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Essential oils are plant extracts, most commonly obtained by distillation of raw material plant (leaves, flowers, wood, bark, roots, seeds). You can read more about essential oils in my article about Essential Oils To Make Soap and Good Essential Oil Brands – a Guide, where I extensively explain what are essential oils.

In this article I am going to focus more on its strengths to be used in natural cosmetics, like creams, lotions, balms or salves and many other products (apart from soaps), where chemical reactions are much milder or even non-existent, and where the essential oil can be used with its full power.

It is important to highlight that essential oils quality is critical to fully benefit from its properties. And be attentive to not purchase a fragrant oil as an essential oil, they are far from having the same medicinal properties, only being able to replicate the aroma. You can find more about how and where to purchase essential oils in this article: Good Essential Oil Brands – A Guide.

I am also going to clarify whether its medicinal properties are science-based or not, as the internet is filled with unfounded or flat-out false claims. The general lack of study in natural products, and the fact that the essential oil industry is a multimillion-dollar one already, both help to keep this “mystic aura” of “miraculous remedy” as truth.

I use essential oils mostly for its scent, although it makes some sense that they possess some medicinal properties. But let’s clarify.

Essential Oils For Natural Cosmetics Chart

Essential oils are widely used as fragrances in natural cosmetics, allying their scents to medicinal properties. Unlike soaps, where the essential oil fragrance tend to fade, the scent of essential oils keeps strong throughout the usage of the product. And the essential oil’s medicinal properties are imparted into it as well.

Below you can find a chart with essential oils’ properties and what quantities you may use, grouped by skin type, to help you formulate your own products according to your skin needs. 

Be aware that many essential oils lack enough scientific studies to backup medicinal properties’ claims, so I make a distinction between science-based known properties and what is said on the net. I am not claiming whether these statements are true or false, only that there are not enough studies to confirm or deny them.

Is it strange that an essential oil might work for you but is not backed up by science? Not at all.

There is no standardization of essential oil products used across research studies. As an example, there is a big difference between true and spike lavender oil. Furthermore, the chemical composition of essential oils varies depending on several factors such as extraction techniques used, the country of origin, the climate, the soil type, and the age of the plant.

So, feel free to enjoy your essential oils, by its scent, or by its medicinal properties, even if it’s not proven that they work.

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Essential oils for dry skin

Dry skin usually occur during certain times of the year, or in harsher climate zones. You may even have dry skin naturally from age or reduced activity in the sebaceous (oil) glands in your pores. Dry skin can be reduced with creams and moisturizers, but some essential oils may also help.

Essential OilScent Notes and % UsageProperties
science-based
Properties from common knowledge

Lavender
Floral and sweet scent.

Middle Note

1%-5% of oils

“Lavender has over 2000 published studies and around 200 clinical trials.” -From HealthyButSmart.com, lavender oil article.

“(…) antibacterial, antifungal and effective for burns and insect
bites (…) said to encourage
cell growth and so should be used to help with mending
and regeneration in all kinds of skin ailments” – From Plants Used In Cosmetics.
“May help balance out moisture levels in your skin. It’s an anti-inflammatory that can reduce redness and a natural hydrator that can repair dry skin without making it too greasy. [Also good for sensitive skin]” – From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

I love lavender scent and I use it on my facial cream or body lotion, and also on soaps.

Chamomile
Floral and sweet scent.

Middle Note

1%-5% of oils
Chamomile has 87 published studies, 69 of decent quality.

“(…) the ability of chamomile to reduce inflammation is (…) due to the presence of flavonoids. (…) gentle
analgesic effect. (…) antiinflammatory, antierythema and antipruritic, at the same time as being
gentle, soothing and antiseptic” – From Plants Used In Cosmetics.
See also this article.
Chamomile oil contains azulene, known for increasing moisture and reducing inflammation. It’s also helps with wound healing and skin irritation like atopic dermatitis. However, you may want to avoid it if you have ragweed allergies, as chamomile may be a trigger. ” – From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

I didn’t use this essential oil yet.
SandalwoodSoft, warm, and woodsy scent.

Base note

1%-5% of oils
“Although concrete medical proof is lacking, sandalwood oil may have many health benefits. More research is needed to confirm the health benefits of sandalwood oil.” – from HealthLine.com, Sandalwood article.
See also this article.

