Essential oils are powerful, beneficial, and amazing skin care ingredients. They are also often misunderstood and misused. Especially when we’re talking about using essential oils on the face.
I didn’t know much about essential oils until I started esthetics school back in the ’90s. As part of our school supplies kit, every student had to have two bottles of essential oils to work with. I chose lavender and ylang ylang, simply because I liked the way they smelled.
But with those two little bottles, I was hooked. The potent impact essential oils had on the skin fascinated me.
So much so, that I earned my undergraduate certificate in aromatherapy at the International Dermal Institute, and have worked with essential oils professionally for decades.
My essential oil kit has grown from those two tiny bottles to hundreds of different oils. I love to introduce my students to essential oils, so if you ever come to one of my live DIY skin care workshops, there is always one table filled with dozens upon dozens of bottles of essential oils to smell, experience, and add to your handmade products.
My goal is to help you choose the perfect essential oils for the face, no matter what your skin care goals. Oily and blemish-prone? Need anti-aging qualities?
There’s an essential oil for that.
How To Safely Use Essential Oils on the Face
Essential oils are powerful, my friend. They give amazing results when used correctly.
But use them incorrectly and watch out. Your face can quickly become red, irritated, and not happy.
So, when using essential oils on the face, you do have to be careful and follow a few safety guidelines.
1. Don’t use essential oils undiluted on the skin.
I know, I know, lots of essential oil gurus and sales ladies tell you to dab those oils directly on the skin. While you may be able to get away with doing this on the thick, tough skin on your feet and hands, your face is a different story.
Essential oils are highly concentrated, volatile plant extracts. They are much too strong to use undiluted on your delicate facial skin.
So, how do you use those lovely oils on your skin safely? You should…
2. Dilute essential oils in a carrier oil or skin care product (like a cleanser, cream, or serum).
For the face, essential oils should be used at about 0.5% dilution. This means you should use no more than 2 drops of essential oil into every 1 ounce product.
It doesn’t seem like a lot, does it? But trust me, essential oils are so concentrated that even this small amount is enough to deliver all their beneficial goodness without over-doing it.
Think of essential oils the same way you do seasoning for your food. A little bit does wonders but too much is overpowering (for your palate and your skin!)
3. Choose essential oils for your face carefully.
Not all essential oils are skin-safe; even less are gentle enough to be used on your face. Some can even cause severe burns when applied and then exposed to the sun. Yikes!
Chose your facial essential oils carefully to reduce the chance of unhappy, irritated skin.
Also, be aware that although essential oils are natural, they can cause skin irritation even when used correctly. Everyone’s skin is different, so what works for your bestie may not work for you.
Always monitor your skin, and if you notice any irritation stop using that particular essential oil
So, what are the best essential oils for the face? I’ve listed out the eight most effective essential oils for the face, and their unique skin care benefits, to help you choose the best oil for you.
(P.S. The links below are affiliate links. I personally use Rocky Mountain Oils and Plant Therapy. These brands are non-MLM, high quality, and reasonably priced.)
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This means I may receive a small commission—at no extra cost to you—from any sales made through these links. I only recommend products that I personally use and love!
If I could only choose one essential oil to use on the face for time and all eternity, it would be frankincense.
Frankincense is perfect for all skin types, as it helps to balance the skin’s normal barrier functions. It helps dry skin become less dry and oily skin less oily.
This ancient oil is a powerhouse anti-ager. Frankincense stimulates remodeling of the skin’s tissue, tightens and tones the skin. It’s rejuvenating, and gives a healthy glow.
It also has natural anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties, perfect for blemish-prone skin.
There are several different types of frankincense essential oil, depending on the species of plant it is made from. For skin care, frankincense carterii and frankincense frereana are the most beneficial.
I use a blend of frankincense and two other essential oils in my homemade rosehip and evening primrose facial cream. It’s the cream I use daily and it absolutely makes my skin glow.
My second favorite essential oil for the face has to be geranium. This is another I use in my daily facial cream blend. It’s divine.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a complete fan of geranium’s scent at first. But I stuck with this essential oil because its skin care benefits are awesome.
Geranium essential oil slows down the effects of aging. It tones and tightens the skin, reducing the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
It’s also repairs the skin and is anti-inflammatory, so it’s perfect for blemish-prone complexions.
Like frankincense, geranium is a remarkable balancer helping to normalize both dry and oily skin types.
By the way, the scent grew on me, and now I relish the sweetly herbaceous floral fragrance.
SHOP: Geranium essential oil
Of course we expect chamomile essential oil to be soothing to the skin, and it doesn’t disappoint. Chamomile promotes healing, reduces skin irritation, and calms inflammation. These qualities make it the perfect choice for sensitive and acne-prone skin.
But chamomile is also a power antioxidant. It speeds up cell regeneration, and can brighten and even out the complexion.
I love to put a few drops of this in a night cream, since chamomile promotes a restful night’s sleep.
