Looking for that perfect skin product? One that will keep your skin looking great, smells great, is appealing to apply, has actual ‘therapeutic’ effects, and doesn’t break the bank? Look no further than aromatherapy. Creating a wonderful blend just for your skin type with the magic of potent natural botanicals is fun and rewarding in more ways than one. Essential oils are widely used in natural medicine, and some are well-known for their skin rejuvenating effects.
While some of the most highly regarded therapeutic grade oils may seem expensive at first, they are effective in such small concentrations as to really make them worthwhile. And their efficacy is well-known; that’s why so many laboratory-made preparations use components of essential oils in their formulas. With a one or two ounce bottle to mix in, and an eye dropper, you can easily mix your own blend with the aroma and actions you desire most.
There are a few essential oils most often used in skin care recipes – you can pick and choose from among these depending on your desired results. Other essential oils may be added to enhance the aroma of your blend; many oils used to do so are also are know to relieve tension or bring about a healthy state of mind – and most natural clinicians will tell you that beauty starts from the inside-out. So make something you love the smell of that also helps your skin glow!
These few primary skin care oils include the following: Helichrysum italicum – the oil of this flower is one of the most highly regarded in aromatherapy for it’s great versatility. It has a pleasant aroma, it contains rare ‘di-ketones’ which stimulate the skin’s natural metabolism, and is a powerful anti-inflammatory (all tissue damage and aging is associated with inflammation on a cellular level). Lavender oil – ‘true’ or ‘French’ Lavender is the most used oil in aromatherapy today because of it’s great multitude of effects. Like Helichrysum, it contains regenerative ketones; it reduces inflammation; it speeds wound healing; AND it has an aroma very well known for its relaxing effects – easing tension while healing your skin – could you ask for more? Next up is Rosemary of the ‘verbenone’ type. It also contains ketones (that the cineol type does not) and is known as a circulatory and metabolism stimulant, increasing the flow of nutrients in, and waste products out, of your skin cells. Palmarosa essential oil is included in many blends for it’s gentle cleansing and antiseptic properties. And last but not least, Carrot Seed oil is the premier oil for regenerating tired, lifeless skin – often a result from too much stress or high levels of pollutant exposure.
There are several other oils with positive effects on the skin (some will be mentioned in the blends below), these just happen to be the most often used. With research, you can find essential oils that will address particular skin conditions that are not covered here. Further, there are in fact hundreds of essential oils available, each with it’s own unique composition and aroma. Adding a little to your blends simply for their fragrance influence is highly recommended. A few drops of precious oils like Jasmine, Neroli, Sandalwood or Rose can create that aromatic combination you simply love, and will want to wear all the time.
The essential oils are almost never applied to the skin undiluted (Lavender is a rare exception). Instead, they are added to what are known as ‘carrier’ or ‘base’ oils. Diluting the essential oil in carrier not only stretches your dollar, but the oils actually are more effective this way! Research has shown that most essential oils have the most dramatic therapeutic effects at concentrations of less than 5% of the total blend. And the carriers have their own positive effects; besides helping your skin absorb the essential oils, they provide nutrients such as essential fatty acids, and vitamin compounds which enhance the skin’s health.
Some of the more commonly used carrier oils in skin care are as follows: First is Hazelnut oil – pressed from, obviously, Hazelnuts. This is considered the most gentle of the carrier oils, suitable for all skin types. It often serves as the primary base oil in blends, making up a majority of the mixture. Next is Rosehip seed oil, pressed from Rosehip seeds grown in the mountains of South America. This well researched oil not only has a wealth of essential fatty acids, but contains trans-retinoic acid, a compound similar to the active ingredient of Retin-A (a well known wrinkle cream), but without the drying side effects. Lastly we’ll mention Evening Primrose oil, often included in blends for aging skin and for eczema – it has one of the highest known concentrations of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid which may be crucial to optimal health.
