Blackheads are essentially clogged hair follicles that are full of excess sebum and debris. The overflow of sebum and debris oxidizes in the top layer of your pores, resulting in those black dots inevitably taking up residence on your skin. These bumps are among the most common forms of acne and are usually formed in the T-zone (forehead, nose and chin). To kick them out, many people are now trusting in the power of essential oils. They are very effective, especially for sensitive skin, as a gentle and holistic way to banish blackheads.
Byrdie tapped the co-founder of essential oils company Vitruvi, Sara Panton, skincare specialists Amoreena Berg and Lauren Ing of SMD Cosmetics, and dermatologist Naissan O. Wesley to share their best tips on this. 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 is great for clearing away bacteria and preventing blackheads from turning into larger blemishes. It can also help prevent inflammation if you are extracting blackheads and left with redness," she says.
You don't have to worry about lavender being too irritable on the skin; Vitruvi's Lavender Essential Oil is gentle enough to apply directly on the face. "Blackheads are caused by a combination of bacteria, dirt, and oils that are trapped in a pore," explains Panton.
"Tea tree oil is the most common essential oil given its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Its benefits have been shown in some peer-reviewed studies to reduce total skin lesions when used for acne," Wesley explains. Since blackheads and acne are often associated with certain bacteria, such as P. acnes (Propionibacterium acnes), the antimicrobial properties could be beneficial in this way. Wesley recommends finding a brand that engages in practices to ensure the purity and quality of the product. "I like Arbonne essential oils because their 100% pure essential oils follow strict seed-to-source standards from growth in the field to harvest."
According to Panton, you can use oil as a natural facial cleanser. "It's actually an incredibly effective method for cleansing pores, especially blackheads," she says. For this, you can 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 1-2 drops of essential oil for approximately every 4oz of carrier oil (like coconut oil or jojoba oil).
You probably have noticed that sweet orange oil is in so many cleaning properties. Its tangy citrus makes it one of the best oils for combatting grease and oil. "Using diluted sweet orange oil is a great way to break down the oil found in blackheads and also leaves your face smelling very fresh and clean," explains Panton. Emphasis on diluted since using this oil without water may be too harsh for the skin.
Panton shares an excellent way to use sweet orange essential oil in a facial steam. "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," she instructs. "Place your head over the bowl and 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 alerts that people with asthma need to be careful. "The volatile organic compounds in the air could potentially trigger a flare-up if the individual is sensitive to that scent."
"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," says Panton. "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.
"Grapefruit can also help with circulation, which leaves you with a natural glow," says Paton. You just have to be careful that some essential oils, particularly those from a citrus source, can also be photosensitizing when the skin is exposed to sunlight after use. "They can be used on people with sensitive skin, but should be diluted and tested on an inconspicuous area as discussed like the forearm first," adds Wesley.
Eucalyptus balances the skin's excess sebum and prevents blackheads: "Add eucalyptus essential oil to your preferred cleansing or moisturizing cream," suggest Berg and Ing. "You could also make a blend of facial scrub containing oatmeal, white clay, raw almonds, and equal parts lavender and eucalyptus essential oils."
Aura Cacia's Eucalyptus Essential Oil is not tested in animals and has its purity certified.
Jojoba oil helps to balance everything out since it "looks, feels, and acts like our skin's normal oils," skincare specialist Ryan Neinstein of NYC Surgical Associates explains. "This tricks our bodies into producing less acne-producing oil." It also reduces inflammation and speeds up acne's healing process because of its natural antibacterial properties, including iodine, which kills and prevents bacteria growth. Olivia Care's Jojoba Oil, for example, is rich in Vitamins A, D, & E, and Omega 6 & 9.
"It 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)." The doctor explains that it is usually well-tolerated on its own – as an ingredient in skincare products or as a carrier for essential oils. It is also not usually sensitizing and typically doesn't stain clothing.
Clary sage is known for its calming and soothing sensation on the skin. It's a flowering herb that also uncovers clogged pores and simmers inflamed areas of the skin that are more blackhead-prone. Simply combine Clary Sage Oil from NOW Essential Oils with your serum or moisturizer.
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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