Sandalwood is so expensive due to high-demand and raw material scarcity.
Sandalwood contains compounds known for reducing inflammation while promoting moisture in the skin. It also has good anti-oxidant properties and is adequate for sensitive skin.” – From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

I like using this oil as a scent fixator.

Essential oils for oily skin

If you have oily skin, it means that your sebaceous glands are in overdrive, creating excessive oil on the surface of your skin. Humidity, heat, and hormones can make oily skin worse. The following essential oils may help with oily skin issues.

Essential OilScent Notes and % UsageProperties science-basedProperties from common knowledge

Rosemary
Sharp and herbal scent.

Middle Note

1%-5% of oils
There are over 200 publications related with rosemary oil (at PubMed).

Best known from folk medicine to help with hair growth.

Hair conditioner, anti-oxidant and good to reduce acne, as it inhibits acne bacteria.

Info taken from Plants Used In Cosmetics and this article.
Rosemary oil is noted for its anti-inflammatory, stimulating, and analgesic properties. (…) may help keep excess sebum at bay.(…) it can help with both greasy hair and dandruff, and may even stimulate hair growth.” – From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

This is one of my favorite essential oils. I usually make a conditioner with rosemary infused water and essential oil.

Clary Sage
Deeply earthy and slightly floral scent

Middle, Top Note

1%-2% of oils
There are 112 publications about clary sage.
Antibacterial agent, inhibits the growth of staphylococcus, which can cause skin and soft tissue infections.

Info taken from HealthyButSmart.com clary sage oil article.
See also this article.
“(…)clary sage is known as a go-to essential oil for controlling excess sebum. (…) may also help control acne and reduce the appearance of wrinkles in mature skin”- From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

Pleasant scent, but doesn’t say a lot to me. May be that its properties are overstated.
FrankincenseSweet, spicy and woodsy scent.

Base Note

1%-5% of oils
“Frankincense oil has  612 articles and 43 clinical trial publications. (…) there is a growing interest in this traditional medicine of the East which is believed to have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anxiolytic and healing effects on coughs.(…) Many of the medical, quasimedical, or cosmetic claims made implicitly or explicitly for B serrata products are not supported by the available evidence.” – From HealthyButSmart.com,
frankincense oil post.
“Although research of frankincense in skin care is lacking, advocates say it can help alleviate oily and acne-prone skin while providing lipids for aging skin. Also good for sensitive skin and age spots.” – From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

I’ve added frankincense to my eye serum due to being an anti-wrinkle, but it may be that the anti-wrinkle effect is much more due to the other oils I’ve used. Still, frankincense has a very nice, soft scent.
GeraniumFloral, earthy, strong and deep scent, resembles rose.

Middle Note

1%-5% of oils
“There are 586 scholarly publications related to geranium which include only 17 clinical trials.
There is very little scientific research on geranium oil.” – From HealthyButSmart.com, geranium oil post.

“Geranium oil is a cleansing, toning and sharpening oil and is so helpful with those problems that come
with greasy, over-oily skin, acne, congested skin and
eczema.” – From Plants Used In Cosmetics
“With its alkaline properties, geranium is said to help balance out skin oils. Such alkalinity makes geranium a key addition to soaps, and it’s helpful in evening out hydration levels. “- From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

I really like the scent of rose geranium oil, and I use it on soaps, and my facial and body creams.

Neroli
Floral-honey scent. Orange blossom.

Top, Middle and Base Notes

1%-5% of oils
Only 84 published articles found at PubMed.
“Neroli oil has not been studied extensively. However, several studies (…) indicate that it has a beneficial effect on stress, anxiety, and pain response. It’s typically administered via aromatherapy.” – From HealthLine.com, neroli oil article.

One of the most expensive essential oils to due its production: requires bitter orange blossoms and has a very low yield.
Neroli is an essential oil that contains citral. It may help balance out sebum without drying your skin.”- From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

Ok, this is also one of my favorite essential oil scents. I purchase a cheap version which is a blend between neroli essential oil and a fragrance. Not going to fool myself, I use this one because of its scent. Period.

Essential oils for sensitive skin

Sensitive skin can be either dry or oily, and can sometimes occur alongside allergies, eczema, and other skin conditions.

