Health & Beauty Benefits of Essential Oils: Your Questions Answered

Essential Oils

You’ve probably heard that essential oils can be fabulously beneficial to your skin and your emotional well-being. If your beauty routine is stuck in a rut or you’re always on the lookout for the best ways to take care of your skin (your body’s biggest and hardest-working organ), then consider introducing essential oils. We’ve put together the information you’ll need to either brush up on your knowledge of essential oils if you’re already using them, or everything you need to know to get started.

Face treatment oils

Essential oils are one of the most deliciously aromatic and effective ways to treat skin concerns, and they’re not nearly as complicated to use as you might think – especially when we’ve taken the guesswork out of the proper use of essential oils by creating skin-safe essential oils for you to use at home for absolute peace of mind.

As you set out on this fascinating journey, we think it’s best to gather some knowledge about essential oils for the body and especially the face – since some oils can cause irritation if applied in the wrong way to sensitive or allergy-prone skin. That said, using essential oils really isn’t difficult when you know the basics – and the rewards of including oils in your beauty routine are definitely worth the time investment.

Are essential oils for skin a new thing?

Essential oils harness the power of botanicals to heal and beautify the skin. Plant-based beauty products have been in use for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians used a variety of oils and minerals for cosmetic purposes. Castor oil and moringa oil were known to minimize the appearance of wrinkles, while aloe vera cleansed the skin of desert dust. Famously, kohl was used as eyeliner.

Plant-based cosmetics were also a part of everyday life in ancient Greece. The Greeks used crushed mulberries as lip and cheek stains, and a blend of charcoal and oils to create a dark eyeshadow. Olive oil was a favorite moisturizer and hair treatment.

India also has a long history of plant-based beauty products. Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old form of medicine that was founded in southern India. The ancient practitioners believed that one should not put anything on his or her skin that isn’t edible. To this day, Ayurvedic doctors use plant-based products in their treatments, including sesame oil, sandalwood, and turmeric. Turmeric is one of the most powerful ingredients used in plant-based products. Known for its purifying properties, the sacred root is used to soothe and revitalize skin.

Plant-based skin care products can deliver amazing results, partly because their active ingredients are found in nature. For example, if you’ve ever suffered from a bad sunburn, you may have found relief in a soothing aloe vera gel, or even an aloe vera plant broken off and rubbed on the skin. Clarins has always been devoted to the idea of plant-based skin care. In fact, Clarins’ Face Treatment Oils were first released over 50 years ago. These oils are created with 100 percent pure plant extracts from ingredients like blue orchid, hazelnut, patchouli, lavender, and sandalwood.

Are plant-based essential oils just another beauty fad?

Joe Chappell, professor of plant biochemistry at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, says that humans are just beginning to discover the vast health benefits of our green friends and how they relate to natural skin care practices. "Somehow in our fast-track lives, we forgot to take advantage of the lessons provided by Mother Nature,” he says. “That is all changing now with the recognition that two-thirds of all currently prescribed drugs can be traced back to natural sources."

"Several well-known medicines were brought to us by plants: foxglove gives us the cardiac muscle stimulant digoxin, and periwinkle offers a source for the widely used chemotherapy drugs vincristine and vinblastine. In fact, there are at least 250,000 species of plants, out of which more than 1,000 have been found to possess significant anticancer properties."

With so many plant species around the globe, it’s fascinating to consider how many plant-based benefits have yet to be discovered. Thankfully, scientists are on the case and new developments are constantly emerging.

At Clarins, we have a special place in our hearts for Face Treatment Oils made from 100 percent pure plant extracts. Our treatment oils are created with plant extracts from ingredients like blue orchid, hazelnut, patchouli, lavender, and sandalwood to revitalize and tone, protect against dehydration, and leave skin visibly supple and satin soft.

What exactly are essential oils for the face?

An essential oil (also known as a volatile oil, ethereal oil, or aetherolea) is a concentrated liquid from a plant that contains aroma compounds. It’s thought that the purpose of this substance in plants is to attract certain insects for pollination or, in the case of leaf, wood, and root oils, to act as a protecting seal against parasites or to prevent loss of sap in case of injury to the plant. The “essential” in essential oils refers to the "essence of" the plant's fragrance because this was thought to represent the very essence of odor and flavor.

