Essential oils are concentrated extracts from various plants. Scientists have recently begun to investigate the use of these oils in treating health conditions, including skin conditions.

People worldwide use plants and plant extracts in their traditional medicines. In the United States, such practices are sometimes called aromatherapy and naturopathy.

Some scientific evidence suggests that certain essential oils possess antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. These properties could make essential oils useful in a medical setting, though scientists need to conduct more research on their benefits.

In this article, we will examine whether essential oils are helpful for skin conditions. We will also look at how to use essential oils and the possible health risks.

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Researchers are investigating the use of essentials oils in treating several skin conditions, including:


Eczema is a skin condition that affects 15–30% of children and 2–10% of adults. It causes a person’s skin to become:

  • dry
  • itchy
  • cracked
  • sore

Researchers need to conduct more research on essential oils and eczema. Some studies suggest essential oils may improve eczema symptoms, whereas others disagree.

For example, one small study in children with eczema examined whether standard treatment was more effective in combination with massage using essential oils or massage alone. There was an improvement in eczema symptoms in both groups, suggesting that essential oils did not make a significant difference.

Other research notes that chamomile extract could be slightly more useful than 0.5% hydrocortisone, a common eczema medication, in easing eczema discomfort. However, since the study did not use a double-blind method, the results could be unreliable.

Dry skin

There is little research indicating that essential oils could help with dry skin.

However, if some essential oils help with eczema, they may also improve dry skin more broadly. This is because dry skin is a symptom of eczema.

Itchy skin

Some people have chronic itchy skin, also known as chronic pruritus. This condition can be highly uncomfortable, and it is sometimes difficult to treat.

Scientists may have found evidence that some essential oils can help with chronic pruritus.

For example, a 2016 study suggests that applying peppermint oil in petroleum jelly significantly improves chronic pruritus compared to petroleum jelly without peppermint oil. A 2017 study found similar results with clove oil.


There is no scientific evidence that essential oils reduce rashes. Since essential oils have the potential to cause allergic reactions, they could potentially cause rashes.

Essential oils are the concentrated extracts of raw plants. The various oils come from different plants. Manufacturers sometimes sell them in a pure form and sometimes dilute them in a carrier oil.

There are two main techniques for extracting essential oils. The first is steam or water distillation. This is when people pull the extract out from the plant by pushing water or steam through plant material.

The second is cold pressing. This is when people squeeze the plant material, often with mechanical aid, which forces the plant material to release its essential oils.

The two main methods for using essential oils are inhalation and topical application.

Depending on a person’s preferences, they could inhale essential oils using various methods. They could infuse entire rooms with essential oils using diffuser containers, sprays, or oil droplets. By using vapor rubs or steam baths, they could inhale essential oils in a more controlled way.

It is also possible to apply essential oils topically by massaging them into the skin. However, since it is unsafe to apply undiluted essential oils directly to the skin, a person must dilute the essential oils in a carrier oil. Popular carrier oils include almond oil and olive oil.

People should not ingest essential oils. Doing so may cause organ damage and adverse reactions. Scientists note a near-fatal case in which an individual became very unwell after ingesting peppermint oil.

Essential oils are extracts from natural products. However, this does not automatically make them safe, even when used correctly. Like many other natural things, essential oils can carry health risks.

For instance, some people could have allergic reactions to essential oils. Anyone trying an essential oil for the first time should only use a small quantity. They can then wait and see whether they develop any allergic reactions, such as:

  • irritation and burning on the skin
  • asthma attacks
  • difficulty breathing

People sometimes also report nausea and headaches as a result of inhaling certain essential oils.

There is scientific evidence that overexposure to certain essential oils can lead to various health complications. For example, using essential oils in aromatherapy may lead to dermatitis. More seriously, some people have experienced seizures when involved in the commercial preparation of:

  • sage oil
  • hyssop oil
  • thuja oil
  • cedar oil

People have long used essential oils as natural medications. However, scientists need to complete more research before confirming these oils’ health risks and benefits for skin conditions.