head clear until I could go home and rest.
- Tea Tree – This stuff is the rock star of my essential oil shelf. It’s got antibacterial and antifungal properties, it has a drawing/drying effect on the skin, and it smells woodsy and herbaceous and awesome. This is another one that you can put on a pimple to dry it out. I’ve also used it in a homemade deodorant I used for a long time (sounds weird but it really worked!), but the best trick I’ve used tea tree oil for is getting rid of skin tags. You heard me. When I took up running on a regular basis, I had this cluster of swollen skin tags crop up on my upper thigh where it rubs against, y’know, my other thigh (hence the ‘taking up running’ thing), and they’d get tugged around and irritated. Not sexy. After a lengthy research sesh on the internet, I discovered that the commercial ‘tag remover’ products are mostly tea tree oil, so I thought, “Well hell, I’ve got that in my cabinet right now!” Sure enough, I put a dab of the undiluted oil directly on the skin tags a couple times a day – especially at night, so it could soak in – and they would slowly dry up and recede into my skin. They didn’t ‘fall off,’ they just dried up a little and went back into the skin, leaving smooth skin behind it! Great stuff, man. I’m treating one as I write this, and it was hella stubborn at first. I had to tape a cotton pad with tea tree oil on it to my leg at night (pro tip: use medical tape or it’ll just come off). It felt pretty tingly when I did that, but it got the stupid thing on the road to being gone!
- SAFETY NOTE: Tea tree oil is VERY potent. You don’t need much at all to do the trick as far as clearing up a pimple or skin tag, so make sure to not overdo it! Just put a tiny amount directly on the offending spot, and don’t spread it around your skin too much. If you’re using it on a larger skin area, you’ll want to dilute it with a neutral carrier oil. With the deodorant I made, I put several drops in the first batch I tried, and it made my skin break out – I should have used two drops in the whole batch, that’s how strong this stuff is. As always, if any of this stuff irritates your skin or gives you a rash, quit using it immediately. Not all things are good for all people!
As far as sourcing goes, make sure you’re getting good-quality, organic oils, and that they’re not mixed with anything else. You want 100% oil in there. Usually your local natural foods store carries good essential oils, as do a lot of major grocery-store chains that tout a big organic section. Check the ‘health and beauty’ section for a little shelf of oils, often stored near the vitamins and supplements. For carrier oils if you’re wanting to massage the oil onto your skin or dilute it a little, coconut oil is great, as is grapeseed, jojoba, or olive oil, though the olive and coconut oils already have their own scent, so that might interfere with the scent of the oils you’re using. Play around with it and see what works best for you!