Essential oils are extracted by distillation – using methods that include steam, expression, solvent extraction, absolute oil extraction, resin tapping, and cold pressing – for use as “odorants” in cosmetics, perfumes, soaps, and detergents, and as flavors in candies, confections, soft drinks, and a number of other food products. Some pharmaceuticals like dental products and some medicines also use essential oils.

Essential oils are also used in aromatherapy – an alternative medicine that uses aromatic compounds to treat health concerns, skin conditions, and to encourage relaxation and mental and emotional well-being.

When is the best time to apply my face oil?

Face Treatment Oils are best used in the evening after removing all traces of makeup. Simply add a drop or two to your night cream or use alone to soothe your skin—and relax your senses—with Clarins’ aromatic, 100 percent pure plant extracts. It’s a wonderful way to rebalance your skin and de-stress for a good night's sleep.

Can I use essential oils on my lips too?

The top layer of skin on your lips is much thinner than the skin on the rest of your body. That’s what gives your lips their gorgeous natural shade of pink—you’re seeing all those blood vessels and capillaries through that thin upper layer of skin. Your lips also have no self-moisturizing oil glands. This means they can do with all the help they can get! Essential oils are a great way to moisturize dry and chapped lips, speed up healing time for cold sores, and add shine for a touch of glam. Best essential oils for the lips are: peppermint, camomile and cardamom, ginger, clove, cinnamon, grapefruit, and lavender.

Can essential oils be used in the eye area?

It’s best not to use essential oils in the eyes or on the delicate area around the eyes since they are highly concentrated and can cause burning, pain, and irritation. Certain essential oils are used to treat pink eye, but they are first diffused in water vapor.

What is the best way to apply essential oils to my face?

Clarins’ exclusive Draining Pressure Method helps enhance circulation to promote skin radiance.

  1. Mix and warm. In the palm of your hand, blend 1-2 drops of the oil with your night cream. Warm between your hands to bring it to your skin temperature, so that your skin accepts it instantly. (3 seconds).
  2. Breathe in deeply. Bring your hands to your nose, close your eyes, and take two deep breaths of the soothing, aromatic plant extracts. (3 seconds).
  3. Apply. Use the natural weight of your hands to distribute the product evenly over your face and neck. (8 seconds).
  4. Drain. Use Clarins’ Drainage Pressure Method to enhance circulation, revive radiance and promote radiance. Repeat: three times on the cheeks, three times on the forehead, and five times on the neck and décolleté.

Our Expert’s Tip:

“Finish with a drop of oil on the insides of your wrists, take a deep breath, and you’re ready for bed.” — Denise Barthe, Clarins International Training Director

How can I be sure the essential oils I use are safe?

Keep in mind that just because something is natural, it isn’t necessarily safe to use on your skin – especially the skin on your face and the delicate area around your eyes.

Essential oils interact with each person’s skin and chemistry in a slightly different way. To avoid any severe reactions, it's recommended that you use skin-safe essential oils for the face that are tried, tested, and carry the stamp of approval of a beauty brand that has a history and good reputation of bringing the best skincare products to market.

If you’re interested in creating your own combination of essential oils for the face, always remember to dilute the essential oil of your choice with a carrier oil – this can be coconut oil, jojoba oil, or olive oil. Never apply essential oils to the skin without first doing a patch test on the inside of your elbow, especially if you have sensitive skin. Diluting essential oils does not make them less effective – in fact it’s thought that the skin absorbs more essential oil when it has been diluted.

Can essential oils be used on oily skin?

It may seem wrong to use oil on oily skin, but this is not the case. Helichrysum is an essential oil that has been used for centuries to treat acne. This oil is cleansing and delivers antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory benefits to the skin. It is also an essential oil known for healing the skin by minimizing scars and stimulating cell growth. Its potent, herbaceous aroma has been thought through the ages to awaken both the mind and skin.

Lemongrass is an essential oil with astringent properties that balances sebum production and reduces inflammation. It is antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, and removes toxins and debris from the skin. The potency of this oil means it must be carefully diluted in a ratio of no more than three drops per two ounces of oil and distilled water and placed in a spray bottle as a facial mist for controlling excess sebum production.

If you’re too busy to create your own oil or too nervous to attempt dilution, there are some great treatment oils on the market that take the guesswork out of hydrating, toning and balancing oily skin types. Look out for oils that use the lotus plant in their formulas. What’s so special about the lotus? It’s an aquatic perennial plant rooted in shallow water thanks to rhizomes scattered with tubers. A sacred flower of the East, the lotus symbolizes purity, spirituality, and wisdom. It is also a plant widely used as a food as well as in traditional Asian medicine. Used in cosmetics, lotus flower helps to soften and decongest the skin.

