Acne is a common problem that affects many, especially adolescents and young adults. Although many pharmaceutical products are available to treat or eliminate acne problems, these treatments often have unpleasant side effects like irritation or skin drying. You may be able to avoid such problems by using natural acne treatments, like lavender oil. This oil is easily available in stores and comes in a wide variety of forms useful for dealing with acne.
Originally growing only along the mountainous shores of the Mediterranean Sea, you can now find lavender farms throughout southern Europe, North America and Australia. The plant is a low-growing and bushy shrub, and lavender oil derives from the plant's blue-purple flowers. After steam distillation, the essential oil from lavender is added to many products, including aromatherapy oils, lotions, gels, teas and soaps.
The main benefits of using lavender oil to treat acne derive from its ability to calm nerves and soothe damaged skin. Medical researchers publishing in the Journal of Clinical Oncololgy in 2003 found that some verifiable calming effects result from the inhalation of lavender oil. Since some acne comes from stress, a reduction of tension can ease the beginning of breakouts. Lavender oil may also help with the skin damage resulting from acne, as some believe the oil can accelerate the healing of scars by promoting the formation of scar tissue in damaged skin.
To use lavender oil in the treatment of acne, dilute the essential oil before applying it to the skin. The oil will spread more easily on the skin if you mix 1 to 4 drops of lavender into 1 tbsp. of a base oil like almond or olive oil. Especially serious acne often benefits from a mixture of one part lavender oil and four parts tea tree oil. For younger children or for those with sensitive skin, you should dilute the oil further with warm water. You can treat individual pimples with diluted lavender oil applied directly with a cotton swab. The best lavender oil treatment for body acne is in the bath. Add just a few drops to a tub of water and soak for at least 15 minutes. Unlike pharmaceutical acne treatments, researchers have not proven the efficacy of lavender oil in skin treatments. Such treatments are not, however, dangerous and can complement medical treatment.
Lavender oil is an excellent first step when beginning acne treatment. Unlike many pharmaceutical remedies, the oil is usually easy on the skin and does not produce excessive dryness or irritation. When used over time, lavender oil can help reduce the appearance of breakouts. Regular oil users claim that lavender has astringent properties that remove pore impurities and can rejuvenate the skin. Proponents of lavender oil claim that it soothes itchy and irritated skin, reduces acne redness and clears the face’s complexion. While there is some evidence for this, a study in 2000 reported in Phytotherapy Research showed that the massage that applied the oil had more therapeutic effect than the oil itself.
Although lavender oil has few major side effects, you should still take some basic precautions when using it. Do not ingest lavender oil, as it can be toxic, especially to young people. Avoid the application of lavender oil to the mucous membranes and to sensitive areas like the eyes, nostrils or lips. Like all essential oils, lavender can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation in some people. Begin by applying the oil to a small area of the skin to make sure there are no problems. Despite its therapeutic properties, lavender oil is not a substitute for medical attention in cases of extreme acne or open and infected sores.
Laurel Brown has several years experience as an educator and a writer. She won the 2008 Reingold Prize for writing in the history of science. Brown has a Ph.D. and Master of Arts in the history of science and Middle Eastern studies from Columbia University, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in astrophysics from Colgate University.