Here Are the 12 Best Essential Oils for Skin

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Essential oils have long been lauded for a litany of different benefits; these natural plant extracts have the ability to do everything from help you relax to improve your skin. To that point, not all essential oils are created equal—there’s a seemingly never-ending list of options out there, and it’s important to choose wisely, particularly when you’re going to be using them as part of your skincare regimen.

First and foremost, remember that you’re dealing with very potent, very powerful ingredients. Aside from a few specific exceptions (which we’ll get to shortly), essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin. Instead, add a few drops to a carrier oil, a neutral, plant-based oil, such as almond or grapeseed. Two, it’s worth noting that allergic reactions to essential oils are common; play it safe by doing a patch test and applying your essential oil blend onto your inner forearm and checking for any signs of irritation over the next 24 hours. All that being said, when chosen and used correctly, essential oils can be invaluable skincare ingredients.

Keep reading for the best essential oils for your skin, plus a few of our favorite other oils that aren’t technically essential oils, but are essential for skin. (See what we did there?)

Tea Tree Oil: Briogeo B. Well Organic + Australian 100% Tea Tree Skin & Scalp Oil

Briogeo

Battling blemishes? Tea tree oil just may be your secret weapon in the quest for clear skin. With proven antibacterial benefits, it’s also an effective anti-inflammatory, both key attributes for an acne-fighting ingredient. It’s worth noting that this is one of the few essential oils that can go directly onto the skin, though if you want to be cautious, you can try mixing in a few drops with your moisturizer to create a DIY spot treatment, or using one of the many pre-formulated, skin-clearing products that contain it.

True to its name, this contains only 100% organic, pure tea tree oil and works just as well for a problematic complexion as it does an irritated scalp. (The oil also has antifungal benefits that make it a great flake fighter.)

Marula Oil: Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Oil

Drunk Elephant

Despite the fact that marula oil is loaded (and we mean loaded) with omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, it’s shockingly lightweight. It absorbs quickly to leave skin glowy, but without a greasy residue, is rich in antioxidants, and is another pick that may have antimicrobial benefits as well. FYI, in its natural state it has an amber color and nutty fragrance; if you want a totally pure version, make sure it has those attributes. 

Team Byrdie can’t get enough of this heavenly hydrator, which we think is well worth the price, thanks to the completely pure, simple formula that uses some of the highest-quality, unrefined marula oil there is. 

Argan Oil: Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil

This Moroccan oil is often lauded as a great hair oil (and yes, it is) but it’s also a top skincare pick. Its high antioxidant levels may potentially help safeguard your complexion from the sun—though no, that’s not an excuse to skimp on sunscreen, and it has not been strongly proven—and along with being a great moisturizer, it can also help regulate your skin’s natural oil levels, a win for those with oily, acne-prone complexions.  

Speaking of, Byrdie Senior Editor Lindsey Metrus attributes this oil to helping clear up her skin for good and notes that she also noticed fewer fine lines after just a few days of use. Yes, please.

Rosemary Oil: Now Essential Oils Rosemary Oil

Let’s not forget that your scalp is skin too, and deserves just as much attention as the skin on your face. Enter the beauty of rosemary essential oil, which dilates blood vessels to boost circulation and is well-known as one of the best essential oils for promoting thicker strands. It also has anti-inflammatory effects and may help balance natural oil levels, combination skin types take note.

An Amazon fan favorite, this affordable pick pulls in rave reviews from satisfied shoppers, many of whom do in fact use it on their scalps with great results.

Lemongrass Oil: Vitruvi Lemongrass Essential Oil

This was just one essential oil that a 2015 study found to be a good anti-aging option; credit its high concentration of antioxidants that help ward off the skin damage caused by free radicals. On top of that, it’s also naturally astringent and a great pick for breakout-prone skin, and/or those dealing with adult acne or the dreaded combo of both wrinkles and pimples.

This option is steam-distilled from Sri Lankan lemongrass, an organic option that’s also cruelty-free. Oh, and we forgot to mention the lovely, sweet scent. 

Rosehip Seed Oil: The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil

The Ordinary

You likely already know that retinoids are the best of the best when it comes to effective wrinkle-fighters, but did you know that rosehip seed oil is a great natural source of vitamin A, the precursor to retinoids? Translation: It offers similar youth-boosting, skin-regenerating benefits. On top of that, it’s also loaded with vitamin C and is ultra-rich in linoleic and other essential fatty acids to make it a top-notch hydrator. It’s no surprise that everyone from Kate Middleton to Gwyneth Paltrow purportedly use it as part of their skincare routines.

Use a few drops of this once a day to potentially reap all of those aforementioned benefits—and for a very affordable price, at that. We also appreciate the UV-protective packaging, which will ensure the efficacy and stability of your prized oil. 

Sweet Orange Oil: Aura Cacia Sweet Orange Essential Oil

Aura Cacia

Vitamin C is a skincare hero, a triple threat that acts as a protective antioxidant, brightens skin, and stimulates collagen production, too. This citrus oil is full of it, a good option to use if you’re after glowy skin. (And really, who isn’t?) It’s also an effective astringent, antiseptic, and has antibacterial properties, making it another good option for those with oily and/or breakout-prone skin. 

