Natural Beauty Ingredients: Essential Oil Uses and Benefits

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I've been doing research and trying to integrate "natural beauty" into my regimen for the past 20 months or so, and over those months, I have read a lot about essential oils. Essential oils are concentrated oils drawn from plants, so they are probably one of the purest forms of fragrance you can find. Some essential oils, because they are so rare or costly, are often diluted into carrier oils such as jojoba oil. Essential oils are commonly used for aromatherapy, but they can also be added to oils and homemade skincare ingredients for health benefits.

Below is a brief description of some of the more common essential oils and ailments they are generally known to help with. Important to note: do not take essential oils internally, and do a skin test before adding any essential oil to your skincare products by adding a drop to a carrier oil (jojoba, coconut, sweet almond) and applying to a patch of skin.

*Essential oils marked wit an asterisk are ones which I think would be a good multipurpose or useful oil, if you're just starting out with essential oils.

Basil (sweet)
There are several types of basil essential oil, but sweet basil is one of the most commonly used. It is used to uplift and refresh in aromatherapy. It has antibacterial and stimulating properties, along with other more specific health benefits. Avoid using during pregnancy.

Bergamot is a citrus, and citruses are generally used in aromatherapy to uplift and create a more positive mood. As such, it has anti-depressant qualities, along with antibacterial, astringent, stimulating and others.

There are several different types of chamomile essential oil, some more expensive than others. Generally speaking, though, chamomile is known to help calm and relax, and is good for sensitive and dry or mature skin.

Cinnamon Leaf
As you may have guessed, cinnamon leaf essential oil is used to invigorate and refresh. It has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and alleged insecticide properties. Avoid applying this directly on the skin, as it may be too harsh and burn the skin. Avoid using while pregnant.

Citronella is known to ward off insects, but it's also said to help purify and revitalize. It has antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic properties and should be avoided while pregnant.

Clary Sage
Clary sage is used in a lot of skincare for aging or dry skin, but for aromatherapy, it is used to center. Clary sage has antibacterial and antiseptic properties, along with sedative qualities. Avoid when pregnant.

Clove has antibacterial, anti-aging, antioxidant, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Like cinnamon, clove can be quite abrasive when applied directly to the skin, so dilute if using in this manner. Otherwise, it is used to warm and comfort. Avoid while pregnant and if you suffer from liver or kidney conditions.

Eucalyptus is widely used for a number of ailments, especially for headaches and colds. Add a few drops to an oil warmer or to a bowl of warm water to allow to infuse your room with its scent. When not ill, eucalyptus serves to purify and invigorate. It has antibacterial, anti-fungal, decongesting and stimulating properties. Avoid when pregnant.

Frankincense is very much a love it or hate it scent. Its aromatherapy benefits include calming, and it has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, astringent and sedative properties.

Geranium is often used in perfumery for its rose-like fragrance, and in aromatherapy, it is used to help lift moods and soothe. Due to its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and regenerative qualities, it has been used in healing. It also balances oil, so is suited especially to oily skin. It also has anti-depressant and sedative properties. Avoid when pregnant.

As you can imagine, in aromatherapy, ginger oil is used to warm and anchor. Its properties include being antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, an astringent and a stimulant.

Grapefruit uplifts and boosts, like all citruses. Citrus essential oils can be used in skincare to help brighten and lighten the complexion, though care should be taken to apply SPF following application, as some essential oils have not been stripped of bergapten, which may cause photosensitivity. It also has antibacterial, anti-depressant, astringent and stimulating properties. Pink grapefruit essential oil is also said to help with cellulite.

Lavender is fairly well-known as a calming, soothing essential oil. It is also used in skincare to heal and repair skin, and is particularly good for sensitive skin and mature skin, and it is said to even help heal acne. Other properties include: antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial.

Again, like the other citrus essential oils, lemon can help boost the mood and energize. Take care in applying it on the skin, however, because it can cause photosensitivity to the sun and UV rays. Its properties include: antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and an astringent.

