Essential oils are the pure essence of a plant. They are extracted from the seeds, roots, barks, stems, leaves, or flowers of a plant by a process of steam distillation. The oil that is extracted is very concentrated and potent.
The oils give plants their unique scent, but they also protect plants from disease and predators, as well as assisting with the pollination process that ensures their survival. They aren’t only helpful for plants though, they can bring us plenty of benefits too. They have been used in cooking, in beauty therapies, and in medicines for many years. Essential oils are also widely used in aromatherapy practices, as once inhaled, they can easily reach the limbic system of the brain which controls emotion, and mood, via the smell receptors in the nose. This makes them very useful for bringing about benefits in relation to altering mood and stress levels. Some oils have been proven to be useful for depression and anxiety, and other mood disorders.
There are over 3000 known essential oils, and their composition varies depending on how they are harvested, what time of year it is, and how they are processed. This all impacts on the purity and potency of an oil. Generally, the purer the oil, the more potent the benefits. Oils can be used alone or as part of a blend, depending on the desired benefits of the user.
How Essential Oils Can Be Used
Essential oils are absorbed quickly by the smell receptors in the nose and travel to the limbic system of the brain, which controls mood, emotion, and memory. This is why oils are so popular in aromatherapy. Some oils are used for boosting mood and some are used for calming purposes, among many other things. Oils can be put into a diffuser so they disperse in a room, or they can be inhaled directly from a handkerchief or from the bottle. If you mix them with water, they make a good room or linen spray. They are also effective for cleaning household surfaces, especially if they are citrus-based. They not only cut through grime, but they will leave your house smelling lovely too. Use them on to clean showers, toilets, and worktops.
Many oils have a long history of use in cooking or baking. As well as giving food added taste and aroma, they can provide many health benefits, in a very concentrated dose.
Taking an oil as a supplement gives you a very concentrated dose of benefits, but always be sure to follow instructions on dosage, as some oils can be highly toxic in large amounts. Natural does not mean safe, and the active compounds in essential oils can act just like those in a drug. Seek advice of a suitably qualified professional before taking any oils internally. You can use oils instead of dried herbs and spices in cooking, or you can add them to milk, smoothies, and soups. Remember that a little oil goes a long way though, so start off using a small amount.
Essential oils can easily penetrate the skin. They are widely used in massage for this reason, and when diluted with a carrier oil, they can be dispersed in the body more easily and bring about considerable local or systemic benefits. Always do a patch test on the skin of your upper arm to check for sensitivity, and start with a small amount of oil at first. Never apply oil to the ears or near the eyes, or to any areas of sensitive or broken skin. Remember, too, that some oils can increase sensitivity to the sun, so use them with caution. This is especially true of citrus based oils.
Try adding a few drops of oil to your bath, to a hot or cold compress, or to your favourite body lotion.
Keeping your skin healthy doesn’t have to be too time-consuming or expensive. Here’s how you can get great looking skin:
Smoking causes premature ageing of the skin, and along with sun exposure, is the most common cause of skin damage. Smoking narrows the blood vessels in the outer layers of skin, which decreases blood circulation. This deprives the skin of nutrients and oxygen so it tends to appear dull.
Smoking also damages the collagen and elastin in the skin, which give your skin its strength and elasticity. This is why you will notice that many smokers have heavily lined skin.
Ask your doctor about treatments that are available to help you to quit smoking. It’s the best choice you can make for your skin and overall health.
Be gentle with your skin
Don’t have hot showers or baths as they can deplete your skin of its natural oils.
Don’t use harsh cleansers or soaps for the same reason. Use a mild cleanser, which is appropriate for your skin type.
Pat your skin dry gently after you bathe or shower, and apply a moisturiser, ideally one that has an SPF. This will seal moisture in the skin.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet will show in your skin. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein in your diet. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water!
Learn to manage stress and to find time for things that you enjoy. Stress makes skin sensitive and prone to breakouts. Relax and your skin will thank you.
