9 Best Essential Oils To Treat Acne

Written by Swathi E , Certified Skin Care Coach

Essential oils (plant extracts) are the best thing that can happen to people with skin problems. They help moisturize the skin and even help treat acne. They have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that fight acne-causing bacteria (like Propionibacterium acnes). Besides, they are easily available and pose no major risk if used as directed.

In this article, we have listed the nine best essential oils for treating acne, how you can use them, and the safety precautions you must follow. Read on.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are distilled plant chemicals extracted from bark, flowers, seeds, leaves, roots, and stems. These plant extracts are integrated into food, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical products. They are natural remedies that work wonders for your skin issues as they have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties (1).

Certain essential oils may even help treat acne. But what causes acne in the first place? Continue reading to find out the causes.

What Causes Acne?

Acne occurs when your skin flakes and the oil clogs your pores. These pores become the breeding ground for Propionibacterium acnes (bacteria) that eventually causes inflammation and pimples.

Other factors that cause acne include (2):

  • Use of medications like lithium, steroids, and anticonvulsants
  • Overexposure to sunlight
  • Use of shoulder pads, headbands, backpacks, and underwire brassieres
  • Endocrine disorders like PCOS
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetics

But the good news is that acne can be treated. In the next section, we bring to you a list of essential oils that help treat acne and reduce scars.

9 Best Essential Oils To Treat Acne

1. Thyme Oil

Thyme oil can be the best choice for you if you have acne-prone skin. Its main component thymol has antimicrobial properties and also exhibits the strongest antibacterial activity against P. acnes (bacteria which cause acne). According to a study, thyme oil could kill these bacteria within five minutes of its application (3). Hence, you may apply it regularly to address your acne issues.

2. Cinnamon Oil

This oil has antibacterial and antioxidant properties, and may prevent bacterial growth, including that of P. acnes (3). Applying it may help resolve your acne issues and reduce scarring. It is often mixed with honey to create a face mask.

3. Rose Oil

Rose oil is rich in phenol that has strong antibacterial properties (4). A study found that rose oil exhibits the strongest bactericidal activities at a concentration of 0.25%. Like thyme oil, it could also kill P. acnes within five minutes (3). Applying rose oil regularly to your face may help you resolve acne issues and prevent further breakouts.

4. Rosehip Oil

Rosehip oil is derived from the seeds of rosehip and contains linoleic and omega-6 fatty acids (1). Linoleic acid deficiency is also believed to cause acne – though more research is warranted in this regard.

A study suggests that applying linoleic acid topically may reduce the size of acne. It may also act as a comedolytic agent (preventing blackheads) in acne-prone patients (5).

5. Jojoba Oil

Jojoba is a perennial plant whose extracts are widely used in cosmetic products like sunscreens and moisturizers. The oil’s high wax content may help treat acne and psoriasis (red, itchy patches on the skin). A study shows that this oil may help dissolve the sebum deposits within hair follicles and remove comedones (blackheads) (6).

6. Oregano Oil

This oil is found to inhibit bacterial growth and reduce inflammation. A study suggests that oregano oil may exhibit strong antimicrobial activity against P. acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis — the two major bacteria associated with acne (7).

7. Tea Tree Oil

This essential oil has been in use for several centuries and is now gaining popularity as an active component in skincare products. It contains terpineol, an antimicrobial agent, which may help fight acne-causing bacteria (8). Applying the oil topically was found to treat mild to moderate acne vulgaris (9).

8. Rosemary Oil

Rosemary is a well-known culinary herb with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-carcinogenic properties (10). Research suggests that rosemary oil may neutralize acne-causing bacteria effectively (11). The size of bacterial bodies was found to shrink gradually with an increased concentration of rosemary oil, leading to their death. Besides, applying the decoction of rosemary leaves topically may also help treat eczema and other skin diseases. However, more research is warranted in this regard.

9. Bergamot Oil

It is extracted from the peel of bergamot (a citrus fruit) and has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It was found to reduce the growth rate of sebaceous glands and reduce the acne caused by excess secretion of androgen (12).

All these oils help you resolve your acne issues from the comfort of your home. But how do you include them in your skin care regimen? Keep reading to know the answer.

How To Use Essential Oils To Treat Acne?

  • You can use these essential oils as a toner or facial mask.
  • Dilute them with non-comedogenic (that does not block skin pores) carrier oils or water. Apply the liquid to the affected area with a cotton ball or pad.
  • You can leave it on overnight or wash it off with lukewarm water after 15 minutes.
  • Always read the directions before applying these oils to your skin. These can be strong as they are concentrated extractions from plants and may lead to undesirable reactions. These essential oils are best used when diluted.

You need to follow certain safety precautions while using these essential oils on your skin. What are they?

Safety Precautions To Be Taken While Using Essential Oils

  • Avoid using any of these essential oils without diluting. Keep their concentration below 5%.
  • Always do a patch test on your forearm before using it and wait for 24 hours. Continue using it if you experience no adverse reactions. Clean it with warm water if you develop itching or redness.
  • Avoid oral ingestion and internal application (in the mouth or nose) of these oils.
  • Do not use essential oils in or near your eyes as they may cause irritation.
  • Do not use these on newborn babies.
  • Pregnant or lactating women must consult a doctor before using these essential oils.

The Takeaway

Essential oils are plant extracts that work wonders on your skin. These oils have antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties that help treat acne lesions and fight acne-causing bacteria. Remember to dilute them with water or carrier oils before using them on your face. Follow the safety guidelines listed above to avoid adverse effects. Doing a patch test is highly recommended. You can observe your skin health improving with regular use.


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  1. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils
  2. Acne Vulgaris
  3. Activities of Ten Essential Oils towards Propionibacterium acnes and PC-3 A-549 and MCF-7 Cancer Cells
  4. Tocopherol carotene phenolic contents and antibacterial properties of rose essential oil hydrosol and absolute
  5. Digital image analysis of the effect of topically applied linoleic acid on acne microcomedones
  6. Jojoba Oil: An Updated Comprehensive Review on Chemistry Pharmaceutical Uses and Toxicity
  7. Origanumvulgare L. Essential Oil as a Potential Anti-Acne Topical Nanoemulsion-In Vitro and In Vivo Study
  8. A facial cleanser containing thymol and terpineol reduced Propionibacterium acnes burden and improved acne symptoms
  9. The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study
  10. Rosmarinusofficinalis Extract Suppresses Propionibacterium acnes–Induced Inflammatory Responses
  11. Investigation of antibacterial activity of rosemary essential oil against Propionibacterium acnes with atomic force microscopy
  12. Essential Oil and Juice from Bergamot and Sweet Orange Improve Acne Vulgaris Caused by Excessive Androgen Secretion

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