The Best 17 Essential Oils for Acne (Backed by Scientific Research)

The Best Essential Oils for Acne
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Using essential oils to treat outbreaks of acne is an effective way to treat this unsightly skin condition. Acne can affect people of all ages and its obvious symptoms are bumps, zits, and pimples on the face, chest, and back. Bacteria, sebum (the oil the skin produces), and dead skin cells block pores on the skin, making them become inflamed, swollen, and fill with pus. Getting rid of spots, pimples, and pustules can be tricky, especially if the acne is moderate to severe.

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The reason that many essential oils are great for treating acne is that they contain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. For example, research into essential oils like tea tree oil, rosemary oil, lavender oil, and lemon oil have shown that they possess antimicrobial activity and are effective against acne-causing bacteria. Some of these essential oils also help to relieve stress, which can sometimes aggravate or exacerbate acne.

When using essential oils as part of your natural acne treatment, it’s important to remember that they should always be used on the skin with a carrier oil. At the end of this article, you will find great natural recipes using essential oils for dealing with mild to moderate cases of acne.

The Best Essential Oils for Acne

Getting rid of acne using natural essential oils is much better for your skin than harsh and potentially dangerous prescription medication. The effectiveness of the medicinal properties of the essential oils in this article is also backed up by scientific research.

You should also remember that when treating acne breakouts at home with essential oils, you need to eat healthily to help get rid of your acne faster. Although the relationship between diet and acne has been controversial and difficult to prove, as it’s hard to isolate the individual factors that could cause breakouts, some studies suggest a link between the two.21, 22

Here are the top essential oils that you can use for treating pimples and pustules naturally. You can use the essential oils in combination or just one or two mixed with a carrier oil.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is one of the best essential oils for clearing up many types of skin infection. Tea tree oil contains antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties which make it an excellent oil for fighting acne. Tea tree essential oil is especially good for acne because it also helps to reduce inflammation from blocked pores as well. The power of tea tree oil to fight bacteria will help to get rid of blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples.

A study published in the journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews found that tea tree oil contains a compound called terpinen-4-ol which is effective against a number of bacteria strains. In fact, using 5% tea tree oil in a topical treatment helped to reduce the number of pimples on acne-infected skin. The tea tree oil remedy helped to reduce itching and dryness and had fewer side effects than prescription acne medication.1

In another study entitled “Over-the-Counter Acne Treatments,” it was reported that tea tree oil for acne works well because it is also anti-inflammatory. The researchers said that tea tree oil has potential usefulness in treating acne vulgaris.2

Unlike most other essential oils, tea tree oil can be applied directly to small areas of skin. This makes tea tree oil an excellent spot treatment to get rid of one or two inflamed pustules.

Tea tree oil is also one of the best natural remedies for fighting chest acne and treating back acne.

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Rosemary oil

Rosemary is another essential oil that has great benefits for your skin and for treating acne outbreaks. Rosemary essential oil has compounds that eliminate excess oil from the skin, kill off bacteria and reduce redness and swelling in clogged pores. It also helps to repair damaged skin, thus helping to naturally avoid the appearance of scars.

Research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that extracts of rosemary are effective against Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes). This is a strain of bacteria that is associated with outbreaks of acne. The active compounds of rosemary helped to decrease bacteria-induced inflammation on skin lesions.3

Other studies have confirmed the antibacterial effect of rosemary in treating outbreaks of acne.4

Because rosemary oil increases blood circulation, it is also a great natural remedy for hair loss.

Lavender oil

Lavender oil is not only great at helping to destroy acne-causing bacteria, but it helps to reduce stress at the same time. It is known that stress can aggravate acne and cause more pimples to appear. So, this makes lavender oil an important ingredient in stress-related acne outbreaks.

Studies have shown that acne and stress are co-related. For example, the journal Archives of Dermatology reported that people with acne experience a worsening of their condition when under emotional stress.5 Lavender is one of my great natural oils to help cope with stress better.

The journal Molecules reported that lavender oil has strong antibacterial activity against Propionibacterium acnes strain. Five minutes after applying lavender oil, all traces of bacteria were gone from the skin.6 Other studies have shown that lavender is an effective anti-inflammatory agent that reduces swelling.7

Clary sage

Clary sage is another anti-acne essential oil with stress relieving properties. Clary sage is used to remove bacteria from wounds to accelerate healing. Using clary sage in aromatherapy also helps to reduce stress levels which can help to prevent outbreaks of pimples on your face.

