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Lavender oil is an essential oil made from the lavender plant. People use it to promote relaxation and sleep, and it may also help treat certain skin conditions.
Lavender is also a flavoring ingredient in foods and drinks and a fragrance in many soaps and cosmetics.
Because essential oils can be harsh on the skin, it is important to mix them with a carrier oil first. Depending on the purpose, a person might mix lavender oil with argan, coconut, or jojoba oil, among others.
For most purposes, a person can massage the mixture of oils into the skin using fingers or cotton pads. Always wash the hands before applying a mixture containing lavender oil to the skin.
Lavender oil can also be used in a steam facial for acne or similar issues. However, be sure to avoid exposing the face to very hot steam.
People should never ingest any essential oils.
Using lavender oil on the skin may benefit a range of conditions:
Lavender oil for anxiety
Studies have shown that lavender oil can have a positive effect on symptoms associated with anxiety. One 2013 study, for example, found that lavender oil’s effects on anxiety were comparable to that of lorazepam, a common antianxiety drug.
Lavender oil as an anti-inflammatory
Scientists have also found that lavender can combat inflammation. One 2012 study, for example, explored the effects of lavender oil on recurrent aphthous ulcers — round or ovular inflammatory sores that tend to form in the mouth or the genitals.
The researchers found that the lavender oil treatment significantly reduced inflammation, ulcer size, and the time the ulcers took to heal.
Lavender oil for acne
Lavender oil is non-comedogenic, meaning that it will not clog pores. It can be combined with witch hazel and used as a daily toner or with tea tree oil or argan oil as a direct treatment for pimples.
Lavender oil for dry skin or eczema
Lavender oil for hair
Lavender oil can also have a positive effect on hair growth. An older study, from 1998, for example, found that a combination of thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood essential oils successfully treated alopecia areata — a common autoimmune disorder that results in hair loss.
According to the findings, 44% of participants showed improvement after 7 months of treatment, compared with 15% of the control group. However, the researchers were unable to determine exactly which essential oil or oils had been effective.
A more recent study in mice found that using lavender oil resulted in a significantly increased number of hair follicles and that it also increased hair follicle depth, suggesting that the oil markedly promotes hair growth.
Lavender oil for wrinkles
Lavender oil contains antioxidants that can help tackle free radicals and may potentially reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. More research is needed, however, to confirm these effects.
Lavender oil for healing wounds
A 2013 study in rats found that wounds healed more quickly in the group that received a lavender oil treatment than in the control group.
Three years later, another study in rats found evidence that applying lavender oil topically may help heal wounds by stimulating collagen production.
Lavender oil for scars
Evidence suggests that lavender oil may help reduce scarring by promoting tissue growth. One study showed that lavender oil helped stimulate tissue repairing processes associated with skin injuries.
Lavender oil for skin lightening
Some people believe that lavender oil can reduce redness and discoloration of the skin. However, finding evidence of this effect will require more research.
Lavender oil for bug bites
Studies have shown that lavender can effectively repel mosquitoes for up to 8 hours. By combining it with other essential oils, such as citronella, a person can create their own eco-friendly bug spray.
In addition, the antibacterial properties of lavender oil may help prevent bug bites from becoming infected.
Never apply undiluted essential oils directly to the skin — always make a mixture with a carrier oil.
Using some topical products containing lavender may cause allergic skin reactions in some people. If anyone using lavender oil on their skin experiences any side effects, such as rashes or hives, they should stop using it immediately and see a doctor.
People using lavender oil on their faces should take extra care to keep the oil from getting in their eyes — if it does, rinse the area thoroughly with cool water.
Although research suggests that essential oils may have some health benefits, it is important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not monitor or regulate the purity or quality of these. A person should talk with their healthcare provider before using essential oils, and they should be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. A person should always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
The following tips are useful when choosing an essential oil:
- Find an oil that is manufactured by cold pressing or steam distillation, as these are less likely to have been contaminated in the process.
- Avoid lavender oils packaged in plastic bottles — darkened glass bottles preserve the oil best and ensure that it maintains its original scent and properties.
- The best lavender oils likely come from companies that are open about the sourcing of their products.
- Check all labels before choosing an oil, to ensure that the oil is pure and free of additives.
As aromatherapy products, essential oils do not need or receive approval from the FDA, and there is no way to ensure the safety or effectiveness of a product. Do not use lavender oil instead of conventional medicine, but rather as a complementary therapy.
Lavender oil has a wide variety of beneficial properties, but it can cause adverse reactions in some people. Stop using it if any signs of an allergic reaction, for example, occur.