Eczema is a skin condition that causes dry, rough, and inflamed patches on the skin. Studies show that over 30 million Americans are affected by eczema, and there are several types: atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis. It's most common with babies and children, and fortunately for some, fades over time.
This is exactly what happened to me. I suffered from eczema for many years of my childhood. The itching on my arms, backs of my legs, ears, and neck was uncontrollable, and I have vivid memories of going to one doctor's appointment after the next in search of some sort of prescription or cream that would rid my skin of this agony. Little did my parents or I know, there are essential oils for eczema to soothe my skin just as well as any over-the-counter, topical treatment.
"Essential oils and pure carrier oils are a great option for eczema because they are super effective yet gentle on the skin; they are easy to experiment with because of their simplicity of formula," explains Vitruvi co-founder Sara Panton, who dreamed up one of the best essential-oil aromatherapy lines on the market. "My brother had eczema when he was younger, and I remember it always being difficult to navigate the reactions he would have to treatments and prescription products because their complexity would often irritate the skin further, causing the skin to become even more inflamed."
Like Panton's brother, my struggle with finding a prescription free of harsh chemicals that would anger my sensitive skin was like adding insult to injury. However, there is a specific way to use essential oils for eczema to fully maximize its benefits.
"The best way to use essential oils is to have them blended with a carrier oil," suggests Andrea Lopez, esthetician and founder of Bonum Vitae, an ethical, cruelty-free line of plant-based oils. "Carrier oils are natural too but act as a 'vehicle' delivering the essential oils in an efficient manner to the areas desired. Bonum Vitae offers two blends that would be great for anyone who suffers from eczema: the dry blend and oily/acneic blend."
For further guidance, we also tapped Andrea Barone Sazwan, a reiki master, chartered herbalist, and founder of the crystal-infused skincare line, Crystal Hills. See the specific essential oils for eczema that she, Panton, and Lopez recommend below.
"Jojoba oil mimics the oil moisture that the skin naturally produces, which makes it a great option for those with really dry or cracked eczema," explains Panton. "This base carrier oil sinks into the skin without leaving a residue and helps to moisturize the deepest levels of the skin."
Apricot Kernel Oil
"This is a great option for those with sensitive skin or allergies to nuts," says Panton. "Apricot kernel oil is really gentle and one of the more hypoallergenic options when looking at moisturizing base oils for the skin."
Apricot kernel oil is made from cold-pressed apricot seeds. It may slow down signs of aging, as well as firm and tone the skin.
Hemp Seed Oil
"Hemp seed oil is very high in essential omega fatty acids that are nourishing for the skin, and it tends to be really gentle topically," says Panton. "Hemp seed oil is also great to take internally in capsule form or using natural hemp seeds as a mask treatment on the skin can help with irritation and hydrations."
"Frankincense essential oil is created from the resinous extract and is really healing to the skin and can help to relax the body and mind," suggests Panton. "It should be diluted with a base carrier oil before applied to the skin and, when applied to broken skin, can be really relaxing and can help to promote cell repairing."
"Gentle and known for its balancing properties, geranium is great to add to a bath for helping to soothe and balance inflamed skin along with a coconut milk or oat milk bath," says Panton. "I love using geranium essential oil on the skin and in bath and facial treatments (especially with dry skin), but always ensure to dilute it before applying to broken or dry skin." Plus, "Geranium is known to help reduce redness and irritation," adds Lopez.
"Some, like lavender, bergamot, and frankincense, have anti-inflammatory properties," explains Lopez.
"An essential oil like myrrh alleviates dry and cracked or scaly skin," says Lopez.
"Helichrysum can help heal broken blood vessels. A blend of this and other essential oils can be very effective in treating eczema," explains Lopez.
Helichrysum oil is rich in anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antibiotic properties, as well as regenerative compounds. It promotes skin cell regeneration, protects against UV damage, and may reduce the appearance of fine lines.
"Grapeseed, while having anti-inflammatory properties, is also known to protect the skin and reduce itchiness," Lopez adds.
Roman Chamomile Oil
"This essential oil offers exceptional anti-inflammatory properties and helps to soothe the skin while minimizing the development of dehydrated patches of skin," explains Sazwan.
"Rose is a powerful rejuvenating botanical that helps to heal the skin," Sazwan concludes. "When using essential oils on the skin, always ensure that they are diluted in a carrier oil."
National Eczema Association. Eczema Stats.
Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070
Journal of Oleo Science. “Chemical Composition and Antioxidant Properties of Oils from the Seeds of Five Apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) Cultivars.” Aug 1, 2019. 729-738. Doi:10.5650/jos.ess19121
Journal of Ethnopharmacology. “Helichrysum Italicum: From Traditional Use to Scientific Data.” Jan 10, 2014. 54-65. Doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.11.005