I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on essential oils for the skin.
It’s for a book I’m putting together on the topic.
And after a long preliminary section, I am finally getting to the practical recipes.
The first on the list is essential oils for dry skin.
The only problem is, I’m not convinced yet essential oils are a good idea for this use case, contrary to what many aromatherapy blogs out there will tell you.
Here are 3 reasons why:
# 1. It’s mostly about the carriers
Your typical carriers — fixed oils, creams, and lotions — are great for dry skin.
They all have occlusive properties, meaning they keep water that’s already in your skin from evaporating.
Creams and lotions additionally put some water into your skin, plus they might contain humectants, substances which attract moisture from deeper down inside your skin.
The short of it is, if you have dry skin and you apply a carrier oil or a lotion, your skin will be better.
And this probably explains 99% of the effectiveness of any dry skin recipe you might find online.
But what if you add essential oils?
Do they do anything?
# 2. Essential oils might actually dry your skin out more
There’s a video of Dr. Rob Pappas on YouTube, applying undiluted orange essential oil to his skin.
Within a few minutes of application, the oil evaporates, leaving the skin on Rob’s fingers visibly white, cracked, and dry.
Essential oils evaporate quickly by definition, and there’s a good chance that their evaporation can contribute to skin dryness.
And this is not just if you use essential oils undiluted.
I’ve just read a study that showed increased trans-epidermal water loss for essential oils used at just a 5% dilution.
# 3. Essential oils might not do anything for dry skin otherwise
Normal skin peeling is a very complex process.
It’s possible that out of the hundreds of essential oil components out there, some have an impact on this complex process.
But at this stage, we simply don’t know, because except for a couple of papers, the research is simply not there.
And as I mentioned before, the normal way of using essential oils, with a fixed oil carrier, is likely to help because of the carrier itself.
So that’s the case against using essential oils for dry skin.
Can anything be said for using essential oils for dry skin?
Well, there is a bit of research that suggests sometimes essential oils might help.
There’s a paper that shows that at quite low dilutions (0.1% or 1%) some oils can reduce skin water loss in a lab setting.
Also, in his complete skin series, Robert Tisserand mentions a study that shows blue chamomile and mandarin oil increased skin hydration compared to using a carrier alone.
Unfortunaly, I haven’t been able to read this paper directly, and it hasn’t been cited in any other supporting research.
Finally, essential oils might be useful for other reasons.
They might reduce inflammation that can go along with conditions that are characterized by dry skin.
Or they might simply make a blend more pleasant-smelling and usable.
So what’s the conclusion?
At this point, all we can confidently say is that using concentrations of essential oils over 1% is probably not a great idea when it comes to dry skin.
Beyond that, your fixed oils or your creams or lotions are a much safer bet for helping with dry skin.