To be honest, if you have sensitive skin, my advice is to not use any essential oil at all.

If you still wish to give it a try, try one of these, but make a skin test first.

Essential OilScent Notes and % UsageProperties science-basedProperties from common knowledge

Lavender
Floral and sweet scent.

Middle Note

1%-5% of oils
“(…) antibacterial, antifungal and effective for burns and insect
bites (…) said to encourage
cell growth and so should be used to help with mending
and regeneration in all kinds of skin ailments” – From Plants Used In osmetics.
This article Essential oils for skin from Healthline.com indicates lavender essential oil for sensitive skin.

My facial skin is somehow sensitive. I’ve used lavender essential oil on my facial cream with no negative results.

Frankincense
Sweet, spicy and woodsy scent.

Base Note

1%-5% of oils
“Frankincense oil has  612 articles and 43 clinical trial publications. (…). Many of the medical, quasimedical, or cosmetic claims made implicitly or explicitly for B serrata products are not supported by the available evidence.” – From HealthyButSmart.com,
frankincense oil post.
This article Essential oils for skin from Healthline.com indicates frankincense essential oil for sensitive skin.

I’ve used frankincense in my eye serum. It is known that the skin around your eyes is very fragile and sensitive. I can tell you that if frankincense essential oil is not doing its anti-wrinkle role there, it is also not doing any harm.
SandalwoodSoft, warm, and woodsy scent.

Base note

1%-5% of oils
“Although concrete medical proof is lacking, sandalwood oil may have many health benefits. More research is needed to confirm the health benefits of sandalwood oil.” – from HealthLine.com, Sandalwood article.
See also this article.


I like using this oil as a scent fixator. I’ve not used it yet in leave-on products (creams, lotions, etc.).

It’s probably not worth it, as it is so expensive, but if you love its scent go for it.

Essential oils for acne-prone skin

With acne, it’s crucial that you remove excess oils and bacteria without drying the skin, as this can lead to increased oil production. Inflammation can be another contributing factor to acne breakouts.

Essential OilScent Notes and % UsageProperties science-basedProperties from common knowledge

Rosemary
Sharp and herbal scent.

Middle Note

1%-5% of oils
Hair conditioner, anti-oxidant and good to reduce acne, as it inhibits acne bacteria.

Info taken from Plants Used In Cosmetics and this article.
Rosemary oil is noted for its anti-inflammatory, stimulating, and analgesic properties. (…) may help keep excess sebum at bay.” – From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin
FrankincenseSweet, spicy and woodsy scent.

Base Note

1%-5% of oils
“Frankincense oil has  612 articles and 43 clinical trial publications.(…) Many of the medical, quasimedical, or cosmetic claims made implicitly or explicitly for B serrata products are not supported by the available evidence.” – From HealthyButSmart.com,
frankincense oil post.
“Although research of frankincense in skin care is lacking, advocates say it can help alleviate oily and acne-prone skin while providing lipids for aging skin.” – From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

Lemon
Citrusy lemon scent.

Top Note

1%-5% of oils
There are around 300 publications about lemon oil, and around 9000 related with lemon essential oil.

“(…)lemon oil (…) is endowed with a strong antioxidant
activity and that it is capable of inhibiting free radical-
mediated reactions, evaluated by both in vitro and in
vivo biochemical systems” – From Plants Used In Cosmetics
Lemon oil, derived from the peel of the citrus fruit, can help fight inflammation and free radicals that can contribute to acne and photoaging.”- From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

Be careful with using citrusy essential oils in lip balms (a real shame) as they make skin photosensitive.
LemongrassStrong “lemony” scent.

Top Note

1%-5% of oils
There are 297 published articles in PubMed related with lemongrass oil.

“Some research has shown that lemongrass essential oil has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and astringent abilities. Still, more studies are needed on humans before it can be recommended as a mainstream treatment.” – From Healthline.com,
lemongrass oil article.
“Lemongrass also has natural astringent properties. These can help fight pimples by acting as an antimicrobial while also removing excess dead skin cells.”- From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

I was really surprised with lemongrass essential oil. It resembles to a lemony scent. I’ve made a shampoo using lemongrass, and its scent is very lasting.
Tea TreeSharp, camphorous, and medicinal scent.