What are the best anti-aging essential oils?

One of the most popular essential oils used to treat mature skin is rose otto, which is extracted through steam distillation from newly-bloomed roses. Rose otto is known for its moisturizing and antibacterial properties. It is rich in antioxidants that promote healthy cell turnover for an overall glowing appearance. The essential oil can be diluted with jojoba oil – an especially effective carrier because it has a similar consistency to the sebum produced naturally by the skin.

What are the best essential oils for dry skin?

Look out for products that contain Hazelnut Oil in their formulas for dry skin. When using this oil, skin appears visibly softened and smoothed which can minimize the appearance of fine lines.

The fruit of the small hazelnut tree is a smooth, egg-shaped nut, held at the base in a green sheath with deeply cut-out edges. An edible oil is extracted from the hazelnut. Employed in cooking, it is also used often in soaps, masks, and massage oils for its capacity to prevent dehydration. Components found in its leaves offer excellent cellular protection from free radicals. Hazelnut Oil is rich in Omega 9 and Vitamin E, which help to soften and visibly soothe the skin while sealing in moisture to minimize the appearance of fine lines.

What are the best essential oils for sensitive or inflamed skin?

Lavender and tea tree essential oils have been used for millennia to soothe the skin. These wonderful anti-inflammatory oils also improve circulation and can be used for skin irritations – from shaving burn to ingrown hairs.

Essential oils for the body

Essential oils for the body are a wonderful way to treat the skin: not only do they deliver a powerhouse of healing analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties to the skin – they also have therapeutic benefits when used as smelling oils. But be warned – that small bottle of essential oil can be as much as 100 times more concentrated than the parent plant.

As is the case with essential face oils, always keep safety in mind when applying essentials oils to the body. The only oils that can be used on the skin without first being diluted in carrier oils, are tea tree and lavender oil. So, let's find out how to get the best benefits when using essential oils on the body.

What are the beauty benefits of using essential oils on the body?

As we’ve seen before – essential oils have been used for thousands of years to treat various skin concerns, to aid wound healing, and improve circulation and blood flow. Although the topical application of essential oils to the skin is a popular way of using oils, essential oils are used in massage, acupuncture and acupressure, vita flex therapy – in which oils are applied to the contact points on the feet – and auricular therapy – where oils are applied to the rims of the ears. Essential oils can also be used in compresses and added to body lotions, soaps, and bath gels, as well as added directly to bath water. Part of the reward of using essential oils for the body is not only the wonderful effect they have on the skin – the aromatics of essential oils are also able to calm the mind and relax the body. So breathe deeply!

Can essential oils be used on wounds or irritated skin?

One essential oil you’re sure to have heard of is lavender. This favourite, versatile oil works well on all skin types to relieve itchiness and irritation. The antibacterial properties of lavender oil are great for soothing, disinfecting, and reducing inflammation caused by hives, ingrown hairs, sunburn, and even eczema. This powerhouse essential oil has even been used to stop bleeding – but proper dilution is extremely important.

For wound healing, frankincense essential oil with astringent, anti-inflammatory properties, can restore damaged skin, irritation, and infected wounds – and its gorgeous aromatic notes have been used for thousands of years to calm the mind during times of trauma.

I’m pregnant – can I still use essential oils?

Yes, and no. If ever there is a time to be cautious about the use of essential oils on the body, it’s when you’re pregnant. Oils that should be avoided during pregnancy include: clary sage, sage, Idaho tansy, hyssop, fennel, wintergreen, myrrh, nutmeg and cinnamon.

The right oils, if properly used, can deliver great benefits to your skin during and after pregnancy. Essential oils can visibly soften, smooth, and hydrate the skin to improve the appearance of stretch marks, while aromatic natural botanicals can promote an overall feeling of well-being. To use, apply a small amount to damp skin over the whole body or concentrating on problem areas. Lightly massage and follow with a cool shower if possible. For even greater effectiveness, use an exfoliator once a week.

Essential oils that are universally regarded as safe to use in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy include: rosemary, lavender, lemon, cedarwood, frankincense, geranium, grapefruit, sandalwood, orange, and ylang ylang. Keep in mind that peppermint may decrease milk flow postpartum.

