Essential oils are all the rage—who among us hasn’t spritzed some lavender on her pillowcase, put a few drops of ylang ylang in her bath for a sensual soak, or even sprung for an oil diffuser to infuse her home with natural, uplifting scents? But who knew we should also be including essential oils in our skin care—particularly for those of us with aging skin? As for me, I’ve always opted for heavier, chemical-laden creams that promise to erase every wrinkle and on my face which often disappoint. But over the years, just as I’ve transitioned to cleaner eating (hello organic, bye-bye GMOs) and even cleaner cleaning (traded my Windex in for a big bottle of white vinegar), I’ve also started to clean up my beauty. Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to incorporating essential oils into your anti-aging beauty routine.
DO opt for anti-agers. While there are many oils that benefit mature skin, patchouli, frankincense, lavender, palmarosa, geranium and orange are a few of the more popular options. “These essential oils have properties that moisturize the skin and support healthy cell renewal to reveal younger skin, reducing the appearance of the signs of aging,” says Heather Wilson, licensed esthetician and Director of Brand Development at essential oil company InstaNatural.
DON’T get your expectations too high. Remember that oils are natural and realistically, nothing can stop or reverse aging. “But good skincare products and regimen are able to slow down the aging process and visibly improve some of the most obvious signs of aging to a great degree,” says Julia Teren, spokesperson for Thesis Beauty an organic and essential oil-based beauty brand. “Essential oils, help rejuvenate skin and help to relax the mind through gentle aromatherapy which in turn helps to relax facial muscles giving you an instantly more youthful, smoother appearance,” she says.
DO read the ingredient list. Not all essential oils are equal and quality is important. “Most essential oils are sold for aromatic use, not topical, so be sure to read all labels to ensure the oil is safe to apply to the skin,” says Wilson. She also points out that many brands adulterate their essential oils with synthetic components which aren’t always beneficial to the skin. Opt for 100 percent pure essential oils when you have the choice. Also, make sure to check expiration dates and buy only essential oils packaged in dark glass because light degrades them very quickly. “And opt for smaller bottles to avoid oxygenation during storage,” says Teren.
DON’T go crazy. “Everyone’s skin reacts differently to new products and ingredients and it can take your skin a few weeks to adjust to a change in routine,” says Wilson. If your skin starts to react, you can reduce how often you use the product and increase it as your skin’s tolerance allows,” she says. It’s also just as important to introduce only one essential oil at a time, particularly if your skin is sensitive or you are prone to allergies. “If you have a reaction, it will be easy to figure out the culprit,” says Teren.
DO the sniff test. A particular oil might be great for rejuvenating your face, but if you hate the way it smells, it’s not worth it. “Familiarize yourself with the way an oil smells before purchasing it,” says Teren, who also warns that you shouldn’t just purchase an oil because you like the way it smells. “It might not be the best oil for your skin type even though it’s your favorite scent,” she says.
DON’T apply essential oils directly to your skin. You can only apply two essential oils “neat” (directly to the skin:) lavender and tea tree. All the rest must be highly diluted to prevent irritation or photosensitivity. Teren suggests you simply add essential oils to an unscented cream/oil/serum base (such as almond or coconut oil) for custom benefits. Wilson recommends looking for a product that contains a blend of anti-aging oils
DO store your oils correctly. Store your essential oils away from any direct heat or light source, says Wilson. When not in use, it is important to keep oils tightly closed as exposure to air can cause them to oxidize quicker. “Pure, high-quality essential oils have a very long shelf-life when stored properly, however, every oil has a unique chemical profile and that will determine its ‘best use timeline. Expiration dates for products created with essential oils will vary based on how they were formulated,” Wilson explains. As to the type of oil, citrus oils generally don’t last long compared to other oils, says Terren, while patchouli and cedar are some of the longest lasting that will keep for years.
DON’T forget to use SPF. Sunscreen is always important but applying it when you’re using essential oils topically is, well, essential. “Some oils, such as lemon, can actually increase photosensitivity in the skin,” says Wilson.
DO focus on more than just your face. Essential oils that revive skin can work great on other parts of your body, too. Teren suggests getting an unscented shampoo, liquid soap, lotion or bath salt to make your own scented cleansing and moisturizing toiletries. “Oils such as rosemary and cedarwood are known to promote hair and scalp health, tea tree oil has cleansing properties that make it incredible for your feet and nails, and energizing oils such as bergamot and lemongrass are wonderful for smoothing the appearance of skin on the body—especially the thigh and leg areas,” says Wilson.