"Essential oils aren’t just nice-smelling aromas," says Adina Grigore, the founder of the organic skincare brand S.W. Basics and author of Just the Essentials: How Essential Oils Can Heal Your Skin, Improve Your Health, and Detox Your Life. "They are plant compounds with active and often healing properties, and unlike synthetic fragrance, pure essential oils contain dynamic components that work with your body and your body's chemistry for synergistic, healing results."
Essential oils have a range of healing properties, targeting everything from anxiety to dry skin. It can be difficult to navigate the myriad ingredients (and separate what's truly healthy from what's mostly hype), especially considering the wide range of price points and brands. Fortunately, according to Grigore, it's fairly easy to get a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to oils.
"The great thing about using essentials oils for dry skin is that a few drops will go a long way," continues Grigore. "Keep in mind that when purchasing pure essential oils, you’ll always want to dilute them in a carrier oil." A carrier oil is a plant or seed oil that can "carry" an essential oil in order to make it safe and non-irritating for topical use. "Carrier oils are usually very light in scent and are mild enough to be applied directly to the skin," she explains. "My favorite carrier oils for dry skin are jojoba oil, sesame oil, sweet almond oil, or evening primrose oil. If you’re not a DIY-er, you can always grab pre-diluted essential oils, like S.W. Basics' line of Functional Fragrances."
Below, Grigore lists her favored essential oils for dry skin.
"I know you’ve heard about lavender oil too many times in your life, but I list it first because it’s a powerhouse essential oil and extremely accessible. If you’re having a severe dry spell and need to grab something quickly at your local CVS or health food store, lavender is the one. It’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and extremely soothing, so it’ll calm your skin pretty quickly (and your mood too!). To use, mix a few drops of it into a carrier oil or a cream that you already have in your cabinet, and let it work its magic."
Those who have suffered from anxiety or insomnia are likely familiar with chamomile, most often used in nighttime teas. "Chamomile is well-known for its calming properties, and the essential oil does the same thing for your skin," says Grigore. "Chamomile is high in sesquiterpenes, which means it's anti-inflammatory, moderately antimicrobial, and wonderfully soothing." Its uses extend beyond skin and sleep, too. "I love to brew a cup of chamomile tea and rinse with it after shampooing to brighten and hydrate my dry hair."
"This one might come as a surprise for some people, but tea tree oil is a wonderful treatment if you’re experiencing broken-out skin that is also dry," says Grigore. While it may seem counter-intuitive to apply oil to skin that's, well, already oily, Grigore explains that acne can often be attributed to dry skin. "In response to the dryness, it overproduces oil, and that excess oil makes you break out. Tea tree essential oil works its magic without being overly drying and irritating like its synthetic counterparts (looking at you, benzoyl peroxide)." Similarly, tea tree oil can also help combat mild to moderate dandruff, says Grigore.
According to Grigore, rose geranium aids in healing cracked and aggravated skin, making it a prime ingredient for lotions and lip balms. "Rose geranium is one of my favorite essences in smell, feel, and its ability to bring balance to any situation," says Grigore, who recommends adding a few drops to water for a DIY facial steam.
Carrot Seed Oil
"No ingredient has improved my skin as instantaneously as carrot seed oil. It’s kind of mind-blowing. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and soothes redness and irritations." As Grigore explains, carrot seed oil is chock full of vitamins E and C, both of which are highly moisturizing, as well as beta carotene (which helps explain its orange hue, and also helps soothe dry skin). It does come with a downside, though. "The one thing about carrot seed oil is that it smells pretty earthy, so I like to mix it with a few carrier oils and another essential oil to mask the scent."