The best essential oils for sensitive skin – and how they work

by Alison Angold CIDESCO ITEC

Skin sensitivity can come in the form of becoming intolerant to a product or ingredient that we have always used. Or perhaps a more serious case of hives, or skin rashes, and skin irritation. However we experience sensitive skin, it can be hard to find products that suit, or ingredients to soothe the sensitivity. Here we are going to look at a natural alternative and find the best essential oils for sensitive skin and how they work.

Which are the best essential oils for sensitive skin?

Sensitive skin that is prone to allergies or inflammation may find relief from the use of natural essential and carrier oils. The following are the best essential oils for sensitive skin;

  • Bergamot
  • Carrot Seed
  • Cedarwood
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Melissa
  • Rosewood
  • Sandalwood

How do essential oils for sensitive skin work?

Aromatherapy and essential oils have so many uses, and can benefit so many different conditions for the skin and the body.

Essential oils are the pure oils that are extracted from flower petals, leaves, fruit or herbs, and are so fine and pure that they have the ability to penetrate through the skin’s surface.

Because of this, they can get to work at a much deeper level of the skin, than a lot of other skincare ingredients. Most skincare products that we use only sit in the very top layers of the skin – which is needed – but the fact that essential oils can penetrate further, means they will have more of a beneficial effect on various skin conditions we may experience.

Each essential oil has a variety of properties or therapeutic actions. It is important to be aware of these, so you get an idea of what effect, the specific essential oil is going to have, and therefore if it is going to work.

The properties that we want to look for, for in essential oils to treat sensitive skin are; 

  • Anti-allergic 
  • Anti-inflammatory 
  • Calming
  • Cooling
  • Refreshing 
  • Vasoconstrictive.
A leaf dripping oil into a bottle.  Essential oils for sensitive skin.

The best essential oils for sensitive skin

Bergamot

This is such a lovely light citrus oil with a delightful aroma! It has anti-inflammatory and cooling properties, so will calm and soothe sensitivity and prevent broken capillaries from occurring.

Carrot seed

Carrot seed is a good oil for treating dry skin conditions and rashes, including any skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It is a very hydrating oil that will keep the skin moisturised while soothing and calming.

Cedarwood

Cedarwood is a calming oil that is also sedating for the skin, meaning it calms irritated and sensitive skin. It also soothes itchy skin.

Chamomile

This oil is anti-inflammatory so calms and soothes many sensitive skin conditions, especially those prone to allergies and eczema.

Lavender

A great all round oil that is excellent for the skin. It is a good healing oil, so repairs the barrier on sensitive skins to help ease any irritation.

Melissa

Also known as lemon balm, Melissa is anti-allergic so soothes and prevents allergic reactions and skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema.

Rosewood

Rosewood is a tonic for sensitive skin, meaning that it will not only calm and soothe but repair the skins resilience to outside irritations.

Sandalwood

Sandalwood soothes dry, irritated and chapped skins and calms the redness of broken capillaries while reducing the high colouring of sensitive skin. It also calms the irritation of sensitive skin.

How to use essential oils for sensitive skin

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Using a facial oil daily, is ideal for protecting and nourishing sensitive skin, while helping to prevent ageing at the same time.

Use a carrier oil such as evening primrose oilrosehip oil or jojoba oil (see below for more choices) and add 2 drops of essential oil per 5 ml of carrier oil.

You can add up to 2 oils per blend for the face, however depending on the reason you are suffering with sensitive skin, it may be wise to stick to 1 essential oil at a time, to ensure no irritation or allergies occur.

See the full article on BLENDING ESSENTIAL OILS

Essential oil blends for sensitive skin

Most oils blend well together but some go better together than others, because of their properties and their aromas. For example, Cedarwood, Rosewood & Sandalwood blended together will be too heavy an aroma as they are all base notes and come from the wood or resin of tree’s. Try the following blends, always remembering to add to a carrier oil first.;

  • 10ml Rosehip oil, 2 drops Bergamot & 2 drops Rosewood
  • 10ml Rosehip oil, 2 drops Carrot seed & 2 drops Sandalwood
  • 10ml Rosehip oil, 2 drops Lavender & 2 drops Rosewood

SIGN UP for my ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ESSENTIAL OILS for more information on all the oils and uses.

Precautions for essential oils for sensitive skin

If you know that your skin reacts to a lot of different topical applications or you have many skin allergies, then it wise to proceed with caution. It is a good idea to carry out a patch test first. To do this, add one drop of your chosen oil (only use 1 oil at a time, so if an allergy occurs, you can identify the oil), to a small amount of carrier oil. Massage this into an area of skin – just below the jawline, or behind the ear are good places – and wait 24 hours. If no reaction occurs, then you are safe to go ahead with full facial application of the oil.

Do also note that essential oils are not designed to be applied neat to the skin, and must always be mixed with a carrier oil.

The best carrier oils for sensitive skin

You may find that your skin is just too sensitive to tolerate the essential oils in which case, using a carrier oil on its own is the next best thing. A carrier oil – or base oil as it is sometimes known – is an oil derived from plants, seeds, nuts or fruits.

It differs from an essential oil, in that it is a stable oil, which, unlike essential oils, does not evaporate in heat. Cold pressed carrier oils are best, as they are purer and retain their vitamin content. This means that no heat has been used for their extraction. The best carrier oils for sensitive skin are;

Sweet Almond oil

A cold pressed oil with a high vitamin content that nourishes and protects the skin. Using sweet almond oil for a sensitive skin will ensure the protective barrier of the skin is kept intact.

