Can Essential Oils Help Treat Cystic Acne? We Asked the Experts

Updated 08/09/18

Cystic acne is a special type of breakout that unfortunately requires more than a spot treatment to cure. “Cysts are hard, painful blemishes that develop deep within the skin and will eventually heal (your body eventually reabsorbs the infection), but can remain a painful lump for weeks,” celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau once told us. The quickest fix usually involves a cortisone shot or a cystic acne treatment, but for those who would rather not pile on foreign ingredients onto their faces, there are plenty of at-home remedies alternatives. Something to add to that list is an essential oil. 

How exactly does one use an essential oil to treat cystic acne? We asked Vitruvi CEO and co-founder Sara Panton to break down the benefits of using essential oils to treat this specific type of acne and how to do so. Scroll down to see what she says are the best essential oils to treat cystic acne. 

Benefits of essential oils over conventional treatments

Essential oils are often times gentler on the skin over conventional products since they don't contain some of the harsh chemicals and irritants. According to Panton, harsh prescription products can actually stress and irritate the skin further, increasing oil production and tip the balance of the skin. (This is especially true if they contain severe drying agents and astringent properties).

But her favorite reason for turning to essential oils to treat cystic acne has mostly to do with the connection between mind and body. "Many types of acne can be associated with stress and an imbalance in hormone levels," she says. Essential oils do a beautiful job of effectively creating an environment and rituals that can help alleviate feelings of stress, thus helping regulate sleep and hormone levels. Taking a holistic approach and looking at what might be causing the cystic acne is a great place to start."

Essential oils that treat cystic acne

She lists three essential oils that are the most effective when wanting to treat cystic acne. They are: 

1.) Lavender

She likes to use lavender as a spot treatment to use directly on blemishes before bed or mixed with a carrier oil. "It has been shown to have natural sedative properties, which can help improve sleep routine and combat insomnia and sleep deprivation—both of which can lead to imbalances in hormone levels," she says. "Lavender also has gentle anti-microbial properties that help decrease surface bacteria, which might contribute to blemishes."

2.) Tea Tree

She explains that tea tree oil has a more targeted and strong version of the antimicrobial and antibacterial properties of lavender essential oil. "This ultra-fresh essential oil is packed with healing and cleansing abilities that make it great for a face steam because it can get right into the pores and skin to deeply treat congestion and bacteria," she says. "Plus, it smells like an intense spa, which is always welcomed."

3.) Geranium 

"Geranium essential oil is gentle on the skin and has a beautiful feminine aroma that has been known to help balance hormones and relieve stress," she says.  She suggests adding a few drops to a warm bath and using the aroma to naturally steam the face. You can also add it to your current moisturizer for a balancing boost.

What ingredients to avoid

The only other type of oil she cautions against mixing is any citrus oil, especially bergamot. "[It] can be phototoxic and make the skin overly sensitive to direct sunlight," she says. "Beyond that, I would say it’s best to keep your skincare routine very simple, so that you know where possible irritations are coming from." She also advices to drink lots of water and sleep; you always need your "me" time. 

So the next time you're dealing with cystic acne, try an essential oil. By Panton's standards, it'll be soothing for both your body and your mind. 

Related Stories