Scientific research has confirmed the use of clary sage in treating bacterial skin infections. For example, a study in 2015 found that the antimicrobial properties of clary sage are useful for treating wounds and preventing skin infections.8

Another study into the effectiveness of clary sage in helping to cure acne found that it reduces sebum production to help unclog pores. Along with this, the scent of clary sage has an anti-stress effect that can help reduce the symptoms of depression.9

Lemon oil

Use lemon oil to reduce the appearance of pimples and pustules caused by acne. Lemon oil is great essential oil to apply to your skin if you have an oily complexion as it reduces excess oil on the skin. Applying lemon oil to acne-infected skin helps also to drain pus-filled pustules and pimples. Also, the astringent qualities of lemon oil help to tighten sagging skin.

Many citrus essential oils have an antibacterial activity that can destroy acne-causing bacteria. For example, a study from 2008 found that citrus essential oils kill off two strains of bacteria that are associated with acne – Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis.10

Eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus oil helps to reduce excess oil and sebum on the skin to help get rid of acne quicker. There are two ways that eucalyptus oil helps to get great results when treating acne. First of all, it shows antibacterial activities against P. acnes strain of bacteria. Secondly, it cuts through oil to remove sebum.

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These findings were reported in the journal BioMed Research International. Researchers found that eucalyptus oil exhibits antimicrobial activity and reduces the amount of oil the sebaceous glands produce. Therefore, the researchers concluded that eucalyptus extracts help to “control the spread of acne.”4

Lemongrass oil

Lemongrass oil is great for your skin and for helping to reduce the appearance of acne. Lemongrass oil is also a natural astringent which helps to make pores look smaller and get rid of excess oil.

The International Journal of Aromatherapy reported that lemongrass is an effective essential oil for acne control. Lemongrass oil helps to reduce inflammation in blocked pores, eliminate P. acnes bacteria from the skin, and reduce the formation of acne scars.11  

Basil oil

Basil oil has great benefits for acne-prone skin because of its antimicrobial activity. Basil oil helps to nourish the skin and keep it free from germs and other microbes that can cause skin infections and inflammation.

A study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science reported that sweet basil and holy basil extracts kill off P. acnes bacteria. The scientists concluded that topical preparations containing basil oil are suitable for acne skin care.12

Juniper berry

The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of juniper berry essential oil make it a great natural remedy for acne. The cleansing effect of juniper berry extracts will help to rid your skin of free radicals and promote healing of damaged, infected skin.

Juniper berry contains specific antibacterial compounds that help clear up acne outbreaks. The journal Pharmaceutical Development and Technology reported that remedies containing juniper berry extracts make effective anti-acne topical ointments.13

Oregano oil

This aromatic spice makes a great anti-acne oil thanks to its strong disinfectant properties. Oregano oil is helpful in speeding up wound healing and preventing infections on the skin from getting worse.

In 2011, the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology reported on the wound-healing power of oregano oil. Clinical studies found that oregano extracts reduced and prevented the spread of bacterial skin infections, helped wounds to heal quicker, and reduced the appearance of scars.14  

Sandalwood

Sandalwood has many beneficial properties for the skin that makes it a wonderful addition to an antiacne homemade ointment. Among the ways that sandalwood boosts the appearance of your skin is that it is anti-inflammatory, astringent, antiseptic, and helps lock in moisture.

The best type of sandalwood extract to use for acne control is Indian sandalwood. The journal Frontiers in Pharmacology reported that East Indian sandalwood oil helps to reduce the number of pimples on the skin and decrease the severity of acne. The application of sandalwood also helped to reduce swelling and redness on inflamed skin lesions.15

Chamomile oil

Chamomile is well-known for its soothing properties that reduce inflammation and stress. As well as helping to get rid of the visible signs of infected pores like swollen red bumps on the skin, chamomile is also antibacterial which makes it an excellent natural treatment for acne.

A review on the medicinal properties of chamomile extracts reported that chamomile has traditionally been used to treat bacterial infections of the skin. When chamomile extracts are applied to the skin, they help to reduce irritation, including sores, rashes, and other inflammatory conditions.16  

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Frankincense oil

Frankincense oil is a wonderful healing essential oil that can help to rejuvenate your skin and fight acne. A few drops of frankincense oil in your anti-acne treatment can help to boost the antibacterial properties of homemade acne remedies.

A study published in 2003 found that frankincense essential oil exhibited antibacterial activities and can help to soothe skin inflammation.17

Bergamot oil

Bergamot oil is a citrus-based essential oil with strong antibacterial activity. Bergamot oil will help to reduce acne pimples and get rid of blemishes on your skin.

The Journal of Applied Microbiology reported that bergamot essential oil has antimicrobial properties. Studies found that extracts from bergamot have effective anti-bacterial properties. Bergamot can also help to prevent food poisoning by killing off food-borne pathogens.18  

Patchouli oil

Patchouli is another essential oil that you can use to boost the antibacterial properties of natural homemade acne treatments. Patchouli is a therapeutic herb from the mint family and can be used as a natural insect repellant or made into a delicious herbal tea.