Evening Primrose oil

Evening Primrose oil has a high fatty acid content which is essential for nourishing and protecting the skin and is very useful for treating dry or inflamed skin conditions including eczema.

Rosehip oil

This is high in antioxidants giving it excellent calming, protecting and anti-inflammatory properties. It is a gentle oil making it ideal for those with sensitive skin.

Argan oil

Possibly better known as an oil for the hair, argan oil is also good for skin, including sensitive skin. It is packed with Vitamin E and essential fatty acids, and is a light oil that is absorbed easily.

Sea Buckthorn oil

A relatively unknown oil that has great anti-inflammatory properties to help reduce the redness of sensitive skin, including conditions such as rosacea and eczema.

What is sensitive skin?

Sensitive skins usually come in 2 forms. A touch sensitive skin means that the skin flushes when it is touched. The skin will become red or pink very easily, and blush at the either the slightest touch or after a short period – after your morning skincare routine for example. The skin may have broken capillaries, and is usually found on a paler skin tone.

The other type of sensitive skin is an allergic sensitive skin, which means that the skin reacts to products used. The skin is sensitive to different ingredients, so many products may not suit if they contain a wide range of ingredients or chemicals.

What causes a sensitive skin and how to fix it.

A sensitive skin is a skin condition that can accompany any skin type. A sensitive skin may occur straight from birth or a person can acquire a sensitive skin throughout their life. If this is the case, then there are some factors that may have attributed to this;

Lowered immune system

It is thought that if the general immunity in the body is slightly lowered, perhaps due to long term illness, then, skin allergies can then occur, as we loose our defence against them. 

How to boost immunity

It is so important to do everything we can to keep a balanced, well-working immune system. Diet is the key player in this. Ensure a well balanced diet, with lots of fruit and vegetables. Your key ingredients for a boosted immune system is anti-oxidants.

Anti-oxidants are substances that prevent or slow damage to the cells of the body. Damaged cells are caused by free-radicals, which are substances found in cigarette smoke, alcohol, fried food, processed foods, exhaust fumes, etc. Free radicals eat away at healthy cells, and in turn can lower immunity. Foods high in anti-oxidants are; citrus fruits, blueberries, strawberries, goji berries, raspberries, kale, beans (particularly pinto beans and broad beans), spinach and dark chocolate (Yay!!). Anti-oxidants can also be found in skincare products.

Unbalanced hormones

As we go through certain stages of life, our hormones fluctuate and become unbalanced. This in turn, can have an effect on other areas of the body including the skin. It it thought that the depletion of oestrogen can increase the production of histamine in the body.  Histamine is a chemical which triggers an allergic response.  Because of this, skin allergies can occur when they never have previously. 

How to balance hormones

Easier said than done right? If our hormones were balanced, chances are you wouldn’t be reading this post! But, we can at least try, so we can try not having a drastic and immediate drop in oestrogen. Then we can maybe stave off these skin allergies & sensitive conditions or at least, not experience them all at once.  If you are not taking HRT, then try and find a more natural way of balancing hormones.  A natural way of attempting to balance hormones is to use essential oils.

These oils are known to balance hormones; Cypress, Roman Chamomile, Ylang, Ylang, Rose Damask, Jasmine & Geranium. Read my full article on ESSENTIAL OILS TO BALANCE HORMONES

Impaired acid mantle

The acid mantle is an invisible layer on the surface of the skin made up of sweat and sebum. This layer gives us protection against the invasion of bacteria into the skin.

If the acid mantle is impaired or disrupted then the skin is at risk of spots, breakouts, dryness, increased sensitivity or skin allergies. This could then lead to allergic reactions.

Many things can cause an impaired acid mantle, including environmental conditions, ineffective skincare routine and harsh products.

How to restore your acid mantle

To ensure an intact acid mantle, avoid ingredients such as colourings, alcohol and lanolin in your skincare products. Protect your skin sufficiently during weather extremes, and use an excellent skin care routine. This means that you should; be using products specifically designed for the face; cleanse, use a PH balanced toner, and a suitable moisturiser for your skin. Everyday.

Over-processed skin

Using too many different products or harsh products on the skin, can make the skin sensitive. Over-cleansed skin can remove the protective layer too. Is it possible to have too-clean skin? Yes! Cleansing your skin or washing your face to often, or using the wrong cleansing product, can strip the acid mantle away, thus leaving your skin open to inflammation.

Ingredients

Ingredients in certain cosmetics and products can also strip the acid mantle and cause sensitised skin or allergic reactions; Alcohol, lanolin and colourants in skincare products should all be avoided.

Conclusion

Sensitive skin must be treated gently. Ensure you using products that suit your skin, don’t strip the acid mantle and experiment with essential oils blends until you find something that, not only doesn’t react on your skin, but that soothes sensitivity, redness and irritation.

About the Author
Alison Angold is a fully qualified (certified) beauty therapist, massage therapist and aromatherapist from the UK. She has over 25 years experience in this industry and has worked in a variety of beauty salons, spa’s as well as running her own successful beauty and massage business. Her career has allowed her to treat many, many clients, with skincare concerns, medical conditions, and a whole variety of other ailments and issues, that has enabled her to work closely with essential oils, prescribing specific blends for these clients to help with these conditions. Her qualifications in the use of essential oils and aromatherapy, allow her to share this knowledge with others, in a safe, reliable way.