by Dr Christoph Streicher, Ph.D. and Stephanie Chambers

Woman using essential oil compress on acne

As many teenagers and adults know, acne is a complex condition that isn’t easy to overcome. A slow-growing bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes)  is thought to be involved in the development of the condition (Kirschbaum and Kligman, 19631).

A study by researchers from China and Germany (Zu Y, Yu H, Liang L, Fu Y, Efferth T, Liu X and Wu N, 20102) on the antibacterial effects of ten essential oils on P. acnes was published in the Molecules Journal. It demonstrated that cinnamon, thyme, and rose essential oils had the best antibacterial effect.

“Time-kill dynamic procedures” also showed that thyme, rose, lavender, and cinnamon essential oils displayed the strongest bactericidal results. The P. acnes was completely annihilated after only five minutes of exposure to the oils.

While killing the infection is an important part of acne treatment, many antibacterial oils are too harsh for skin care, in particular thyme, cinnamon and oregano. However, rose can be an excellent acne treatment, because it is not only antibacterial, but also somewhat anti-inflammatory. However, the main cause of acne is the accumulation of oil and sebum and this is best addressed with more energizing oils like mint, lemon, and cypress. The skin finds it difficult to metabolize the toxins produced in association with increased sebum and oil production. This facilitates bacterial infections which in turn facilitate inflammation.

A rather unusual mint, called mint (forest) (menta silvestris) has both energizing and antibacterial effects. If you combine this with a healing oil like lavender (spike) or helichrysum you can create an excellent acne treatment. Spike lavender is particularly suitable because its high camphor content makes it not only healing like other lavenders, but it also helps energize the metabolism to deal with toxins. Helichrysum seems particularly effective in terms of removing scarring and it is the oil of choice if inflammation dominates the picture.  

You can mix 1 drop each of mint (forest), lavender (spike) and/or helichrysum with 20 ml (4 tsp) water and dip in a natural cloth to use as a compress on your acne, or you can add 5-6 drops of each of these oils to 10 ml (2 tsp) of a base oil like olive oil and massage them in. You may like to mix more of the oil mixture and store it in a jar so you can use it  more than once.

Although this new laboratory research does confirm the antibacterial effects of essential oils, it doesn’t  take into account the full complexity of acne and the outcome of applying certain oils directly on the skin. For the best results, we need to refer all to time-tested ancient remedies and the experiences of people over the years.





Note: You may also find this page about essential oils for acne useful. 

Disclaimer: The statements made in this blog have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. If a condition persists, please contact your physician or healthcare provider. The information provided is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider, and should not be construed as medical advice.