Lemongrass is oftentimes used as an insect repellent, but also in home fragrance. Its scent helps revitalize and purify. It is anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, an antioxidant and an astringent.

Lime essential oil has a slightly more bitter edge to it than other citruses, but it has the same mood-boosting and happy-making benefits. Again, beware of photosensitivity when applying this on the skin. It is antibacterial, an astringent and restorative.

Sweet Marjoram
Sweet marjoram, in cooking, often replaces rosemary. In aromatherapy, sweet marjoram helps to warm and balance. It is an antioxidant and anti-viral. Avoid when pregnant.

Myrrh is commonly used in incense and has a warm, spicy aroma. Its fragrance is used to help center. Its properties include being anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, an astringent and a sedative. Avoid use when pregnant.

Neroli oil is the oil of orange blossoms. It is primarily used in fragrance to calm and soothe, but its properties include being antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal. It is said to be good for all skin types.

*Orange (sweet)
Orange is an extremely bright and cheery essential oil which works to uplift. Be careful of applying this directly to the skin, as it may cause photosensitivity. Always follow up with an SPF. Orange essential oil is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-fungal and stimulating.

Oregano in the essential oil form is medicinal and herbaceous, and is used in aromatherapy to invigorate and purify. It is antibacterial, anti-fungal and antimicrobial. Avoid use when pregnant.

Palmarosa, like geranium, is used in perfumery to imitate or enhance the rose scent. In skincare, it is especially good for mature skin as it helps skin regenerate. However, it also helps the skin regulate oil, so it may also be useful for oily or acne-prone skin. It is antibacterial and anti-fungal, and is sometimes used as an insect repellant.

Patchouli, like frankincense, is a fairly controversial scent. It is thought to be romantic and soothing, though not to insects! It is sometimes used as an insect repellent and is otherwise thought to be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and decongesting.

Peppermint is an essential oil I highly recommend having in your collection if you like mint scents at all. It is excellent for headaches and nasal congestions -- apply a few drops to your oil warmer or a bowl of warm water. It is also great for neutralizing odors and in aromatherapy, it is used to invigorate and refresh. It is rarely used in skincare because it can cause skin sensitivity, but used in moderation, it adds a tingly feeling to foot masks and body scrubs. It is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antimicrobial, an astringent and a stimulant. Avoid if you suffer from epilepsy or are pregnant.

Rosemary is one of the do-all essential oils. It is often used in skincare as an astringent and is particularly good for oily and acne-prone skin. It is also often used in hair loss and scalp treatments as it has anti-bacterial qualities to it and helps with dandruff. In aromatherapy, it is used to help invigorate and clarify. It is antibacterial, an antioxidant, an astringent, anti-fungal and stimulating. Avoid if you suffer from epilepsy, hypertension or are pregnant.

Sandalwood is used in aromatherapy to relax and center, and it is an astringent, an emollient, a sedative and anti-fungal. Some claim that it can serve as an insecticide as well.

Spearmint is a slightly sweeter and more mellow mint than peppermint essential oil, and is also used to help revitalize and clarify. It is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, an astringent, a decongestant and a stimulant.

*Tea Tree
Tea tree is quite a well-known antibacterial and anti-fungal. In beauty, it can be added to carrier oils and shampoos or conditioners to combat dandruff, and any other dermatological conditions. It is thought to be antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, a decongestant and an insecticide.

Thyme is rarely used in skincare products because it can irritate the skin, but is commonly found in household cleaning products due to its antibacterial properties. In aromatherapy, it offers an energizing and purifying fragrance. Other properties include being anti-fungal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, a stimulant and an insecticide. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Ylang Ylang
Ylang ylang is said to be sensual in scent, but is also known for its sedative properties. It is also antibacterial, an anti-depressant, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and a disinfectant. Avoid when pregnant.

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