So there are the primary ingredients, and the reasons behind them. With these, and a few of your own personal touches, you can create a great variety of blends. To go ahead and start mixing, acquire a one or two ounce dark glass bottle to mix in, an eye dropper and a small funnel (you don’t NEED this, it just makes the whole process a lot less messy). For the first recipe, we’ll start with a blend that’s for daily use for all skin types. It’s created to give the skin health and vitality, while keeping it clean and beautiful: Pour one ounce of Hazelnut oil into your mixing bottle (double all the ingredients if you’d like to make two ounces). Add fifteen drops (about 2/3rds of a milliliter) Thyme essential oil of the Linalool chemotype (be sure to get this kind, as other types of Thyme are to strong to use on the skin). The add fifteen drops each of Rosemary verbenone, Neroli (or a high-quality Petitgrain – distilled from the same plant as Neroli with a lower cost), Spike Lavender (almost a cross between true lavender and sage – excellent for it’s antiseptic properties). While originally created as an acne-clearing blend, it did so well for so many folks it is now used as a basis for healthy ‘normal’ skin as well.
For overly sensitive and damaged skin (from chemicals or other means) and for skin with weak capillaries (showing spider veins may be a symptom), start with a 5:1:1 ratio of Hazelnut, Rosehip Seed and Evening Primrose oils (3/5 ounce Hazelnut, and 1/5th each of the other oils). Add fifteen drops each of German Chamomile, Helichrysum italicum, true Lavender, and Roman Chamomile. This blend will enhance the regenerative capability of the skin through the action of the Helichrysum and Rosehip seed, provides nutrients through in the Rosehip seed and Evening Primrose, and reduces the inflammation which accompanies any type of damage and aging.
For clearing excessively oily and acne-prone skin, to one oz. of Hazelnut oil, add fifteen drops each of Myrtle essential oil (use the green, rather than red, variety), Eucalyptus Dives, Spike Lavender, and Rosemary verbenone. The Myrtle is special in that it dissolves the sebum clogging skin pores, and the Eucalyptus calms the output of the sebaceous (oil-producing) glands.
If your skin has no particular ‘condition’, but appears tired, lifeless, pallid, or ‘worn out’, try mixing one-fifth ounce of Rosehip Seed and four-fifths ounce Hazelnut oil. Then add 15 drops each of Carrot Seed essential oil (also known as Queen Anne’s Lace or Wild Carrot), Lemon verbena (which helps the skin detoxify), Niaouli (gently tightening the skin), and Rosemary verbenone – this creates an excellent restorative blend. For aging skin needing firming that can be used around the eyes – try this more gentle variety: Mix in five ounces of Hazelnut oil and one ounce of Rosehip seed oil, add fifteen drops of each of Myrtle essential oil (green), Cistus or Rock Rose and Rosemary.
So there are a few tried-and-true aromatherapy skin care blends to use in your natural beauty regime. You can easily mix and match the oils described to create your own blend, and add any oils you really like the aroma of (be aware that a FEW essential oils are VERY strong, and should not be used on the skin – the more common of these include Cinnamon, Clove, Oregano, and Red Thyme – consult with a knowledgeable practitioner if you are unsure about the safety of any oil). A word about purchasing oils for your blends – do NOT use anything labeled as a ‘fragrance oil’ – these are synthetic reproductions of essential oils that will likely cause an allergic reaction. DO seek out a reputable source. And oils, like wine, do vary greatly from maker to maker. A higher price can mean a significantly nicer oil (though not always) – one that is sweeter, or more well-rounded – only a few oils should smell ‘medicinal’ – Spike Lavender is a little ‘camphorus’ in general – but a good Rosemary verbenone should have a very appealing scent . Despite the initial outlay, you are more likely to continue to use a blend that you really like the aroma of, and that has therapeutic effects. Though once you find the oils you adore, you’re more than likely to continue the practice of making your own blends for some time to come.
Misty Cech, ND is a degreed naturopath and owner of the Ananda Apothecary, offering pure aromatherapy essential oils and flower essences.