The antibacterial activity of patchouli oil was researched in a study in 2013. There, researchers found that patchouli oil was as effective as some antibiotic drugs.19

Patchouli is also a great essential oil to keep your skin looking young and healthy. You can use it to tone your skin to get rid of wrinkles and fine lines.

Geranium oil

Because geranium oil (Pelargonium asperum) is antibacterial, it can be used effectively along with other essential oils to reduce outbreaks of acne.

A review on anti-acne plant drugs found that geranium extracts are used in the treatment of acne.4

Neroli

Neroli is another citrus-based essential oil that can help to get rid of bacteria from infected pores and reduce inflammation. Since Neroli essential oil has powerful antibacterial and antioxidant properties, it’s a great home remedy for treating acne breakouts. Neroli comes from the bitter orange tree and has a sweet spicy aroma.

The Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences reported that neroli oil has antimicrobial and antioxidant activities. In clinical trials, neroli oil destroyed various bacterial and fungal strains.20

How to Use Essential Oils for Acne

To use essential oils for treating acne at home, you should always dilute them in a carrier oil. However, many people with acne may be hesitant of putting more oil on their face, worrying that their skin will get even oilier.

Actually, good quality natural oils can help to cut through oil and grime on your face and leave you with beautiful skin. What’s more, natural oils contain many vitamins and minerals that are essential for healthy and spot-free skin.

Most food oils in their virgin, unrefined form can be used as skin cleansers, and you can read more about it in my previous article on how to rejuvenate your skin using oil cleansing.

When it comes to looking after your skin and getting rid of acne naturally, the best natural oils to use for acne are:

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  • Jojoba oil. Jojoba oil is similar to sebum that your skin produces. Using jojoba oil with essential oils can help to reduce the amount of oil produced by your skin.
  • Sweet almond oil. This is great for treating damaged skin and is rich in vitamin E. It is easily absorbed into the skin and is a great carrier oil.
  • Castor oil. Castor oil and jojoba oil make a great combination to help reduce inflammation on your skin and provides deep-down moisturization.
  • Rosehip oil. Rosehip oil is great for treating acne naturally because it contains vitamin C and it is rich in fatty acids.
  • Virgin coconut oil. If you have normal or dry skin, then coconut oil is a great carrier oil. Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial and will help to soothe irritated and inflamed skin. Virgin coconut oil is used by many people as a natural and effective treatment for acne.
  • Avocado oil. Avocado oil has a lot of benefits for your skin: it is good at not only relieving skin problems but also at improving the appearance of the skin. Avocado oil can be used as a skin cleanser which will also moisturize your skin at the same time.
  • Hempseed oil. Easily absorbed into the skin and will help to get therapeutic essential oils deep into your skin’s layers to promote healing.

You can use these carrier oils together with essential oils to help clear skin infections and fight acne naturally. Only lavender oil and tea tree oil can be applied directly to pimples as a spot treatment. You can do this by putting a drop or two on the end of a cotton swab and applying to the red infected bump.

However, to treat larger areas of acne outbreak, you should try one of the homemade recipes for acne below.

Essential Oil Recipes to Treat and Prevent Acne Outbreaks

It is very easy to make your own acne treatment at home using some essential oils. As a general rule of thumb, you should use 10-12 drops of essential oil for every 1 ounce (30 ml) of carrier oil. If you use a combination of essential oils in your recipe, you should adjust the amount accordingly.

How to use:

To make a natural treatment for getting rid of pimples, pustules, and unblocking pores to treat acne, this is what you should do:

  • In 1 ounce (30 ml) of carrier oil, mix 3-4 drops of tea tree oil, 3-4 drops of lavender oil, and 3-4 drops of any other essential oil from my above list.
  • Pour the home remedy in a dark glass bottle and gently shake to mix all the oils.
  • Apply 2 or 3 drops of the essential oil acne remedy to your skin and gently massage (make sure to wash your hands thoroughly beforehand).
  • Repeat this every morning and evening until your acne has gone for good.

This recipe also works for treating red marks and scars left after an acne outbreak, and can be used for treating stretch marks as well.

You can also make some great face masks using essential oils to prevent outbreaks of acne and keep your skin looking healthy and pimple-free. These face masks contain other ingredients that are beneficial for treating acne, such as aloe vera, witch hazel and honey.

Some Precautions When Using Essential Oils for Acne

Essentials oils can be used by most people to treat acne and prevent outbreaks. However, care should be taken by some people when using essential oils.

  • Always try a small amount of oil on the inside of your forearm and observe the reaction to make sure you are not allergic to this oil.
  • Children and pregnant women should consult with their doctor before using essential oils on their skin.
  • Find out in advance about the potency of the essential oils you plan to use.
  • Some people notice a reduction in the number of pimples very quickly. However depending on your skin type and severity of your acne, it may take some time before you notice any results. So, be patient and try a combination of different essential oils for acne to find the perfect balance for your skin.
  • Some essential oils are phototoxic which mean that they can damage the skin with sun exposure. Make sure to apply a sunscreen before exposing your skin to the sun.

