Some people use certain essential oils — such as Helichrysum, lavender, or tea tree oils — on the skin to promote wound healing and reduce the appearance of scars.
While there has been little research into the effects of essential oils on scars, these oils may be helpful complements to traditional treatments.
This article investigates which essential oils may help with scarring, how to use them, and the evidence for their effectiveness.
Essential oils are made from plants, and each oil has a different chemical makeup.
Aromatherapists and other practitioners of alternative medicine use these oils to treat a range of health issues. The issues could be physical, such as joint pain or nausea. Or, as in the case of stress or anxiety, the issues could relate to mental and emotional health.
Scars typically form when an injury penetrates past the first layer of skin. Scars can be sunken or raised, and they may be pink at first. After it heals, a scar usually looks darker or lighter than the skin around it.
Certain essential oils have anti-inflammatory or antimicrobial properties — or sometimes both. Keeping infection and inflammation at bay can help wounds heal and improve skin health overall.
Using essential oils while a wound is healing may help minimize any scarring. However, older scars are much harder to treat, and it may not be possible to make them less visible. Many scars fade over time with exposure to sunlight.
Use essential oils with care, as they can interact with medications and other remedies, and they may cause side effects. Essential oils are generally not safe to use during pregnancy.
Below, we look at the research into the effects of popular essential oils for scars and wound healing.
There are more than 600 species of flowering plants in the Helichrysum genus, but the essential oil is known simply as Helichrysum oil.
These plants grow in Mediterranean countries, such as Italy and Spain, and many practitioners of traditional medicine in the region make use of the plants' flowers and leaves.
Research in the laboratory indicates that one species, Helichrysum italicum, may have antimicrobial properties, meaning that it may kill microorganisms, such as bacteria. This could prevent infection and encourage wound healing, potentially resulting in less scarring.
The findings of other laboratory-based studies indicate that Helichrysum italicum may combat inflammation. An inflamed or irritated wound is slower to heal and may leave a worse scar.
People commonly use lavender essential oil to promote calmness and encourage sleep. The oil comes from the flowers and leaves of the plant.
Some practitioners of alternative medicine use lavender to treat wounds and skin conditions. A 2016 study in rats suggested that lavender oil could promote healing.
When applied to a wound, the essential oil seemed to encourage new tissue to grow.
Manufacturers produce essential oil from the leaves of this flowering shrub. Some people use geranium oil to treat anxiety and stress, as well as skin disorders, such as eczema.
Some research indicates that geranium oil has antibacterial properties, meaning that it may help keep wounds clean and encourage healing, which can help prevent or reduce scarring.
Healers in ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt used chamomile as a medicinal herb. Today, it is a common ingredient in herbal teas, creams, and essential oil blends.
Some practitioners of alternative medicine use chamomile to treat anxiety, stomach problems, and skin conditions.
Like other essential oils, chamomile may help stop microbes from entering a wound. Researchers have also found that chamomile may promote wound healing and reduce inflammation.
Tea tree oil is one of the most widely used essential oils. Manufacturers use steam to distill the oil from tea tree leaves.
Only apply tea tree oil to the skin — do not swallow it.
Tea tree oil may help support the immune system. A healthy immune system is better at healing injuries, which could result in reduced scarring.
Researchers have also long recognized the antimicrobial and antifungal effects of tea tree oil, which can help prevent infection in healing skin.
Use essential oils with care, as they can irritate the skin, interact with medications and other remedies, and cause other side effects.
To help wounds heal and prevent scars, apply the essential oil directly to the skin. However, make sure to dilute it first.
Dilute essential oils in a carrier oil. Below are common examples of carrier oils, with links to where they can be purchased online:
Adding 15 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of carrier oil results in 2.5% dilution, which is effective for adults. If a person wishes, they can strengthen the solution, up to 10% dilution. This involves 60 drops of essential oil for every 1 ounce of carrier oil.
Before using the blend of oils, mix it thoroughly. Thicker carrier oils, such as coconut oil, may need to be warmed slightly before it will mix well. Allow the mixture to cool before applying it to the skin.
Test the diluted essential oil mixture on a small patch of unbroken skin and leave it on for 24 hours. If the oil does not cause any irritation, it should be safe to use.
Apply a thin layer of the mixture to a scar or around a healing wound. Repeat the application as often as necessary, and stop using it if any irritation occurs.
Do not let undiluted essential oil touch the skin. Also, some oils can be dangerous to children, pregnant women, and pets, so it is important to consider others when using these remedies.
To minimizing scarring, it is important to help the skin heal. Keep the wound and the area around it clean. Covering it and changing the dressing daily can help.
Essential oils may play a role in wound care. Using certain diluted essential oils may combat infection and inflammation.
If a person already has a scar, using a sunscreen with high SPF while outdoors can help the scar fade more quickly.
The essential oils above are available at health stores, drugstores, and online:
Determining the effects of essential oils will require further research. They may have benefits when a person uses them alongside more established treatments.