Can essential oils be used on babies and young children?

In most cases, no, since an infant’s skin is extremely delicate. Camomile essential oil is one of the exceptions. Add three drops of camomile oil to equal portions of shea butter and coconut oil to ease dry skin or for slow-healing wounds, eczema, and hives.

Tea tree essential oil can be used for children – this oil’s antifungal and antibacterial properties make it great for the treatment of cuts and scrapes, and as a repellent for bugs and mosquitos. Peppermint oil, when well-diluted, can ease indigestion as well as colds and rashes caused by allergies. Eucalyptus oil has been used for many years to treat respiratory disorders and congestions. It also has anti-viral properties and can bring down high temperatures during fevers. Lavender essential oil is calming and can help children sleep soundly when used properly. This favorite essential oil is also known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties, which make it effective in treating sunburns and cuts.

It’s always best to consult your pediatrician before using a cream or oil you are unfamiliar with on children’s skin.

Can essential oils be used to firm and contour the skin?

Essential oils like geranium, sweet marjoram, and lemon—can help to release toxins for visibly firmed and toned skin, while reducing the look of sponginess for a slimmer-looking silhouette. Look out for fine, lightweight formulas that are quickly absorbed by the skin and will not stain your clothes.

Can I use essential oils on my hair?

Essential oils are often used to improve the health of hair – with many users claiming that it promotes hair growth and adds strength and shine.

Lavender oil has been shown to promote faster hair growth and its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties can improve the health of the scalp. Horsetail plant oil, containing silica, is thought to improve growth and strengthen the hair while also reducing dandruff. Rosemary oil has been used since Victorian times to treat thinning hair. Its ability to improve cellular generation is the reason for its efficacy. Other favorite essential oils for hair include: clary sage, ylang ylang, tea tree, thyme, lemongrass, and cedarwood.

The great thing about using essential oils to improve the health of your hair is that they’re easy to use, have a low risk of side effects, and are typically affordable.

Can I use more than one essential oil at a time?

Yes, you can! Using more than one essential oil at a time is called “layering”. Typically, oils are layered to increase their rate of absorption, or to create a blend that is specific to your own needs. Before beginning to layer your oils, keep in mind that the accuracy of your dilution will determine whether your layering of essential oils is successful or not. So make sure you have a carrier oil on hand – this can be a vegetable oil, almond or jojoba oil – used to dilute essential oils to make them safe for everyday use. Now rub the first essential oil into the skin, then apply the next oil along with the carrier oil. It’s a great way to experiment and eventually find the blend that suits your skin to a T.

What should I do if I have an uncomfortable reaction to an essential oil?

Essential oils can cause a skin reaction for a number of reasons. Typically, this happens when oils have not been diluted correctly. Another reason can be overuse of a particular essential oil – this is called “contact sensitivity”. When an oil feels hot or causes any discomfort, add more carrier oil immediately to dilute its potency. Trying to wash it off with water can drive the oils deeper into the body so this is best avoided. If at any time you develop a rash, nausea, or a headache, stop using the oil immediately and consult a health care practitioner.

Can I apply essential oils if I’m going to spend time in the sun?

There are several essential oils that are photosensitive – causing your skin to react to the sunlight. This can result in a rash, pigmentation, or sunburn. It’s advisable to completely avoid applying these oils when you know your skin is likely to be exposed to direct sunlight for longer than a few minutes. Photosensitive oils are: angelica, bergamot, cumin, ginger, lemon, lime, limette, mandarin, orange, and yuzu.

What is the best way to apply essential oils to the body

Remember to always dilute essential oils before applying them to the body, and if there’s anything you’re unsure of – consult an aromatherapist or homeopath for advice about essential oils.

When using an essential oil like Clarins’ Tonic Body Treatment Oil, massage a small amount onto dry or damp skin with light sweeping motions—moving upward from ankles to waist. Concentrate on areas of concern: waist, hips, thighs, buttocks, arms – and don’t forget to breathe deeply! Rinse with cool water.

For more tutorials and pro-tips for your beauty routine, have a look at Clarins' Beauty School - you’ll find video guides for just about every aspect of your regimen!

Our Expert’s Tip:

When it comes to essential oils it’s important not to overuse the product. It’s a common misconception that the more oils you use, the better the results. Keep in mind that essential oils are concentrated formulas so a little goes a long way!