Nothing wrecks a good skin day quite like acne. We know the common culprits when it comes to the inflamed variety (think: genetics, fluctuating hormones, diet, and overzealous skincare practices). But what about when it comes to blackheads? According to co-founder of essential oils company Vitruvi Sara Panton, "blackheads are caused by a combination of bacteria, dirt, and oils that are trapped in a pore."
Essentially, blackheads are clogged hair follicles full of excess sebum and debris. This overflow of sebum and debris oxidizes in the top layer of your pores, eventually rearing its head as those black dots that inevitably take up real estate on your skin. Blackheads usually pop up in the T-zone (forehead, nose and chin), and to kick them out, many people are now trusting in the power of essential oils not just for their healing qualities, but because they're a gentle, more holistic option (sensitive skin types, rejoice!).
In addition to Panton, we tapped skincare specialists Amoreena Berg and Lauren Ing of SMD Cosmetics along with dermatologist Naissan O. Wesley to share their best tips on how to use essential oils to banish blackheads.
Keep scrolling to learn the best essential oils to treat and prevent blackheads.
According to Panton, lavender has natural antibacterial properties similar to those found in tea tree oil. "It's great for clearing away bacteria and preventing blackheads from turning into larger blemishes. It can also help prevent inflammation if you're extracting blackheads and left with redness," she says.
And, if you have sensitive skin, you don't have to worry about lavender irritating the skin, especially if you're using something like this from Vitruvi, which, unlike most essential oils that need to be diluted, is gentle enough to apply directly on the face.
Tea tree oil is lauded in the beauty world as being an acne-fighting warrior—and for good reason. Wesley notes that given its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, it's the most commonly used essential oil. Since blackheads and acne are often associated with certain bacteria, such as P. acnes (Propionibacterium acnes), the antimicrobial properties found in tea tree oil are wildly effective at treating blackheads.
According to Panton, using tea tree oil as a facial cleanser is "an incredibly effective method for cleansing pores, especially blackheads," she says. For this, add one drop of tea tree essential oil and one drop of geranium essential oil to one tablespoon of coconut oil, massage into the skin (avoiding the eyes), and wipe clean with a warm face cloth.
Panton points out that geranium essential oil is considered a floral oil that has a subtle minty aroma. "It has toning and balancing effects on the skin and is especially great for hormonal changes," says Panton. "I love using it in a facial steam, as well as combined with coconut oil as a natural facial cleanser." She recommends Vitruvi's Geranium Essential Oil, a 100% pure and certified organic oil sourced from Egypt's herbaceous geranium leaves.
Diluting and testing a new essential oil on nonfacial skin first is key. Essential oils are potent oils extracted from plants, sometimes much more potent than the plant's dried herb form. To dilute, use one to two drops of essential oil for approximately every four ounces of carrier oil (like coconut oil or jojoba oil).
Ever wonder why sweet orange oil is in so many cleaning products? Its tangy citrus makes it one of the best oils for combatting grease in your grimy bathroom—and on your skin. "Using diluted sweet orange oil is a great way to break down the oil found in blackheads," explains Panton. Not to mention, it'll also leave your face smelling incredibly fresh.
If you're looking to use sweet orange essential oil in a facial steam, here's what Panton recommends: "In a large bowl, add steaming hot water and three drops of lavender essential oil with two drops of Vitruvi's sweet orange essential oil. Place your head over the bowl and place a towel over your head. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths. Keep your face over the bowl for one to four minutes, depending on what feels best. The heat from the steam will help open the pores and loosen dirt and oil associated with blackheads. Opening up the pores helps remove pore buildup more effectively as well."
Wesley warns that people with asthma should use sweet orange oil with caution. "The volatile organic compounds in the air could potentially trigger a flare-up if the individual is sensitive to that scent," she says.
"Grapefruit essential oil has similar properties to sweet orange, but it also has an astringent quality, which makes it a great toner to use diluted with water after cleansing," explains Panton. "Using an organic cotton pad, mix warm water with one drop of grapefruit essential oil and one drop lavender essential oil to wipe the face clean after cleansing. "This helps remove any oil and dirt from the pores that were loosened during steaming, and also helps prevent inflammation and further buildup of bacteria in the skin." Use one to three cotton pads to ensure the face remains clean and fresh and ensure to wipe around the nose, chin, and forehead where blackheads are most common.
While grapefruit essential oil can help with circulation (which leaves you with a natural glow), it's important to note that some essential oils, particularly those from a citrus source, can also be photosensitizing when the skin is exposed to sunlight after use.
Beyond its invigorating aroma, eucalyptus may balance the skin's excess sebum and prevent blackheads. Berg and Ing recommend adding eucalyptus essential oil to your preferred cleansing or moisturizing cream. Or, if you're looking to go the scrub route, you can mix oatmeal, white clay, raw almonds, and equal parts lavender and eucalyptus essential oils for a DIY exfoliator.
Ah, jojoba oil. Revered for its skin-balancing properties, the oil is known to look, feel, and act like our skin's normal oils. "Jojoba oil closely mimics our own sebum, the oil produced from our skin's oil glands (also called sebaceous glands)," says Wesley. "Since its properties are similar to those of our own skin's sebum, it typically is non-comedogenic (meaning it probably won't clog pores)."
Not to mention, jojoba oil also reduces inflammation and may even speed up acne's healing process because of its natural antibacterial properties, which kill and prevent bacteria growth. Olivia Care's Jojoba Oil, for example, is rich in Vitamins A, D, & E, and Omega 6 & 9.
Clary sage is known for its calming and soothing sensation on the skin. It's a flowering antibacterial herb that also uncovers clogged pores and simmers inflamed areas of the skin that are more blackhead-prone.
Wesley advises that it's best to test on the inner forearm after diluting and wait 24 hours to see if any skin reaction has occurred before applying on a wider body surface area. "If tolerated well, in addition to some of them having anti-inflammatory properties, their scents can be pleasant and have been associated with some healing properties."
Cleveland Clinic. How to get rid of blackheads. Updated January 30, 2020.
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