There are plenty of essential oils out there. But unlike the tea trees and lavenders and peppermints of the world that get plenty of attention in the skincare space, cypress oil flies somewhat under the radar. But it shouldn't—the ingredient has been well-studied and is shown to have some proven topical benefits, particularly for those with oily or acne-prone skin. Ahead, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Stacy Chimento, MD, of Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, FL, and cosmetic chemist Stacey Steinmetz, founder of StimuNail, weigh in on the benefits of cypress oil and explain the best way to incorporate it into your skincare routine.
Type of ingredient: Essential oil
Main benefits: Has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties and is also an astringent.
Who should use it: Cypress oil is an especially good choice for those with oily skin.
How often can you use it: Daily, but it must be diluted.
Works well with: Combines well with other oils and oil-based products; it also works well when paired with hydrating and anti-inflammatory ingredients to balance its astringent function, says Dr. Chimento.
Don't use with: Since it can be drying, it's best not to pair it with alcohol-based products. It may also be too irritating if you're using retinol on a daily basis, notes Dr. Chimento.
What Is Cypress Oil?
"Cypress oil is a highly concentrated essential oil that's obtained through steam distillation from the stems, branches, and leaves of the cypress tree, an evergreen plant found mainly in the Mediterranean," explains Steinmetz. (As you might suspect, it's defined by a characteristic woodsy, smoky smell.) It's imperative to keep in mind that this is an essential oil, a potent plant extract, and not the traditional type of skincare oil you may think of, such as coconut or jojoba. In short, this means that you never want to put cypress oil—or any other essential oil, for that matter—directly on your skin. It always needs to be diluted, either with a carrier oil, like coconut or jojoba, or mixed into another skincare product. But more on that to come.
Benefits of Cypress Oil for Skin
"Cypress oil is antimicrobial, meaning it can help slow the spread of bacteria, viruses, and fungi," says Dr. Chimento. It's this key attribute, specifically the antibacterial part, that makes it beneficial for helping combat acne.
Has antibacterial properties: A 2014 study found that cypress oil had effective antibacterial properties. While this didn't look at acne-causing bacteria specifically, both experts we spoke with say that it can be a good acne treatment. "Acne can occur when pores become clogged with excess sebum and bacteria. Cypress oil can help combat breakouts by killing the bacteria within pores and hair follicles," explains Dr. Chimento.
Has antiviral properties: In a 2017 review of various essential oils, cypress oil was found to effectively work against viruses, namely the herpes simplex virus, the one that causes cold sores. It may also help combat warts, caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV.
Is an astringent: Besides cypress oil being a good choice for those with acneic skin, it's also an astringent, meaning it can be used to draw out excess oil and help constrict the skin, minimizing the look of prominent pores, says Dr. Chimento. "As an added benefit, cypress oil is more gentle on sensitive skin than witch hazel," she adds. (Witch hazel is one of the most common and well-known astringent ingredients.)
Reduces muscle pain: Cypress oil is considered an anti-spasmodic, as it can help reduce muscle pain and cramping and stimulates circulation, all reasons why it's commonly used during massage therapy, points out Steinmetz. In somewhat related news, cypress oil is often touted as an effective essential oil for helping to combat cellulite (this goes back to the oil's ability to improve circulation), though there are no studies proving these effects.
Side Effects of Cypress Oil
"Because cypress oil is an astringent, it can cause dryness and irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin," says Dr. Chimento. Steinmetz adds that it can also cause redness and a burning sensation. An actual allergy to cypress oil is also highly possible, which is why both experts we spoke with suggest conducting a DIY patch test before using the essential oil all over your entire face or body. Apply a small amount (diluted, more on that in a moment) to your inner forearm and monitor for 24 hours. If your skin breaks out in hives or is itchy or burning, discontinue use immediately, cautions Dr. Chimento. Bottom line: Both experts underscore how potent cypress oil is, so, first and foremost, using it correctly is the best way to help mitigate the likelihood of any unwanted side effects. To that point...
How to Use It
We've said it once, we'll say it again—because cypress oil is an essential oil, do not, we repeat do not, apply it directly onto the skin. If you're trying to reap the anti-acne benefits, try mixing in a drop or two with some of your skincare products. Steinmetz points out that it makes a great spot treatment when combined with a mask, while Dr. Chimento adds that mixing it with a moisturizer that contains hydrating and soothing ingredients (omega 3 fatty acids and ceramides are two of her top picks) is a good way to help counterbalance the potentially drying side effects of cypress oil and help protect the skin barrier in the process. She also notes that pairing it with a product that contains hyaluronic acid is a good idea: "Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that can help draw moisture back into the skin to offset some of that dryness from the oil. It can keep skin plump and glowy, while the cypress oil fights acne and bacteria," she says.
To use it for muscle-soothing purposes, Steinmetz recommends diluting it with a plant-based carrier oil, such as jojoba or avocado, to create your own massage oil. (Again, you need only a drop or two, because a little goes a long way with cypress oil.) A few other important points: Essential oils don't blend well with water-based products—think more lightweight serums or lotions—and could cause the mixture to separate, says Steinmetz. It also shouldn't be blended with other products that stimulate circulation, nor ingested, she cautions.
At the end of the day, so long as you use it correctly, cypress oil can be a great essential oil to work into your skincare routine, particularly if you're battling blemishes and/or excess oil.