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Can people use essential oils for acne?

Essential oils that may help with acne include:


One recent animal study suggests that bergamot oil could decrease the amount of oil that hamsters produce in their skin.

However, it is unclear whether bergamot oil would affect humans in the same way or whether these effects would reduce acne symptoms.


Some people suggest that oregano oil could improve acne. This is because oregano oil has antimicrobial properties that destroy or inhibit microorganisms such as bacteria. Certain bacteria can make acne worse.

However, there is little direct evidence to suggest that oregano oil alleviates acne.

Specifically, scientists indicate that oregano oil may harm Cutibacterium acnes (formerly Propionibacterium acnes) and Staphylococcus epidermidis, which are two types of bacteria associated with acne. They also suggest that oregano oil may improve symptoms of acne in mice.

However, no research currently shows that oregano oil could reduce acne in humans.


One 2012 study provides some evidence to suggest that jojoba oil may help relieve acne symptoms. When people regularly used a clay mask infused with jojoba oil, there was an improvement in mild acne symptoms.

However, it may be that the clay mask, rather than the essential oil, led to these effects.

Other oils

Some people suggest that many other essential oils could help with acne, including:

  • rosehip
  • tamanu
  • lavender
  • thyme
  • cinnamon

2020 study does suggest that rosemary and tea tree oil may be harmful to samples of certain acne-related bacteria. 

However, scientists do not yet know whether similar results would occur on a person’s skin, where many other chemicals could interact with these oils.

About acne

Acne occurs when a mixture of dead skin cells and sebum blocks the pores of a person’s skin. This causes inflammation to the areas surrounding the pores.

Scientists know that the overproduction of sebum, which is an oily secretion the skin produces, often causes acne. 

There is also some evidence to suggest that certain groups are more likely to develop acne, including: 

  • people with a family history of acne
  • adolescents
  • people who are menstruating
  • individuals experiencing stress

Some common symptoms of acne include:

  • papules, which are small, flushed bumps on the skin
  • pustules, which are similar to papules but contain white or yellow pus
  • whiteheads
  • blackheads
  • scarring on the skin
  • flushing around the affected areas
  • cysts

Some people may feel self-conscious about their acne. However, it is important to remember that scientists have not found any reliable evidence to confirm that essential oils may reduce acne.

About essential oils

Essential oils are concentrated extracts from raw plants. Different plants produce different essential oils.

Manufacturers sometimes sell these oils in their pure form. Other times, they dilute them in a carrier oil. 

There are two main ways to extract essential oils. Steam or water distillation involves pushing steam or water through the plant material, which pulls out the extracts. Cold pressing requires squeezing the plant, which forces it to release its essential oils.

How to use essential oils

The two main methods of using essential oils are inhalation and topical application.

People can use essential oil diffusers, sprays, or oil droplets in their rooms. Alternatively, vapor rubs and steam baths allow people to inhale essential oils in a more localized way.

People can also apply essential oils topically by massaging them into their skin. However, people should not use essential oils directly on the skin. They must always dilute them with a carrier oil, such as olive or almond oil.

Doctors also warn people not to ingest essential oils, as this could cause organ damage and potentially lead to dangerous interactions with medications. Scientists report the case of an individual who almost died from ingesting peppermint oil.


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Essential oils are extracts from natural products, so some people believe them to be completely safe. However, like other natural products, essential oils do carry some risks — even when people use them properly. 

For example, some people may have allergic reactions to certain essential oils. For this reason, people using essential oils for the first time should only expose themselves to a minimal amount. They should then wait and see if they experience any adverse effects, which may include:

Additionally, some people report experiencing nausea and headaches from inhaling certain essential oils.

There is scientific evidenceTrusted Source to suggest that people can experience serious health problems with exposure to large amounts of certain essential oils, including the following:

  • sage oil
  • hyssop oil
  • thuja oil
  • cedar oil

For example, some people involved in the commercial preparation of these oils have experienced seizures. The use of essential oils in aromatherapy may also lead to dermatitis.


Many people use essential oils as an alternative to medications. 

However, although some evidence suggests that certain essential oils could help with acne, scientists have much more work to do in this area before they can draw any firm conclusions. 

Reference: MedicalNewsToday

Last medically reviewed on April 27, 2021

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