Cold-pressed, completely free of any synthetic ingredients, and tested for purity, this option is high-grade, yet super affordable. FYI, any citrus oil can make your skin more sun-sensitive, so be sure to be extra diligent about SPF when using one.

Lavender Oil: Revive Lavender Roll-On

Revive

You probably think of lavender essential oil as it pertains to its well-known, relaxing aromatherapeutic benefits, but it’s also a good topical option, falling into the same category as tea tree oil since it to can be applied directly onto the skin. Just like it can soothe your mind, it can help do the same thing for your skin, a good pick for helping to calm minor irritations.

This convenient roll-on blends lavender essential oil with a hydrating coconut oil base (which also has antibacterial benefits), a choice pick to keep on hand and use for stressed-out skin

Jojoba Oil: The Jojoba Company Australian Jojoba

Jojoba Australian Jojoba

Fun fact: Of all the (many) oils out there, jojoba is the one that most closely mimics the oil naturally found in our skin. What does that mean, exactly? Well, it absorbs instantly, won’t clog pores, and offers a laundry list of benefits, think deep hydration, wound healing, and tons o’ antioxidant protection.

This brand sources its oil from a unique species of the jojoba plant grown in Australia that’s even more nutrient-rich than many of the other jojoba plants out there. In other words, you get even more of those good-for-your-skin effects. (According to the brand, this particular product is even proven to deliver up to eight hours of moisture.)

It pulls double duty as a great hair treatment, deeply quenching parched ends.

Helichrysum: Majestic Pure Helichrysum Essential Oil

Arguably the least well-known option on this list, helichrysum essential oil comes from a plant native to the Mediterranean and Southern Europe. It’s long been used for its antifungal and antibacterial properties, though its best attribute is the ability to promote wound healing (the exact mechanism of action is unknown). Helichrysum also contains arzanol, a polyphenol with strong anti-inflammatory properties. 

This is a potent essential oil, so make sure to definitely dilute it with a carrier oil before applying topically. It also blends quite nicely with many other essential oils, including rosemary and lavender.

Frankincense: Thrive Market Organic Frankincense Essential Oil

Thrive Frankincense

We’d happily accept this as a gift from the three wise men. This essential oil has cytophylactic (literal translation, ‘protects the cells of the organism’) properties that make it a strong anti-aging player. It can help reduce the look of wrinkles and discoloration, and also promotes cell regeneration, a boon for wound healing.

Seeking out certified organic and non-GMO essential oils whenever possible is the best way to help ensure you’re getting a completely pure product and the most benefits possible. This one checks both boxes, all at an affordable price. 

Oregano Oil: Doterra Oregano Oil

This is more than just a go-to seasoning for your pizza. Oregano essential oil (not to be confused with oregano leaf extract that’s often taken orally to fight colds) contains two good-for-your skin compounds: Carvacrol, a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects, and thymol, an antifungal. Along with being a good pick for fungal issues such as athlete’s foot, it’s great for helping to calm and soothe skin irritations.

Oregano essential oil is especially potent, so be sure to dilute it, and in most cases, just a drop (or two, at most) will do ya.

What to Look For in Essential Oils

Organic

In some products, organic is more a buzz word than a label you need to strongly stick to. With essential oils, though, it can be considered pretty important. Because essential oils are highly concentrated, things like pesticides and herbicides that a plant was treated with may also be concentrated in the resulting oil. Organic essential oils aren't always free of pesticide residues, but studies have shown they are lower than non-organic.

Multi-Use

Because many essential oils carry a moderate or high price tag, choosing ones that you can use for more than one purpose will help make those you do choose to buy a worthwhile expenditure. Opting for oils that you know you'll use because they do more than just smell good is key. For example, tea tree is used for facial toners and can help enhance a relaxing mood.

Sourcing and Traceability

Being able to trace ingredients is helpful for any skincare product, but because essential oils are sometimes fake, it's particularly important with them. Look for brands that are reputable and well reviewed, or that beauty professionals stand by. Founder and CEO of Sourcemap Inc. Dr. Leonardo Bonanni touts the importance of traceability, saying that it is a "basic tool companies can use to make sure they know who they’re buying from, what policies and procedures they have in place, and a way to share that information transparently with consumers."

Pet and Child Safe

Many essential oils that have proven benefits are not safe for children or pets. In addition to essential oils often being harmful if ingested, the odors of some might also prove to be dangerous. (Peppermint oil is particularly harmful to pets, as one example.) Always research if carrier oils are needed before use on anyone, but especially before introducing them to children and pets.

FAQ
  • Which essential oil is best for glowing skin?

    Many essential oils are useful to improve your skin's glow. If you have acne, tea tree may help clear it. Rose hip oil may help even skin tone, as well as increase skin elasticity, so it's a particularly safe bet.

  • What essential oils are bad for skin?

    Both citrus oils and mint oils can be harsh on skin. If you opt to use one, be sure it's properly diluted with a carrier oil. Or, stick to using them in a diffuser, so that you reap the potential aromatherapy benefits while keeping your skin at a distance.

  • Can I rub essential oil on my skin?

    With rare exception, no. Essential oils are, for the most part, not meant to be used directly on the skin. While there are many surprising uses for essential oils (such as keeping your closet fresh), you should use them on your skin only when diluted in a carrier oil. It's also useful to always do a patch test first on your hand or arm before placing even a diluted oil on your face.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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