Essential Oils As Natural Remedies For Eczema?
Eczema refers to a group of inflammatory skin conditions that affect approximately 30 million people in the U.S. (1)
It’s typically more common in babies and children though most seem to outgrow it as they get older.
Adult-onset eczema can also occur even if you never had it as a child or baby.
There are different types of Eczema, each with slightly different symptoms:
- contact dermatitis
- seborrheic dermatitis
- atopic dermatitis
- stasis dermatitis
- dyshidrotic eczema
Eczema symptoms can vary from person to person but general flare-up symptoms include:
- Dry skin
- Inflamed skin (swollen, warm, raised)
- Sensitive skin
- Dark-colored patches on the skin
- Scaly patches of skin
While there is no official cure for eczema, there are treatments.
Depending on the severity of your condition your dermatologist may direct you towards over-the-counter (OTC) topical creams and lotions, topical prescription medication, and even immunosuppressants to treat eczema.
Because the skin is usually sensitive and reactive during an eczema flare-up it’s possible that medication or products specifically designed for sensitive skin may worsen irritated skin.
This can be because most products contain some level of preservatives and other chemicals that act as irritants on the skin.
Many people often find relief with alternative treatments and home remedies.
One natural way to minimize the severity of eczema symptoms is by using aromatherapy and essential oils.
Essential oils (EOs) are highly concentrated plant extracts sourced from tree bark and resin, plant roots, leaves, and stems, nuts, seeds, flowers, and even fruits like lemon and bergamot.
Just a few drops of EOs contain hundreds of active compounds known to impact the body and immune system.
How EOs Work For Treating Eczema
EOs are Mother Nature’s most concentrated form and they contain high amounts of active compounds that give the natural oils their well-known healing properties.
When using EOs for eczema treatment you’ll want to look for specific, high-quality oils that have:
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Antiseptic properties
- Antibacterial properties
- Antifungal properties
EOs containing these properties can help reduce inflammation and help keep the skin clean and pure in order to avoid further irritation.
Always consult with your dermatologist before using any essential oils for eczema.
The 6 Best Essential Oils For Eczema Symptoms
Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Tea tree essential is an excellent choice for a wide range of skin conditions and inflammation.
It’s been used by Australian Aboriginals for hundreds of years because of its potent healing capacity.
A 2010 clinical trial published in the Archives of Dermatological Research found tea tree oil to be more effective at treating eczema than zinc oxide, a commonly used agent. (2)
Since tea tree is strong it can be an irritant, especially in sensitive skin types.
Always perform a patch test on a non-affected area and wait 24-48 hours to see if any adverse reactions occur.
Consult with your dermatologist before using it, especially with severe cases.
Lavender oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender essential oil is gentle for most sensitive skin types while also being a potent skin healer and soother.
Its main active components linalool and linalyl acetate are both known to reduce inflammation and help accelerate wound healing while reducing scarring. (3)
Chamomile oil (Chamaemelum nobile, Matricaria chamomilla)
Chamomile essential oil, whether it be Roman chamomile or German chamomile, is an excellent skin soother and inflammation fighter.
It’s usually tolerable for most skin types and helps balance the skin while helping to moisturize it.
Frankincense oil (Boswellia carterii)
Frankincense essential oil is a known potent inflammation fighter that also accelerates the skin’s healing process by increasing cell repair. (4)
It can also help to prevent and neutralize scars.
Peppermint oil (Mentha piperita)
The main active compound in peppermint oil, menthol, acts as a local pain reliever and anesthetic agent, which can help reduce some of the discomforts that come along with flare-ups. (5)
Calendula oil (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula oil is extracted from marigold flowers.
It’s well-known for its ability to accelerate skin healing and help ease the pain and discomfort of open sores and rashes.
Other oils that may be helpful at alleviating eczema symptoms:
- Sandalwood oil
- Helichrysum oil
- Borage oil
- Myrrh oil
- Geranium oil
The Pros & Cons of Using EOs For Eczema
- EOs are potent – a little goes a long way. Just a few drops are all you need to aid your skin.
- High-quality EOs should be 100% natural. This ensures their full therapeutic and medicinal effects on your skin.
- If you use EOs mindfully and consume them with care, you’ll likely experience little to no side effects like dry or irritated skin. (Unlike most chemical-laden options.)
- You can mix and blend multiple oils to maximize or enhance their skin healing effects.
- EOs are potent – they can cause skin irritation or make your eczema symptoms worse if used incorrectly.
- Unfortunately, many EO products out on the market are diluted, contaminated, or adulterated even if they market themselves as ‘healthy’ or ‘pure.’
- Even though EOs can help manage eczema flare-ups, they aren’t cure-alls. (If you’re dealing with a serious skin condition or flare-up please consult with your dermatologist or medical provider before using them.)
- There are contraindications to be aware of for EO use. For example, peppermint oil should be avoided during pregnancy and isn’t suitable for children under 7 years old. Tea tree oil should never be ingested as it can be toxic. Read up on the contraindications of every single oil you use and topically apply to your skin.
How To Choose The Right High-Quality EOs For Eczema
Since many EO products on the market are diluted or compromised, it’s important to know how to choose the best and highest quality products, especially if you’re using oils for medicinal or therapeutic purposes.
Diluted oils lose their healing power and may even contain harmful chemicals and other agents.
Here are 7 tips to help you choose the very best and safest oils for your eczema:
- Look for certified organic therapeutic grade essential oils.
- Check that testing has been done.
- Research the company.
- Check the label.
- Check the price.
- Check the Latin name.
- Check-in with yourself. (And trust your intuition!)
How to Use EOs for Eczema
A popular way to use EOs is to use a diffuser that disperses the microparticles into the air.
You then inhale the active compounds and they enter your bloodstream via the lungs.
The most effective way to use EOs for eczema is to apply topically – directly onto the affected areas.
It’s very important to first check with your dermatologist and get the go-ahead from them before proceeding.
Next, conduct a patch test on healthy skin and wait 24-48 hours to see if you experience any adverse reaction.
If you do experience skin irritation or any other symptom stop using the oil immediately.
If you don’t have an adverse reaction then you can proceed with caution and care.
Essential oils should always be diluted with a carrier oil when applied to the skin.
Effective carrier oils for eczema are high in beneficial fatty acids that help repair the skin’s barrier which can be compromised with inflammatory skin conditions.
Try to stick with oils like:
- Virgin coconut oil
- Virgin sunflower seed oil
- Jojoba oil
- Almond oil
You can blend 2-3 drops of EOs with 2 tablespoons of your choice of carrier oil and apply it to the affected area.
This will not only help to reduce inflammation but it can also serve as a natural moisturizer.
Moisturizing daily is extremely important so the skin can heal and regenerate.
Also, know your triggers and stay away from anything that can start or worsen a flare-up.
Food allergens like gluten and dairy can also make eczema symptoms worse, so be mindful of your food choices and try to stick to an anti-inflammatory diet, especially during active flare-ups.