Protect it from the sun
One of the best ways you can take care of your skin is to protect it from the sun. A lifetime of exposure to the sun’s UV rays can cause wrinkles, age spots and other skin problems, as well as increasing your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Always use sunscreen, with an SPF of at least 15. This applies even when it is cloudy, or even in the winter when the sun’s rays can be surprisingly strong. Apply sunscreen liberally, and reapply it every 2 hours, or more often than that if you are swimming or sweating heavily.
Try and avoid the sun when it’s at its hottest, between 11am and 3pm. If you must go outside, wear protective clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat.
Common skin problems
Good skin care habits are just one half of the equation. Ageing, exposure to the sun, and other environmental factors can take its toll on the skin. Some skin flaws are also down to genetics or even bacteria or viruses. Here are some of the most common skin complaints.
Acne is a common skin condition, which usually occurs in the teenage years due to hormonal fluctuations, though it can occur at other times in life. Hormones cause oil producing glands to become overactive, and the excess oil clogs pores and hair follicles, which results in blackheads and whiteheads.
The clogged follicles become inflamed, causing pimples, nodules, and cysts. Although acne usually goes away in time, it can leave scars. There are several treatment options available including topical ointments and lotions, and medications.
Hyperpigmentation occurs when brown patches appear on the skin as a person ages or as a result of sun damage. The patches are also known as “liver spots,” and they usually appear on the face, neck, hands, feet, and legs. Laser treatment or targeted creams can reduce the appearance of pigmentation.
Pores are tiny openings in the surface of the skin which release oils to keep the skin hydrated. When pores become larger, they can trap oil and dead skin cells, which leads to breakouts. There are treatment options such as topical solutions and dermatological treatments available.
Rosacea presents as redness and swelling in the face. It can appear at any stage of life and usually begins as flushing. It tends to get worse over time, and doesn’t really get better on its own. The condition can be treated with medication, topical treatments, and laser therapy.
Wrinkles and lines on the skin are among the most common facial skin problems people experience as they age. Lines and wrinkles tend to appear where the skin naturally folds creases, and the creases become permanent with time. Excessive sun exposure and smoking can make lines and wrinkles worse and can cause the skin to age prematurely. Creams can temporarily improve the look of the skin, but the only way to get rid of lines and wrinkles is usually through cosmetic injections and surgery.
Rosacea is a common long-term skin condition that mostly affects the face. It can be controlled with long-term treatment, but the very noticeable change in physical appearance can have a very negative emotional effect on sufferers.
Symptoms of rosacea
Symptoms often begin with episodes of flushing, where the skin turns red for a short time. Other symptoms appear as the condition gets worse, including:
burning and stinging sensations in the skin
small blood vessels in the skin become noticeable
Rosacea is known as a relapsing condition, which means that there can be bad flare ups at times, but there are times when the symptoms are less severe.
Visiting your doctor
If you notice any of the above symptoms, see your doctor, as early treatment of rosacea can help to stop the condition becoming a lot worse. Your doctor will look at your skin, ask questions about your symptoms and whether there were any possible triggers for your symptoms. You may get a blood test or you might be sent for a biopsy or scraping of your skin to confirm the diagnosis.
Causes of rosacea
The exact cause of rosacea is unknown, although a number of possible triggers have been identified which include:
exposure to sunlight
hot or cold weather
alcohol and caffeine
certain foods, such as spicy foods
There’s currently no cure for rosacea, but there are treatments that can help control the symptoms.
Long-term treatment is usually necessary, although there may be periods where your symptoms aren’t so bad so you can usually stop treatment temporarily.
For most sufferers, treatment involves a combination of self-help measures and medication, particularly:
avoiding triggers, such as alcohol, spicy food, and caffeine
creams and gels, which are essentially topical medications applied directly to the skin to reduce spots and redness
oral medications in the form of tablets or capsules that can help control symptoms in more severe cases.
