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You might have a friend or aunt or old high school classmate who’s been talking your ear off about the benefits of essential oils. They certainly smell good (at least from some plants), but can essential oils really help with something like wrinkles? You’ve come to the right place for answers.
Do essential oils for wrinkles really work?
The short answer: probably not—at least not directly. But while there isn’t a ton of research on the effectiveness of these ingredients in treating fine lines and wrinkles, many of them have antioxidant properties, which could potentially combat the signs of aging. Some of the more common essential oils you may find in skincare products include:
- Frankincense oil: Frankincense essential oil is used in a variety of cosmetic products, but there’s no evidence to suggest that it’s an effective remedy for wrinkles. Some studies, however, have suggested that it may effectively help with stretch marks and scars (Han, 2017).
- Lemon oil: Lemon essential oil contains a high concentration of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), an antioxidant that can treat and prevent changes associated with photoaging (Zasada, 2019).
- Sandalwood: Studies suggest that sandalwood oil may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may protect your skin against the damaging effects of the sun. Also santalol, one of the main components of sandalwood, may help with aging spots (Moy, 2017).
- Lavender oil: The soothing scent of lavender makes lavender essential oil a popular choice for cosmetic products, but there’s no evidence to suggest it’s effective for wrinkle treatment. It has, however, been shown to have antibacterial and antifungal properties (Orchard, 2017).
- Clary sage: Research has shown that clary sage is potentially rich in antioxidants that may help prevent DNA and protein damage that affects skin cells. This essential oil may also have antimicrobial properties (Kosics, 2019).
- Wild carrot seed: Studies show that carrot seed oil has antioxidants, which may protect your skin against oxidative stress that can lead to wrinkles and other signs of aging (Singh, 2019).
- Geranium. Another essential oil with antioxidant properties, geranium oil may help slow the signs of aging and the appearance of wrinkles (Lohani, 2019).
What are essential oils?
Otherwise known as concentrated plant extracts, essential oils are obtained through mechanical pressing or distillation, and they retain the natural smell and flavor of their original source. Because each oil has a unique chemical composition, different types of oils have different aromas, rates of absorption, and effects on the body. Even a single plant species can produce a variety of essential oil types—you can use a plant’s peel, bark, leaves, flowers, buds, seeds, etc. to extract the essential oils (Aziz, 2018).
Essential oils are among some of the most popular natural products, often used in forms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). In some cases, they’re used for aromatherapy, which uses the inhalation of aromas to promote relaxation, a sense of well-being, and healing (Farrar, 2020).
They’re also sometimes applied topically for dermatological purposes such as dermatitis and eczema. In some cases, essential oils are used for general skin maintenance and to address concerns like scars, scabs, and wrinkles (Orchard, 2017).
Essential oils for allergies: a viable treatment?
How to use essential oils
Essential oils can be used in several ways, including inhalation for aromatherapy or bath salts and lotions for topical application. If you’re applying essential oils to your skin, you’ll want to dilute them with a carrier oil. A carrier oil is an oil that has little to no scent and works to help the skin absorb the essential oil. Some popular options include olive, grape seed, and coconut oils (Farrar, 2020).
Considerations for using essential oils
While essential oils are generally considered safe for aromatherapy and topical application, some people may experience adverse effects, including skin reactions. Diluting the essential oil in a carrier oil can help reduce its concentration and reduce the risk of side effects. If you have a health condition or are pregnant, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional before starting any kind of treatment (Farrar, 2020).
Other ways to reduce wrinkles
While some people may see results from essential oils, there is little to no evidence that any type of essential oil will significantly improve the appearance of wrinkles. There are, however, several medically-backed methods for reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Preventative anti-aging measures that are part of a regular skincare routine may help reduce wrinkles. Moisturizer helps prevent dry skin, sunscreen helps block or minimize sun exposure and sun damage, and retinol (vitamin A) helps promote collagen production. Topical antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E can also help reduce and neutralize free radicals, contributing to aging (Draelos, 2019).
- Chemical peels and lasers to resurface the top layer of skin
- Dermal fillers to plump the skin
- Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections to slow the development of wrinkles
- Autologous platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to promote collagen production and rejuvenate skin
- Aziz, Z., Ahmad, A., Setapar, S., Karakucuk, A., Azim, M. M., Lokhat, D., et al. (2018). Essential oils: extraction techniques, pharmaceutical and therapeutic potential – a review. Current Drug Metabolism, 19(13), 1100–1110. doi: 10.2174/1389200219666180723144850. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30039757/
- Draelos Z. D. (2019). Cosmeceuticals: what’s real, what’s not. Dermatologic Clinics, 37(1), 107–115. doi: 10.1016/j.det.2018.07.001. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30466682/
- Elghblawi E. (2018). Platelet-rich plasma, the ultimate secret for youthful skin elixir and hair growth triggering. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 17(3), 423–430. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12404. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28887865/
- Farrar, A. J., & Farrar, F. C. (2020). Clinical aromatherapy. The Nursing Clinics of North America, 55(4), 489–504. doi: 10.1016/j.cnur.2020.06.015. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33131627/
- Han, X., Rodriguez, D., & Parker, T. L. (2017). Biological activities of frankincense essential oil in human dermal fibroblasts. Biochimie Open, 4, 31–35. doi: 10.1016/j.biopen.2017.01.003. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29450138/
- Kozics, K., Bučková, M., Puškárová, A., Kalászová, V., Cabicarová, T., & Pangallo, D. (2019). The effect of ten essential oils on several cutaneous drug-resistant microorganisms and their cyto/genotoxic and antioxidant properties. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(24), 4570. doi:10.3390/molecules24244570. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31847159/
- Lohani, A., Mishra, A. K., & Verma, A. (2019). Cosmeceutical potential of geranium and calendula essential oil: Determination of antioxidant activity and in vitro sun protection factor. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 18(2), 550–557. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12789. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30251317/
- Moy, R. L., & Levenson, C. (2017). Sandalwood album oil as a botanical therapeutic in dermatology. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 10(10), 34–39. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29344319/
- Orchard, A., & van Vuuren, S. (2017). Commercial essential oils as potential antimicrobials to treat skin diseases. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: eCAM, 2017, 4517971. doi: 10.1155/2017/4517971. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28546822/
- Singh, S., Lohani, A., Mishra, A. K., & Verma, A. (2019). Formulation and evaluation of carrot seed oil-based cosmetic emulsions. Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy: Official Publication of the European Society for Laser Dermatology, 21(2), 99–107. doi: 10.1080/14764172.2018.1469769. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29737890/
- Zouboulis, C. C., Ganceviciene, R., Liakou, A. I., Theodoridis, A., Elewa, R., & Makrantonaki, E. (2019). Aesthetic aspects of skin aging, prevention, and local treatment. Clinics in Dermatology, 37(4), 365–372. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2019.04.002. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31345325/
Dr. Chimene Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and Senior Medical Writer/Reviewer at Ro.