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. To kick them out, a lot of people turn to over-the-counter products with strong ingredients. Sure, those might work for you. But if you have sensitive skin and would rather depend on gentle, botanical herbs, trust that essential oils may work just as well at banishing blackheads.
Byrdie tapped the co-founder of essential oils company Vitruvi, Sara Panton, along with skincare specialists Amoreena Berg and Lauren Ing of SMD Cosmetics to share the very best essential oils for blackheads.
Before using the below essential oils, it's important to know the best way to apply them. Panton recommends following these steps for the proper application:
1. Begin with an oil cleanser. "It might seem counterintuitive, but using oil to clean away oily skin is actually an incredibly effective method for cleansing pores, especially blackheads," explains Panton. "Add one drop of geranium essential oil and one drop of tea tree essential oil to one tablespoon of coconut oil, massage into the skin (avoiding the eyes), and wipe clean with a warm face cloth."
2. Steam your skin. "In a large bowl, add steaming hot water and three drops of lavender essential oil with two drops of sweet orange essential oil," instructs Panton. "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."
3. Apply a toner. "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 was 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."
According to Panton, lavender has natural antibacterial properties that are similar to those found in tea tree. You don't have to worry about lavender being too irritable on the skin; it's gentle enough to apply directly on the skin. "Blackheads are caused by a combination of bacteria, dirt, and oils that are trapped in a pore," explains Panton. "Tea tree is a potent essential oil with antifungal properties that 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."
"Tea tree is a potent essential oil with anti-fungal properties that is great for clearing away bacteria and preventing blackheads from turning into larger blemishes," explains Panton.
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."
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.
"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. "Grapefruit can also help with circulation, which leaves you with a natural glow."
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."
"Our cleansing oil also has many essential oils that help to thoroughly and deeply clean pores by helping to lift excess sebum, including eucalyptus," the oily substance produced by glands your skin, clean out clogged pores like blackheads and whiteheads, and remove dead skin, pollutants, and makeup."
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.
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 it with your serum or moisturizer.
If you want to do a deep dive into essential oils even further, read the only guide you'll ever need here.
Cleveland Clinic. How to get rid of blackheads. Updated January 30, 2020.
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