Essential oils are the concentrated, aromatic extracts of plants. Different essential oils are used as flavourings in cooking, for perfume fragrances, and for medicinal purposes, either in aromatherapy or in topical applications. Many essential oils are beneficial for treating skin conditions, either by direct application or after dilution with a skin-nourishing oil such as almond or jojoba oil.
Sandalwood, or Santalum album, is a tree cultivated extensively in India, where its ground wood is used as a base for aromatic incense, and its extracted essential oil is sold for use in dozens of therapeutic applications. Leah R. Patterson, an herbalist and wellness editor for BellaOnline, explains that sandalwood essential oil is a powerful antibacterial and antifungal agent, making it an excellent treatment for acne and skin infections. Sandalwood oil is extremely strong, however, and should not be put on skin undiluted. Patterson recommends mixing a teaspoon of bentonite clay, a half teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, and five drops of sandalwood oil; apply this as a mask once a week, letting it sit on the skin about five minutes before rinsing with warm water.
Tea tree oil
Oil from the tea tree, or Melaleuca alternafolia, is an antibacterial essential oil that also fights inflammation. The American herbal remedy resource, the University of Maryland Medical Centre, reports that studies have found tea tree oil to be as effective on acne as the chemical treatment benzoyl peroxide, with tea tree oil users suffering less drying and itching side effects. Leah Patterson at BellaOnline also recommends tea tree oil for acne, noting that this oil can be used directly on the skin. Dab a few drops directly onto pimples; tea tree oil's antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory properties will disperse most acne blemishes within two to three days. A few drops of tea tree oil added to water or a half-and-half mix of filtered cider vinegar and water also makes an excellent cleansing skin toner.
Lavender, or Lavendula angustifolia, is a purple-blooming herb that has long been used to impart a fresh, clean scent to household linens. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be used undiluted directly on the skin, according to the University of Minnesota Centre for Spirituality and Healing in the U.S., which also suggests it can be used for healing minor cuts and burns. Herbalists traditionally use lavender oil to treat fungal infections, wounds, eczema and acne. Leah Patterson at BellaOnline says lavender makes a great skin-balancing oil, useful for all skin types in neutralising oil production and providing hydration. She suggests adding a few drops of lavender oil to all of your skin-care products.
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