Read my other elated articles:
1. The Most Effective Homemade Acne Face Masks
2. How to Get Rid Of Back Acne (“Bacne”)
3. How to Use Tea Tree Oil for Acne: The Ultimate Guide
4. Coconut Oil For Acne – Does It Really Work?

If you are interested to learn more about essential oils you can find useful information in my e-book Magical Aromatherapy. This e-book will help you to discover the power of essential oils and the most effective ways to use them.

Article Sources
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  2. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012 May; 5(5): 32–40.
  3. J Med Food. 2013 Apr; 16(4): 324–333.
  4. Biomed Res Int. 2014; 2014: 301304.
  5. . 2003 Jul;139(7):897-900.
  6. Molecules. 2010 Apr 30;15(5):3200-10.
  7. An Acad Bras Cienc. 2015 Aug;87(2 Suppl):1397-408.
  8. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2015 Feb; 32(1): 21–26.
  9. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2015 Aug; 5(8): 601-611.
  10. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2008 Oct;72(10):2507-13.
  11. Int J Arom. 2006;16(1):43-49.
  12. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2006 Apr;28(2):125-33.
  13. Pharm Dev Technol. 2005;10(4):479-87.
  14. J Drugs Dermatol. 2011 Oct;10(10):1168-72.
  15. Front Pharmacol. 2017; 8: 125.
  16. Mol Med Report. 2010 Nov 1; 3(6): 895–901.
  17. Z Naturforsch C. 2003 Mar-Apr;58(3-4):230-8.
  18. J Appl Microbiol. 2006 Dec;101(6):1232-40.
  19. Iran J Pharm Res. 2013 Summer;12(3):307-16.
  20. Pak J Biol Sci. 2012 Nov 1;15(21):1034-40.
  21. Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(12):1584-1590
  22. Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 Sep-Oct; 1(5): 262–267.
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9 Responses to The Best 17 Essential Oils for Acne (Backed by Scientific Research)

  1. rob says:

    Use megadose vitamin c to heal and prevent acne. I buy the non gmo vitamin c powder, and take about a tablespoon once or twice a day.

  2. Marlena says:

    it has been suggested that lavender oil is cytotoxic, meaning that it kills skin cells. Better to be careful with this one…

    • Jenny says:

      Hi Marlena, the experiment you refer to was done in vitro and not in vivo (see here). I have read an opinion by Robert Tisserand in his article, and he said that in this type of assay, the test substance is in direct contact with isolated cells in a petri dish. Without that direct contact, cell membrane damage will not take place at those low dilutions. He says that it’s an in vitro test, and you can’t assume that the same effect will happen when you apply lavender oil to the skin, because the skin has a protective barrier: the stratum corneum. However, even if you applied lavender oil to broken skin, it would still not be equivalent to the test using isolated cells, because the dermis is a complex matrix of tissue that contains those cells.
      He says that any type of in vitro test is only suggestive of a possible effect. You can never assume that the same effect will take place in the living body. It might, it might not. Either the cytotoxicity described above will manifest as irritation, or it will be so negligible as to have no importance. The most telling evidence is the fact that lavender oil has been successfully used in wound healing at 4%, with no adverse effects.

  3. Bethany says:

    Unfortunately this option did not work for me. I got into EO for thus reason but my adult acne continued.

    • Free Brown says:

      I found that using a natural oil containing Essential oils worked best for me when I combined it with taking a good probiotic internally and drinking plenty of water. I had severe acne all my life, starting at age 10. After doing this, I now love my face. I still get breakouts from time to time but they are very small. I used to wear a face full of makeup to cover up my acne but now with tge probiotics and face oils, I can leave the house without makeup…a freedom I thought I would never have. I really hope this helps.

      • heather says:

        I know your post was a long time ago. If you see this, which EO’s did you use and which carrier oil? My son is suffering terribly

      • Amber says:

        Hi! Free brown. Just wondering which probitoic you are using? And which essential oils?

        Thanks!

        • Jennifer says:

          The most important thing when using essential oils is the quality. Low quality, inexpensive oils are almost always adulterated in some way, or processed in a manner that reduces or destroys their therapeutic properties. Unfortunately, the word ‘”therapeutic” on the label or advertising doesn’t mean anything. If your product isn’t working, that’s most often the reason. On the other hand, if you’re sure you have a high-grade EO that still isn’t working, try a different one. Each has its own unique properties that are as individual as our body chemistries. What works for one may not for another. For adult skin, Clary Sage is often a nice alternative. A mix with rosemary and lavender is inexpensive even in a good oil.

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