Trends in health and beauty are placing more trust in the efficacy of natural and organic ingredients. Skin care is no exception, with more women coming to realize the purity of what they put on their skin is as important as that of what they eat. The skin is the largest organ, and is generally permeable to substances placed on it. This is particularly important in healing wounds, for the skin may be broken and more sensitive. Enter essential oils; these powerful plant derived medicines have been used for many years for treating skin conditions, enhancing beauty and promoting wellness. Oils have been found particularly useful for regenerating skin that has suffered from accidents or surgery, or has their remaining signs in the form of keloid, acne, or other scars. Certain essential oil blends can speed healing time, reduce or eliminate scars from recent wounds and even greatly diminish the appearance of old ones.
Certain essential oils are often used for healing and regeneration of skin tissues. We’ll review these and their companion carrier oils, then present some formulas for particular situations. The first of these essential oils is Helichrysum Italicum, an oil with an earthy aroma, distilled from the small flowers of an herb native to the Mediterranean region. This is the premier oil called for where the skin is in need of regeneration, and where inflammation may be present. Helichrysum is unique in that it contains ‘di-ketones’; a class of molecules that signal the skin to regenerate. It is also often used for bruising and impact related injuries.
Helichrysum essential oil is the cornerstone for many blends for healing the skin, and is the only one necessary for supporting currently healing skin damage – it should be used at appropriate concentrations with Rosehip Seed and Hazelnut oils, as mentioned later in this article. As noted by well-known aromatherapists Kurt Schnaubelt, “The triple unsaturated fatty acids (of Rosehip Seed oil) strengthen the cell membranes and, combined with the regnerative qualities of Everlasting oil (Helichrysum), heal wounds with minimal or no scarring”.
Lavender essential oil the most commonly used aromatic oil due to it’s pleasant, soothing aroma and broad range of healing effects. Lavender is also included in many skin care blends as it also contains ketone molecules which stimulate tissue regeneration. The specific type of lavender oil is distilled from the flowers of the Lavendula angustifolia species. Lavender, also like helichrsum, is an anti-inflammatory, and is generally thought to bring synergy to essential oil blends. It can be included to almost any skin care blend to enhance the effects and aroma.
The essential oil distilled from common Sage leaves is also used in the healing of scars, particularly old or unsightly scars. It’s natural regenerative properties and ability to promote circulation aid in gently breaking down the tough skin resulting from wound healing. Sage oil should only be used in these instances and in small quantities, as it’s Thujone content can be toxic in high quantities. If used in a recipe for stretch marks (see below), it should only be used post-partum. Despite it’s powerful components, however, when diluted and used with respect, one can use this oil safely.
Rosemary is the final essential oil we’ll cover here for skin healing and scar treatment. Rosemary of the Verbenone chemotype (rather than Cineol, which does not have the same properties) contains regenerative ketones like Lavender and Helichrysum, plus has the added benefit of stimulating the skin’s metabolic process. This oil can bring greater circulation to skin tissues, delivering nutrients and eliminating cellular waste and toxins.
All these oils but Lavender should be diluted in a carrier before use (Lavender CAN be used directly on the skin, but will be used in diluted form in the following blends). Many studies have shown the great efficacy of essential oils at low concentrations – so in Aromatherapy, ‘less is more’ is a general rule. Two highly regarded carrier or ‘base’ oils used for skin treatment are Rosehip seed, cold-pressed from a plant native to the mountain regions of South America, and Hazelnut oil, which is suitable for all skin types. These oils will help the essential oils absorb into the skin, and can provide their own nutritive properties. Rosehip seed contains a wealth of fatty acids, plus a compound similar in action to the pharmaceutical preparation ‘Retin A’. without the drying side effects. Hazelnut oil has mild astringent properties, and will not leave the skin feeling greasy. It is appropriate even for acne prone skin.
So how does one mix these natural botanicals for particular uses? There are a few simple but effective recipes specifically for wound healing and scar reduction. For old keloid or acne scars, use one ounce each of Hazelnut and Rosehip seed oils – to this, add one milliliter of Helichrysum Italicum essential oil and Sage officinalis essential oil. Apply regularly for three to six months for best results. For more recent cuts, scrapes, and even surgical incisions (that have reached the point where they are safe to get moist), use the same Hazelnut and Rosehip seed blend, adding one milliliter of Helichrysum and one milliliter of Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia). Apply twice a day while the wound is healing. For the reduction and possible elimination of stretch marks post partum, again to one ounce each of Hazelnut and Rosehip seed oils, add one milliliter Sage and one milliliter Rosemary verbenone. Like the formula for old scars, use this regularly for several months.
So these are just a few skin care formulas commonly used in aromatherapy. Many more exist for a great variety of skin conditions – there is much information available on the internet or in bookstores. Remember, when creating your own blends, be conservative with the amounts of essential oils – they do work in small amounts. Also, it’s always fun to add to these recipes one or more of your favorite aromatic oils – Jasmine, Ylang Ylang, Rose or other oils can add a lovely complex aroma to the blend; one that you’ll enjoy wearing. Be creative, be safe and have fun!