Don’t use if: If you have a ragweed allergy you may want to stay away from chamomile. The plants are in the same family so can trigger an allergic reaction.
SHOP: Chamomile essential oil
Clary sage rounds out the essential oil blend I use in my daily moisturizer.
This earthy, herbaceous essential oil promotes healthy circulation and tissue development. With regular use, clary sage helps create a radiant complexion.
Like some of the aforementioned oils, clary sage helps balance oil production of the skin, so it’s good for both oily and dry skin types.
This relaxing and sedating essential oil also helps reduce inflammation.
A caveat here, if you don’t like the scent of patchouli you probably won’t care for clary sage. I’m obsessed with patchouli, so clary sage smells a-maz-ing to me, but I know a lot of my students say it’s stinky!
Don’t use if: Avoid clary sage during pregnancy. If you have sensitive skin, test a small amount of product with clary sage on your arm first to check for reactions before using on your face.
SHOP: Clary sage essential oil
As the first essential oil I became acquainted with, I have a bit of an affinity for lavender.
The word lavender comes from the Latin lavare, which means “to wash.” So, it’s no surprise that lavender essential oil is naturally cleansing.
Lavender also soothes skin irritations, and is incredibly healing.
For acne breakouts, lavender is superb. I know tea tree oil gets all the glory when it comes to natural acne remedy, but I much prefer lavender. It reduces microbial growth that contributes to inflamed breakouts, but it’s much less harsh than tea tree.
Lavender also protects the skin from early aging. It works especially well with frankincense to boost effectiveness of both oils.
Don’t use if: Surprisingly, lavender sensitivity is fairly common. So, take care if you’ve never used lavender before. If you notice redness or irritation, stop using it.
SHOP: Lavender essential oil
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The heady fragrance of rose reminds me of summertime. Rose is a gem in facial care. It adds a bit of luxury and sunshine to all of your homemade facial products.
Rose’s skin care claim to fame is its remarkable toning and firming qualities. It’s a brilliant anti-aging essential oil as it reduces free radical damage.
Rose is also gently anti-microbial and healing, so it’s good for acne. It has astringent properties so it helps reduce oily skin.
But hang on, my dry skinned friends! Rose also helps dry skin build moisture naturally.
All of that is what’s good about rose essential oil. Here’s the bad: rose essential oil is exorbitantly expensive. Like, $200 for a teensy tiny 5 ml bottle.
So if you find giant 5 ounce bottle for $14.99, it’s actually synthetic fragrance oil rather than pure rose. Synthetic rose oil doesn’t have any therapeutic benefits for the skin, although it may smell really nice.
But if you want to use rose in your DIY skin care without taking out a mortgage on your house, you do have options.
Instead of straight-up rose essential oil, you can get a blend of rose essential oil diluted in a carrier oil such as coconut or jojoba oil.
Another option is to buy 100% natural rose water. This will give you many of the benefits of rose essential oil with a much more affordable price tag. Spritz the floral water over your skin as a toner, or use it to activate handmade facial masks (like this fabulous chocolate rose facial mask recipe.)
Ylang ylang (say ee-lang ee-lang) is extracted from a large tropical flower native to the Philippines. Its heady floral fragrance is exotic, making this oil a regular addition to fancy perfumes.
But this essential oil doesn’t just smell exquisite, it’s a beautiful essential oil for the face.
Like lavender, ylang ylang has cleansing qualities. It balances oil production and is especially good for oily skin and large pores. But even normal to dry skin types can benefit from this one.
One of my favorite things about ylang ylang? It relaxes tight muscles, releasing their pull on the skin and softening lines on the face (like those deep frown lines). It also fights signs of aging by stimulating skin cell regeneration.
Don’t use if: If your skin is sensitive, ylang ylang may cause skin irritation. Do a patch test first before using in a facial product. Also, ylang ylang can trigger headaches in sensitive people.
Before we go any further with this essential oil, I feel like I have to tell you—carrot seed essential oil stinks. Like really stinks.
I know some aromatherapists who fully appreciate the earthy, musky scent of carrot seed essential oil. I am not one of them. To me it smells like an old sock unearthed from the garden after a couple of years buried.
So why in the world would I recommend this one? It’s good for your skin. So, it’s worth the funky smell.
Carrot seed essential oil stimulates circulation, giving your skin a healthy glow.
It’s most often used as an anti-aging essential oil. Traditionally, carrot seed essential oil is credited for being skin regenerating, toning, and healing.
Carrot seed essential oil helps reduce uneven skin tone, and may improve skin elasticity. It’s a wonderful essential oil for all skin types, but is especially good for dry skin.
Blending this essential oil with another is a must, in my opinion. It works well with the apple-sweet scent of chamomile. It also blends with rose, frankincense, lavender and ylang ylang.
Don’t use if: Avoid this essential oil during pregnancy.