During the last years, and especially in a pandemic, the use of essential oils as an alternative treatment to care for the skin has grown considerably.
Experts warn that this can represent a problem, since these products should never work as alternative therapies, but complementary, in addition, their misuse can cause serious skin damage. Learn here the effects of essential oils on the skin and how to use them correctly.
What are essential oils?
In ancient times, essential oils used to be used for medicinal purposes in the regions where China, Egypt, or India are currently found.
Essential oils are products that are obtained from vegetable raw materials, through distillation processes with water or steam, or mechanically. There are many types that depend on where they are extracted:
- Berries: like cloves.
- Crusts: like cinnamon.
- flowers: like jasmine, lavender, chamomile, daffodil or rose.
- Fruits: like lime or lemon.
- Leaves and thorns: like eucalyptus, oregano or pine.
- Woods: like cedar or sandalwood.
- Estate: like lily.
- Resins: like frankincense, myrrh or turpentine.
- Seeds: like caraway.
Depending on the type of skin or skin problem suffered, certain essential oils are usually recommended:
- For acne: tea tree, cinnamon, eucalyptus, lavender or mint.
- For wrinkles: jasmine, jojoba, myrrh or rose.
- For oily skin: geranium, frankincense, rosemary or sage.
- For dry skin: lavender, chamomile or sandalwood.
- For sensitive skin: frankincense, lavender or sandalwood.
What are its effects on the skin?
Despite the fact that essential oils have a good reputation, which is promoted mainly by social networks, many experts (and even users) have reported adverse effects that the misuse of these products can cause.
The main problem that has been reported regarding the use of essential oils on the skin is contact dermatitis or eczema. Also blisters, redness, swelling, severe phototoxicity or photosensitivity, chemical burns, clogged pores, and even headaches.
For example, one of the most popular essential oils (and with the most side effects), tea tree, is often used against fungal infections due to its antimicrobial properties. However, its misuse and excessive use can end up favoring the development of an infection caused by fungi, called tinea incognita.
The use of these products makes it difficult for health professionals to correctly diagnose the skin problem, and, even more important, to find solutions.
But why do these effects occur? Experts explain that there are many causes, such as the presence of unknown contaminants during the manufacturing process, which end up causing allergies, or over-application, which causes a part of the oil to reach the bloodstream.
However, the main culprit is usually the undiluted use of these products. To process these oils, large amounts of vegetable raw material are necessary, so the end result is a product with high concentrations of its active ingredients, greater than those we are used to, which irritate and damage the skin when exposed to direct exposure.
How to use essential oils?
One way to reduce the risk of side effects after using essential oils on the skin is by using products that indicate dilutions between 0.5 and 1%. You can also choose preparations that are already mixed with a carrier oil.
Carrier oils, such as coconut, avocado, almond, or argan, help transport essential oils safely in the body. If you cannot find products already mixed, you can do it on your own before using them.
To avoid taking risks with an essential oil that you buy for the first time, the ideal is to use it diluted in a small area of the skin (preferably the inner area of the forearm) and let it rest without washing. In this way, you will be able to know how your skin reacts.
Also remember that essential oils should never be ingested or come into contact with the eyes. Also, try to keep them in opaque jars, well closed and protected from sunlight.
Until there is significant scientific evidence from human trials, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should exercise extreme caution.
Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, first talk to your doctor about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.
Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.
Sources consulted: Comprehensive Natural Medicines Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.