Top Note

1%-5% of oils
There are over 5000 published articles in PubMed related to tea tree oil.

Helps to control dandruff. Good at reducing acne, as it inhibits acne bacteria.

Info taken from Plants Used In Cosmetics and this article.
” (…) tea tree oil is one of the most notable antiseptics in alternative medicine. It helps fight bacteria and inflammation, both of which can contribute to acne breakouts. ” – From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

Camphorous scent, very good, strong and powerful. Careful to use it in leave-in products though, I had no allergic reaction, but it burned…

Essential oils for pain relief

Another consideration is the pain that can sometimes occur with skin rashes. In this case, you might consider the following essential oils that have pain-relieving properties:

Essential OilScent Notes and % UsageProperties science-basedProperties from common knowledge

Peppermint
Sharp and filled with herbal menthol scent.

Middle and Top Note

1%-2% of oils
Menthol content, causes a cold feeling
Peppermint oil has 1221 articles and 187 clinical trial publications.

Peppermint oil is proven to kill several bacteria and improves the perception of airflow in your nasal cavity. See this article, this article and this article from PubMed.

Peppermint contain menthol, which can help fight pain in sore muscles. See this article.
“(…) The natural menthol content provides an analgesic effect on the skin. It cools down hot rashes, too.” – From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

Peppermint oli smells deliciously of pure mint, and it does have a physical cooling effect when applied on skin, so be careful with dosage.
WintergreenSharp, sweet, fruity, medicinal scent

Top Note

1%-2% of oils
Wintergreen oil has  97 articles and 13 clinical trial publications.

“Methyl salicylate, the active ingredient in wintergreen oil, can be toxic, so care should always be taken when using wintergreen oil. (…) Many of the benefits of wintergreen oil are currently based off anecdotal evidence. More research needs to be performed (…)” – From Healthcare.com wintergreen oil, also see this article.
“Containing methyl salicylate, wintergreen has similar properties to peppermint. It may act as a soothing agent on painful skin rashes.” – From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

I have no experience with this essential oil, but due to its toxicity, I would avoid to use it, especially because it’s not reccomended for children or pregnant women.

Eucalyptus
Sharp and powerful resinous scent associated with medicinal products.

Top Note

1%-5% of oils
There are more than 5000 publications and 513 clinical trial publications about eucalyptus oil.

Known as a folk medicin for cough and as pain reliever, “It has antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties, though Chang says more studies are needed to confirm these skin benefits. ” – From Byrdie.com, eucalyptus oil.
Eucalyptus is another oil noted for its pain-relieving qualities. It may also provide moisture to itchy, painful skin rashes.”- From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

Eucalyptus essential oil is another one on my favorite’s list. Like rosemary, is camphorous, balsamic and smells of clean air and forests. If you rub a couple of drops in your hand and cover your nose with them, you will feel the “shot” of a nasal anti-congestionant.
PatchouliEarthy, dark and powerful scent

Base Note

1%-5% of oils
There are 530 articles and 80 clinical trial publications about patchouli oil.

“While much of the evidence for the benefits of patchouli oil is anecdotal, research is beginning to show that it does have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and pain-relieving properties.” – From Healthline.com, patchouli oil.
Patchouli oil is known for reducing both pain and inflammation. These qualities are especially helpful for treating eczema rashes. ” – From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

I use this essential oil as a scent fixator, it goes well with rose, or geranium rose.

Essential oils for mature skin and anti-aging

Your skin naturally loses elasticity and collagen as you age, which can lead to sagging, fine lines, and wrinkles. The following essential oils have been studied for their potential anti-aging benefits.

Essential OilScent Notes and % UsageProperties
science-based
Properties from common knowledge

Rose
Floral, rose scent.

Middle and Base Note

0.2% of oils (with a 10% diluted version, you can use up to 2%)
There are 6718 article reviews and 577 clinical trials publications about rose absolute oil.

“Numerous studies on the pharmacological properties of rose oil have been done in animals, but studies in humans are few. In this study, it was observed that rose oil had physiological and psychological relaxation, analgesic and anti-anxiety effects. ” – From ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, see this article.

