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Essential Oils for Healing the Skin
Healing the Skin with Essential Oils
Trends in health and beauty are placing more trust in the efficacy of natural and organic ingredients. Skin care is no exception, with more women coming to realize the purity of what they put on their skin is as important as that of what they eat. The skin is the largest organ and is generally permeable to substances placed on it. This is particularly important in healing wounds, for the skin may be broken and more sensitive. Enter essential oils; these powerful plant-derived medicines have been used for many years for targeting skin conditions, enhancing beauty and promoting wellness. Oils have been found particularly useful for regenerating skin that has suffered from accidents or surgery or has their remaining signs in the form of keloid, acne, or other scars. Certain essential oil blends can speed healing time, reduce or eliminate scars from recent wounds and even greatly diminish the appearance of old ones.
There are a few primary essential oils used in skin care which offer their regenerative properties; these oils can be used in low concentrations, and are generally well-tolerated – certainly more so than many synthetic ingredients. The most important of these may be Helichrysum italicum, also known as Everlasting oil. This wonderful oil is distilled from the daisy-like flowers of the herb. It has a lovely earthy aroma and, despite its apparent expense, works in very low concentrations (only a few drops per tablespoon of your total blend). Helichrysum is strongly anti-inflammatory and contains powerful regenerative molecules unique to this oil only.
Helichrysum is the foundation of many blends for healing the skin and can be used by itself in a synergistic carrier oil such as Rosehip seed. This combination may be all that is needed to speed the healing of recent wounds – though often a little Lavender oil is added as well. Kurt Schnaubelt, one of America’s leading aromatherapists notes in his quintessential guide “Advanced Aromatherapy” that Helichrysum essential oil and Rosehip seed can “heal wounds with minimal or no scarring”.
As mentioned above, Lavender is often included in skin care blends – it has gentle anti-inflammatory and tissue regenerative properties, along with very soothing, anti-anxiety aroma. Lavender essential oil itself began the modern aromatherapy revolution when a scientist burned his hand in a laboratory accident, and after cooling the wound in a beaker of Lavender found the wound to heal remarkably quickly. It is also thought to ‘synergize’ or improve the efficacy of other essential oils in combination.
Calendula is now available as an essential oil and has a remarkable body of research as a wound healing agent. Long used as an ‘infused oil’, the CO2 process now makes it possible to easily add Calendula to any formula. This extract has been studied to significantly speed wound healing, reduce inflammation, has antiseptic properties, and is a strong antioxidant. A 3% addition to any formula may make an important contribution to its efficacy.
Sea Buckthorn essential oil is relatively new to the therapeutic arena, not described in many of the older medical aromatherapy texts. It is, however, an amazing skin healer, as it offers many vitamin A-like compounds that stimulate skin healing and regeneration. It has a sweet, berry-like aroma, and a deep red color from the high concentration of Carrotenoids. Use at a 1% concentration; the red color will be absorbed by the skin several minutes after application. It has been considered useful for nearly every single aromatherapy skin care formula.
The essential oil distilled from common Sage leaves is also used in the healing of scars, particularly old or unsightly scars. It’s natural regenerative properties and ability to promote circulation aid in gently breaking down the tough skin resulting from wound healing. Sage oil should only be used in these instances and in small quantities, as it’s Thujone content can be toxic in high quantities. If used in a recipe for stretch marks (see below), it should only be used post-partum. Despite it’s powerful components, however, when diluted and used with respect, one can use this oil safely.
Rosemary will be the final essential oil we’ll mention here for scar reduction. For the skin, Rosemary of the Verbenone chemotype has many important properties – it contains regenerative ketone molecules, and stimulates cellular metabolism. This oil helps new skin form, bringing nutrients into the cells and supports the removing toxins and wastes.
The essential oils mentioned here must be diluted in a carrier oil for daily application. In aromatherapy, more is not better! There have been numerous studies showing the great efficacy of essential oils in low concentrations based in seed or nut carrier oils. The two most commonly used base oils for healing the skin are Rosehip seed and Tamanu oils. Rosehip seed has many documented uses in skin care, witits’s triple-unsaturated fatty acids and it’s vitamin A compounds. Rosehip seed has the ability to support tissue regeneration like Retin A, but without the drying or redening side effects. Hazelnut oil is the most well tolerated of all the carrier oils, and with its mild astringent properties, can even be used in cases of very oily skin. It will tend to leave the skin feeling nourished without feeling greasy.
So how does one mix these natural botanicals for particular uses? There are a few simple but effective recipes specifically for wound healing and scar reduction. For old keloid or acne scars, use one ounce each of Hazelnut and Rosehip seed oils – to this, add one milliliter of Helichrysum Italicum essential oil and Sage officinalis essential oil. Apply regularly for three to six months for best results. For more recent cuts, scrapes, and even surgical incisions (that have reached the point where they are safe to get moist), use the same Hazelnut and Rosehip seed blend, adding one milliliter of Helichrysum and one milliliter of Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia). Apply twice a day while the wound is healing. For the reduction and possible elimination of stretch marks post partum, again to one ounce each of Hazelnut and Rosehip seed oils, add one milliliter Sage and one milliliter Rosemary verbenone. Like the formula for old scars, use this regularly for several months.
So there is a few effective combinations of natural botanical ingredients that can support certain skin care conditions. Many, many more skin care formulas are available when blending essential oils – with many oils able to aid with very particular situations. If needed, a little research should go a long way in helping you find what you need. And as always with aromatherapy oils, go slowly, pay attention to your body’s reactions and remember that increasing concentrations of the essential oils will not make a more effective blend. Be safe and enjoy.*