In some cases, laser and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment can be helpful. This involve beams of light being aimed at the visible blood vessels in the skin to shrink them and make them less visible.
Living with the condition
Any long-term health condition can have a negative effect on your psychological wellbeing, but rosacea is especially troublesome as it affects your appearance. This can change how you feel about yourself and your confidence to interact with others.
Many people with rosacea report that the condition affects their self-esteem, and that it makes them feel embarrassed and frustrated.
Even though it’s not possible to cure rosacea, the symptoms are controllable, and sticking to your treatment plan and avoiding triggers is the best way to manage the condition.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil is one of the gentlest oils, so that’s why it’s one of the few that can be applied directly onto the skin without the need for dilution. It soothes and calms painful, inflamed and red skin associated with rosacea as well as hydrating dry and dehydrated skin which often occurs with the condition.
Chamomile Essential Oil
Chamomile is a known skin soother, and it’s one of the best essential oils for rosacea. It has potent anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce inflammation and redness, and its antibacterial properties protect the skin and pores from any microbes that might worsen the rosacea. As well as using chamomile essential oil, chamomile tea bags and toners can also be applied to the inflamed and reddened skin to soothe and cool it.
Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea tree oil is well-known for its antiseptic properties, and it helps to gently and deeply cleanse skin that has been affected by rosacea. It gets rid of microbes, germs, excess oil that is clogging the pores, and a type of mite that is thought to be a contributor towards rosacea.
Geranium Essential Oil
Geranium is an excellent essential oil for rosacea because it has powerful anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-fungal and astringent properties. It reduces skin inflammation and redness as well as regulating oil production so that skin doesn’t get too oily or dry, which aggravates the condition.
Sandalwood Essential Oil
This oil is excellent for skin and hair care, as it has moisturising properties that can help soften and hydrate dry skin affected by rosacea. Sandalwood essential oil also has potent anti-ageing properties that can help to prevent fine lines and wrinkles.
Rose Essential Oil
Rose essential oil is extracted from fresh rose petals. It smells gorgeous and it’s one of the most beneficial oils for the skin.
Rose essential oil has powerful anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and astringent properties. It balances oil production in skin affected by rosacea and it can also calm redness.
Helichrysum Essential Oil
Although widely known for its effective wound-healing and scar-fading properties, helichrysum essential oil is also one of the best essential oils for rosacea and other inflammatory skin conditions due to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It’s very soothing and calming even for sensitive skin types like those affected by rosacea.
Neroli Essential Oil
Neroli essential oil has a sweet floral scent, and it’s often used in skin care for its ability to rejuvenate and brighten mature and dry skin. The essential oil has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, disinfectant and antiseptic properties. It also helps to naturally broken capillaries which is one of the symptoms of rosacea, and one of the contributors to skin redness.
Oregano Essential Oil
Oregano is a powerful antifungal and antibacterial oil. Oregano oil capsules have been found to be effective against rosacea because they kill off microbes that can worsen the condition. It can also be used topically to disinfect and purify the affected skin. Since oregano essential oil is very potent and can cause skin sensitivity, make sure you dilute it with a carrier oil before you use it, in a ratio of 1-3 drops of oil to a tablespoon of carrier oil.
Sea Buckthorn Berry Essential Oil
This oil is well known for its healing properties, and it’s also a potent anti-inflammatory. It’s also very effective for use on sun damaged and sunburnt skin. It promotes skin cell regeneration, reduces swelling and redness, and softens thickened skin. The oil is also a potent antimicrobial agent which can help to control and contain the symptoms of the condition.
Always check with your doctor to make sure essential oils are safe and appropriate for you if you suffer from hypertension, skin allergies or any other significant medical conditions. Only use 100% pure and high quality essential oils.
Always dilute oils with a suitable carrier oil as a rule, and even then, do a patch test on the skin of your upper arm to make sure that it doesn’t cause a reaction.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and would like to use essential oils for rosacea, speak to your doctor first as most essential oils are not safe to use during pregnancy or when you are breastfeeding.