“With antioxidants like vitamins A and C, rose oil can help promote skin cell turnover, which often slows down with age. In turn, this could create younger-looking skin with fewer lines.”- From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

Believing that rose essential oil has some similar properties to an infusion of water with rose petals, then I can assure you that it works well on mature skin.
MyrrhWoody, earthy and a bit balsamic scent.

Base Note.

1%-5% of oils
“Myrrh oil has been used to kill harmful bacteria long before scientists discovered that microbes cause contagious illnesses. (…) Human research is needed to confirm skin and healing benefits.” – From Healthline.com, Myrrh oil“Historically, myrrh was used by Egyptian women for anti-aging skin care regimens. This antioxidant-rich oil is thought to promote circulation, creating brighter, more refined looking skin.”- From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

I don’t have any experience with this essential oil.

Lavender
Floral and sweet scent.

Middle Note

1%-5% of oils
“(…) antibacterial, antifungal (…) said to encourage
cell growth and so should be used to help with mending
and regeneration in all kinds of skin ailments” – From Plants Used In osmetics.
This article Essential oils for skin from Healthline.com indicates lavender essential oil for mature skin.

I use lavender essential oil on my facial cream. But are the result due to the essential oil or the oils in the formula? I tend to believe to be the latest.

Frankincense
Sweet, spicy and woodsy scent.

Base Note

1%-5% of oils
“Frankincense oil has  612 articles and 43 clinical trial publications. (…). Many of the medical, quasimedical, or cosmetic claims made implicitly or explicitly for B serrata products are not supported by the available evidence.” – From HealthyButSmart.com,
frankincense oil post.
This article Essential oils for skin from Healthline.com indicates frankincense essential oil for mature skin and as anti-aging.

I’ve used frankincense in my eye serum. But I tend to believe the results are due to the other oils in the formula.
NeroliFloral-honey scent. Orange blossom.

Top, Middle and Base Notes

1%-5% of oils
Only 84 published articles found at PubMed. “Neroli oil has not been studied extensively. However, several studies (…) indicate that it has a beneficial effect on stress, anxiety, and pain response. It’s typically administered via aromatherapy.” – From HealthLine.com, neroli oil article.

One of the most expensive essential oils to due its production: requires bitter orange blossoms and has a very low yield.


Neroli is an essential oil that contains citral. It may help balance out sebum without drying your skin.”- From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

Just bear in mind that there are no known facts thats this oil is effective as anti-aging.

Clary Sage
Deeply earthy and slightly floral scent

Middle, Top Note

1%-2% of oils
There are 112 publications about clary sage.
Antibacterial agent, inhibits the growth of staphylococcus, which can cause skin and soft tissue infections.

Info taken from HealthyButSmart.com clary sage oil article.
See also this article.
“(…)clary sage (…) may also help control acne and reduce the appearance of wrinkles in mature skin”- From Healthline.com, Essential oils for skin

Bear in mind that there are no known studies proving clary sage to be effective for anti-aging.
PatchouliEarthy, dark and powerful scent

Base Note

1%-5% of oils
There are 530 articles and 80 clinical trial publications about patchouli oil.

“While much of the evidence for the benefits of patchouli oil is anecdotal, research is beginning to show that it does have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and pain-relieving properties.” – From Healthline.com, patchouli oil.
This article Essential oils for skin from Healthline.com indicates patchouli oil for mature skin and as anti-aging.

I use this essential oil as a scent fixator, no experience apart from using it in soap.

Conclusion

If you spend some time on the internet researching about essential oils, you will see a lot of contradictory information, namely between scientific claims and bloggers that promote the usage of essential oils, most of the time for aromatherapy.

I use essential oils as they are a natural way to scent natural products, but I am in conflict about its true medicinal properties. I am not saying they don’t exist, but that they are unknown/unproven in terms of effectiveness in human health and skincare. For sure, its therapeutical properties are overstated in some websites.

Again, if you have sensitive skin, I would advise against the usage of any fragrance at all, as they are filled with allergens, natural or not.

Then what to do? Use your best judgement. The usage of fragrances, natural or synthetic, as long as the product is classified as adequate for skincare, and as long as you don’t have allergies to its ingredients, is also valid. Most of all, be sure to purchase good quality products. And products with information on the net, where you can consult the list of ingredients.

Use fragrances because you like the aroma, most of all. In the end, the choice is yours.

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